A few takeaways from our summer meditation series with Neom Organics and Hero Beach Club by Madi Murphy
This summer we hosted a meditation series in Montauk and it made me realize a few ways that have turned my meditation practice from “ugh” to “uh-ma-zing.” First, and maybe most importantly, (and what I always say at our live meditations is) there are no rules and you cannot do it wrong. Yup, read that last sentence again.
Here are 3 of my favorite tips to really carve out that time, up-level your practice and bring more magic to your meditation practice.
1. Get outside to get in touch with what’s inside.
Mother Nature has her own medicine. The effects of meditating in nature can be as immense as they are immediate. We live lives with jam-packed schedules, technology overload and then throw in some social media doom-scrolling- so no wonder getting out in nature can feel so good. Whether it’s sky-gazing under the stars or fire breathing under a canopy of forest trees, getting into nature can amplify the already long list of benefits you get from meditation.
It has been well documented that the regular practice of mindfulness and meditation is highly beneficial for our mental, physical and spiritual health. But taking your practice into the natural world outside adds another dimension that an indoor meditation setting simply cannot provide. A recent study on forest bathing, an ancient Japanese practice also known as shinrin-yoku, discovered that physical activity in green environments reduced blood pressure and stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Do you have trouble focusing? Research has discovered an improved cognitive function of those who spent time in nature compared with those who performed the same activity in an urban environment.
And that’s just the beginning- there are countless studies that show that meditation in nature can offer a long list of both physiological and biochemical benefits including more balanced metabolism, increased energy, improved emotional control, better regulated blood pressure and enhanced cardiovascular health. While the constant stimulation from our daily stressors and the hustle and bustle can jeopardise our ability to maintain clarity and focus, meditating in nature is the perfect antidote that allows us to re-energise.
This is because when you sit on the ground during nature meditations, the body’s rhythm is in harmony with the earth’s natural vibrations. Combined with the lack of ambient busy-ness and noise, your hearing feels sharper, your skin receptors feel more sensitive and your sense of smell is enhanced.
So… just getting out in nature and sitting with ourselves can improve our mood, lower our blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, sharpen mental focus, and boost our creativity? What are we waiting for? Let’s start freeing our inner selves by making a date to meditate with Mama Earth.
Tip: We had the pleasure of sitting by the ocean at Hero Beach Club in Montauk, NY which isn’t always available. But the good thing is nature is everywhere. And it’s free. Can’t make it to the wilderness to meditate on a regular basis? How about your balcony, back yard, or the nearest public park? When I lived in New York City, I would steal little moments under the nearest tree or just stand on a patch of grass on the corner of Lafayette St when I needed it.
2. Incorporate scent to prolong the benefits well beyond your session.
Meditation can feel good in the moment but what happens when you stop? If you want to extend the positive benefits, incorporate aromatherapy.
In the same way that fragrance transports you back to a favorite memory or destination, it can also shift your mindset into a place of deep relaxation. We’ve all had that feeling when you smell a particular laundry detergent and think of a loved family member. Or caught a whiff of Vanilla Cupcake Lip Smackers and are immediately brought back to your middle school self.
Similarly, studies show that pleasant aromas when paired with relaxation training, such as diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness practice, hypnotherapy, and biofeedback actually extend the benefits.
We know the practice of using aromatherapy to enhance well-being dates back thousands of years. Fragrant oils were ceremonially used in the Far East, as well as in ancient Egypt and Greece. Essential oils were extracted from herbs and flowers to create medicines and perfumes, to scent one’s home, and to anoint the ill and deceased. According to Psychology Today, the scent of lavender is both calming and good for concentration – what a great combo for meditation!
Incorporating aromatherapy may not only boost the positive effects of your meditation and help you drop into the moment, but it also links the experience of relaxation with the scent sufficiently so that in the future, exposure to the scent alone may be enough to elicit the relaxation response.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, this pairing is referred to as “associative learning” or “higher-order conditioning,” and the goal is for the conditioned stimulus (the aroma) to trigger the same response as the biofeedback, breathing, or meditation does. Who wouldn’t want to lengthen their meditative buzz? It just makes *scents.*
Tip: Use different products with the same scent so you can bring the positive effects of your meditation to a broad range of your daily activities. Just taking a whiff of the same scent can bring you to the calming place of your meditation mat even if you’re in rush hour traffic or about to walk into a “we need to talk” meeting with your boss. I love Neom’s Scent to Make You Happy range where you can choose the scent in everything from a face oil, reed diffuser, candle or even hand soap.
