May 31st is National Meditation Day and I thought I'd celebrate by reflecting on my personal mindfulness journey and share some tips and tricks that help me in my personal practice so hopefully they'll be helpful to you too!
Throughout my 20's and early 30's I always had a "mini" on and off meditation practice. I was never super consistent with it. My late 30's brought some amazing folks into my life (IRL) and those folks really changed the way I think about meditation, self care and SLOWING DOWN as a mindful living practice. Check out their links and mini bios below and give them a follow! I'm so honored to know these folks in person and also thankful for their support in my mindfulness practices. If you're in the Los Angeles area, check out their sites for info on how to work with them (some of them also offer virtual offerings, so if you're not in the LA area, you can work with them from anywhere)!
1. Alli Simon - Alli (She/Her) is a 200RYT certified yoga & meditation teacher (Black | Queer | Femme) from Los Angeles who believes that holistic healing can be used as a tool for individual and community transformation. Her heart-work is focused on meditation, mindfulness practices and increasing access to alternative self-care rituals for marginalized bodies, people & communities for healing and becoming more present. Alli currently teaches regularly at EveryBody Gym and at Crenshaw Yoga & Dance Studio in South LA.
Alli was the first person I met who I witnessed having a VERY SERIOUS meditation practice. Being able to witness the ways that mindfulness had helped her through some seriously traumatic times in her life and seeing her now flourish and help others find peace in their own practice was such a beautiful example to me.
2. Sofia Rose Smith - Sofia (She/Her) is a certified community counselor through the Southern CA Counseling Center. She has received advanced training as an intuitive channel. She has been facilitating groups for twenty years, and is gifted at creating a safe container for all beings. She is also an attuned Reiki and energy healer, and has many teachers from various indigenous and spiritual traditions. She is passionate about serving communities on the margins: queer & trans folks, women and femmes, people of color, and those moving through various challenges that are not only personal but political.
Sofia is a beautiful soul and very powerful bruja. The way she incorporates mindfulness into her ceremonies and circles is so beautiful. I love her attention to detail, open heart and love of nature. Her voice is also super soothing and very conducive to a beautiful meditative practice.
3. Charlotte Nguyen - Charlotte Nguyen (she/her) is a multilingual (Vietnamese-French- English) human rights worker, trauma sensitive meditation instructor, radical life coach, educator, and proud Asian-American queer.
I first encountered Charlotte through her Mindful Revolution FREE on-line workshop she hosted where she got together some amazing thought and spiritual leaders from around the country and when I say I learned A LOT. She opened each session with a short but sweet meditation moment and to be honest I looked forward to EVERY. SINGLE. SESSION. I got some really valuable tips that helped my personal practice and was introduced to some really brilliant folks. Charlotte is as sweet, loving and peaceful in person as she is online and I am honored to know her.
Another thing that really gave my meditation practice was going to my FIRST silent meditation retreat. I'd heard about silent retreats from my homegirl Sheena and Alli. Both of them were people in my life who had participated in Vippasana. I was always in AWE of their 10 FULL DAYS in silence. I think the only time I was ever in silence for more than 10 min was when I was sleeping lol. I didn't have 10 days to commit to a retreat because work and life. Cut to Agape. I'd recently started to attend Agape International Spiritual Center in the fall and I was falling deeper and deeper in love with the teachings there and of the healing I felt when I attended. They announced a 4 day silent meditation retreat for New Years in Joshua Tree and I felt not only super called to attend but also knew that 4 days felt super doable. So, I signed up.
I'm going to be honest. The process wasn't easy. I went by myself, knew NO ONE and was going to be meditating for HOURS. There were lectures and yoga/tai chi and some delicious vegan meals in between but this was definitely out of my comfort zone. The silence, the food, the not knowing anyone and even the accommodations (they weren't HORRIBLE but as I said before, my idea of "Camping" is the Marriot lol). Also, if you know me personally, you know that I'm NOT a morning person. The first meditation was at 6am. THAT. WAS. HARD.
While I'm NOT a morning person, there was something very beautiful and spiritual about waking up before the sun came up and walking out and seeing sunrises like this:
By day 2, I'd written in my journal more than I had in the last 6 months COMBINED. The free time to walk in nature was a salve for my soul and the time we spent in silence and chanting really cleared my mind and brought so much healing to my heart. I missed my friends but I was so thankful to be able to spend that time coming home to myself. Especially at the end of the year/beginning of a new year.
I put my phone on airplane mode the whole time I was at the retreat. I don't remember the last time I was away from social media and texts for that long. 4 whole days of silence. As scary as it was, it was so beautiful, freeing and healing. I'm definitely looking forward to doing it again and would recommend it to anyone looking for a little reset.
Currently, my practice fluctuates between 5-20 min a day. I try to meditate first thing in the morning (I find it to be the best time to practice). If I practice in the morning I like to pair my sit with a visualization exercise of visualizing and affirming how my day will go. If I don't have time to practice in the morning, I'll practice in the evening right before bed. The upside to practicing before bed is that the breathing helps your body slow down and get ready for sleep mode. If I'm going through something challenging, I try to up my sits to 30min to 1 hour. I really feel going the extra time kicks me into "clear head" gear and helps my response to the difficult situations that come up.
In honor of National Meditation Day, I've compiled a mini list of tips from me to you <3. I hope you find them helpful. Let me know in the comments what you think or shoot me an email or DM. Happy Sitting.
Laura Luna's Meditation Tips
- Start SMALL! If you've never meditated before, be gentle with yourself. Our society is notorious for GO GO GO and doesn't encourage us to SLOW DOWN. Start with 1-5 min and see how that feels then keep adding more time as it feels right for you. This is YOUR practice. Make it personal.
- Set the MOOD. When time allows, I like to set the meditation mood by sitting on my cushion in front of my altar, lighting some candles and/or incense. Having a multi sensory experience really helps me go deeper.
- Get a little help from technology. If you're reading this, you probably have a smart phone. There are several amazing meditation apps that have FREE components to them on the market. My all time fave is Insight Timer. I love that you can search by teacher, you can do guided meditations based on mood or issue and you can also just use the "Timer" setting and set it to whatever time you'd like and add ambient sounds (my fave is Deep Om". There are also amazing meditations on YouTube and Soundcloud if you don't want to download any of the apps.
- Be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself like you would a bestie. Don't beat yourself up if you skip a day (or 5, like I have). One thing Alli always tells me is that meditation is a PRACTICE. We're not always going to be perfect or meditate 2 hours a day Every. Single. Day. (if you do, you are a super human and I applaud you). It's so important to just come back to ourselves when we are ready to and get still. In that stillness, I promise you'll find some peace.