Althea Lawton-Thompson is a 23-year veteran fitness expert, mind-body specialist and meditation guide known for hosting her annual Living Life Limitlessly wellness retreats in Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, and the U.S. Althea’s retreats are ranked in the top 5 of Black-owned retreats by Blackdoctor.org.
Althea also leads instructor training and certifications through her Atlanta-based wellness company, aerobics, yoga & more. She combines wellness training with mindfulness to assist individuals and groups in creating an overall balanced lifestyle.
WHAT EXACTLY IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is a mental practice of slowing down the thoughts in our head in order to focus on one thing (improved concentration) or to completely empty the mind of all thoughts allowing the brain to rest and recharge.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT AND WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE DOING IT/TALKING ABOUT IT?
In our current fast-paced environment filled with technological advances that allow us to multitask like never before, as well as see real-time, real life news and political developments, people are finding themselves stressed like never before. When we add social media to the mix, we find ourselves constantly comparing ourselves, not only to celebrities, but to each other – and this is causing an increase in depression and anxiety. Meditation is the perfect tool to disconnect from all of it in order to reconnect with what’s important.
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WHY DO MANY FIND MEDITATION IS HARD TO DO?
Meditation is a skill to learn and practice just like an instrument or a trade. It’s rare that a person sits in front of a piano for the first time and immediately starts playing Beethoven or Chopin. They have to start with the basics and practice to be good. Meditation is no different, and many people don’t want to put in the time and effort necessary for it become a natural part of daily life. It’s simply not easy when we have so much on our mind that wants and needs our attention. But with regular practice, it does get easier.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MEDITATION?
There are many different types of meditation. Instead of naming them, I’ll group them into 3 styles. The first one is Focused Attention during which a person focuses on a single object like the breath, a flame, a part of the body, or a scripture. The next style is Awareness which is popularly known as mindfulness. With this style, the meditator is completely aware of the current moment through all of the senses – what they hear, see, smell, taste, or feel. The last type is Effortless Expansion, in which the practitioner stops focusing on anything and all of the senses are completely turned off. This is the most spiritually enlightening of the three categories and often the most difficult to achieve on a regular basis.
HOW CAN A BEGINNER START?
Great question. Start small with only 5 minutes of quiet time. Find a location where you are completely comfortable. Turn off all electronics like cell phones, laptops, tv and radio so there is no electronic interruptions. Try to turn off all physical interruptions too like children, co-workers, roommates, and pets. If it helps, play soft, ambient music or try a guided meditation app or song.
BEST TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL MEDITATION?
A: In order to truly be successful with a meditation practice, both newbies and regular practitioners should do it regularly – daily if possible. Even a few minutes is better than not at all. Try different styles to find the one that works best for you.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION?
Meditation has many benefits including, reduced anxiety and stress, improved focus and mental concentration, lower blood pressure and resting heart rate, and relaxed muscle tension. It’s also a great tool for spiritual growth and connection.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE MEDITATING THE RIGHT WAY?
There is really no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to meditation. The objective is to be more relaxed, calm, aware, centered, and focused. If you feel any of these things, you’ve done it “right”.
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO ABOUT THE RESTLESSNESS OR DISCOMFORT DURING MEDITATION?
One of the keys to a successful meditation practice is making sure you’re comfortable. It is best to be upright instead of lying down to keep you from falling asleep, but any upright position will work. For those new to meditation, it’s normal to feel a little restless. If it’s difficult – or impossible – to sit still, do a walking mindfulness meditation. Walk slowly paying attention to everything you see, hear, smell, or feel. Consider how the ground feels under your feet as you walk, are you standing upright or leaning forward or back? Is there pain anywhere as you move? Walking meditation is a great way to focus while moving.
HOW CAN A PERSON STOP FALLING ASLEEP DURING MEDITATION?
It is always recommended to sit upright when meditating. This is the easiest way to avoid falling asleep. However, if you NEED to sleep, meditation will support the body’s need. In this case, go to sleep and try meditating at another time. Another option is to try Focused Attention meditation, during which you focus on an object or a physical act like breathing. Also a moving meditation, like a walking meditation, is helpful in this case.
HOW LONG AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU MEDITATE?
In order to make meditation a natural, and easy activity, it is recommended to practice daily. How long is up to the meditator. Even 5 minutes of peaceful breathing is better than nothing at all. By the time meditation has become a regular practice, 30 minutes to an hour daily would make a life-changing difference.
WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION?
For short and medium-length guided meditations that you can download to your phone, tablet, or laptop go to amzn.to/2MK7S8L on Amazon or apple.co/33lrQMV on iTunes
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