Use code Cosmic20 for 20% off when you shop Neom.
3. Use oracle cards for extra self-reflection.
What comes to mind when you think of oracle cards? A fortune teller on the boardwalk with a crystal ball? Yeah, that’s what I used to think too- until I realized they were one of the best tools to help me meditate and manifest.
I was first introduced to oracle cards by my cousin. I totally gave her the side eye the first time she pulled them out. I wasn’t fully owning my “woo” side then, and I really had no idea what they were, how to use them, or how they fit into my life. But before long, I fell in love with the simple magic of picking the “right” card every time and reading the message it had for me.
Using them as inspiration for some meditative time has been one of the most accessible ways to remain connected to my spirituality during times of stress or even just busy-ness. During times of great joy, I also reach for the decks. They have a wonderful grounding quality about them.
The truth is there are endless benefits to pulling cards for yourself. Reading them can actually help boost your mental health and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Reading cards for yourself may seem like an out-there activity best left for psychics, but the truth is you don't actually need to be clairvoyant to use them for your benefit.
Also, FYI, oracle cards are different from tarot cards. Oracle cards provide a simpler, clearer sense of actionable advice and don’t require esoteric knowledge. The oracle cards' messages aren't shrouded in interpretation like tarot, and many people love how easily the messages are translated into next steps and practical wisdom for everyday life.
So, back to the benefits: self-reflection is proven to boost mental health and reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, a 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Nature found that self-reflection can have therapeutic effects. While it seems counter-intuitive, think about it: when you're introspective, you have a heightened awareness and sense of self, thus clearing your mind and potentially mitigating negative thoughts.
Here's what you need to know about how you can actually use tarot cards to improve your mental health.
First, it’s important to establish what you’re using the cards for. I like to use cards to tap into my own intuition- aka it usually helps me reaffirm things that I already know. Having a regular card pulling practice has helped me learn how to trust myself and be sooo much more confident in my decision making skills.
I also like to use it to refocus and retrain my brain. According to the National Science Foundation, an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts. Yikes.
Pulling a card during meditation can create new neural pathways. Breaking out of patterns and the norm is so important. I think that’s why a lot of people are turning to oracle decks as well, because they are a break from the patterns, they’re a new tool to access information that makes the brain create new neural pathways.
Studies have also shown the positive impacts of using tarot and oracle on people with depression and memory loss. The more neural pathways you have, the more connections you’re making between situations and card definitions, and thus, you’re gaining an expanded understanding and perspective of life.
If you want to get started, I recommend shuffling and pulling a card before your meditation and asking a simple question like: “what opportunities might be available for me today?” or “what do I need to know right now to align with my highest good?”
(Hint: avoid asking yes or no questions. For example, instead of asking “should i quit my job?” instead ask: “what do I need to feel fulfilled in my work?”)
And the cool thing is that they will usually confirm things you already know- essentially giving you that extra validation, nod of approval or 'yes' from the universe. This is how you can begin to clear the static of your mind and learn to trust your gut.
The more you use your cards, the more you will create a relationship with them. You will also notice what cards keep repeating themselves- pay attention to these! They are giving you hints about self-development themes.
Tip: Find an oracle deck that speaks to you. There are countless options with imagery from everything from angels to animals to mermaids to crystals to goddesses. I recommend finding one that you resonate with and feel naturally drawn to. If you don’t like the illustrations or the language, that’s not the deck for you. Also, you don’t have to limit yourself. You can have as many kinds of oracle decks as you please. The most important thing is to think of your oracle deck as friends who guide you. If you’re looking for a deck with super modern, down-to-earth and easy-to-understand wisdom, check out our Notes From Your Higher Self deck. It’s full of mystical truth bombs, empowering words and, yes, a little spiritual sass.
I hope these tips may be the first (fun) step towards a meditation practice that you actually look forward to.
Remember, the more ways you can find to relax through meditative practices, the more you are able to turn down the volume on your fearful ego and welcome your most empowered self to come forward and lead the way.
And that is where the true magic happens.