"Self care is self love." A Guide to Healing Meditation from Marika Baxter

Marika Baxter is a physical therapist (for 16 years!), Pilates instructor and aromatherapist.  The first decade of her career was spent working and training in manual therapy and performing arts medicine, working with some of the most elite dancers from The New York City Ballet, The School of American Ballet, BalletMet and The Ohio State University Department of Dance.   

When she recalls journeying through the healing process with others, Baxter says “I always felt a deeper connection to people and their process, not just from a physical perspective but as if I was connecting to something underneath the surface, their deeper self, their soul.”  This experience eventually drew Baxter to learning about alternative healing modatlities including Pilates, aromatherapy and meditation.  “Personally, I’ve been on a healing path since a young age.  I had three knee surgeries in high school from injuries as a gymnast, which, as I reflect, was probably the start of questioning who I was, and the roles or identities I carried with me.”  After experiencing a miscarriage six and half years ago, “I began to acknowledge those deeper parts of myself that I always had sensed and knew contributed to how I felt and related to the world but was too afraid to face.”    

That’s when she discovered meditation. “It was one of the ways I began experience my inner landscape myself, dive deep and be still.  Getting to know myself from the inside out, versus the outside in.” Baxter also learned that meditation doesn’t always have to look a certain way — you don’t have to be sitting in a certain way, or not have bad thoughts or any thoughts, and doing it “right” it doesn’t necessarily make you feel better.  “I’ve since experienced that meditation can be in any position, and is more about letting go, surrendering and receiving each moment as it is, rather than a doing of anything.” Baxter has since applied this perspective to her work with clients; “it’s a blend of modalities that addresses whatever the person needs whether its hands on work, movement, breath, meditation or just listening.”

After leading a Guided Meditation and Creation Workshop at our store in Madison, Connecticut, Marika taught us how to receive ourselves. Now, she shares more lessons on how to meditate, create a practice that works for us, and all that will come from adding a little time for ourselves can improve more than our day to day.

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What is a guided meditation?

There are many, many styles and lineages of meditation that it’s hard to describe in words.  One way I think of meditating is like an inner hygiene process.  A way to sit with ourselves and process our inner and outer worlds and “digest” the unprocessed parts of our days and lives.  A guided meditation can help “guide” you to a place of where you can contemplate and witness your thoughts, body sensations, and emotions.  Guided meditations are wonderful for beginners as well as experienced meditators.  They can help set an intention for your time, connect you with your breath, your body, be grounding or connect you to higher levels of consciousness; like a light illuminating the path before you.    

What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation can help you de-stress, find clarity, process emotions, uplift the mood, and cultivate more compassion and gratitude for others and yourself.  On a more medical level, research is being done to show that meditation can help get deeper sleep, with weight loss, as a component in healing chronic disease, and with pain management.

Meditation is also a spiritual practice in loving and caring for the needs of our soul and spirit.  It can be a time where we connect to ourselves as individual expressions of life and at the same time one with the entire universe.  

How do I establish a meditation practice?

Guided meditations are a good way to start a meditation practice as they can support you as you’re becoming more familiar with your inner self.  Often in the beginning you may have a “busy” mind with many streaming thoughts.  This isn’t wrong.  The point is not to have a quiet blank mind but to begin witnessing these thoughts instead of identifying with them.  To allow the body to ground and process the supercharge of our emotions and body sensations and let them move through us instead of getting stuck within us. 

There really is no wrong way to meditate however there are always deeper levels you can explore.  There are a few good apps like Headspace that you can upload to your phone or iPad and take with you wherever you are. 

If you’re meditating on your own, you can find a quiet space and lay down, sit on a chair or on a cushion.  Take some time to notice your breath, your thoughts, what you feel in your physical body.  Allow yourself to feel what you feel without resistance, judgement or shame.  As they say, what we resist, persists.  So as you sit and breathe allow yourself to let go of the need to understand and just feel.

What is the role essential oils play in meditation? How do I know which oil is for me?

Essential oils can be used to help support us in connecting to our deeper selves and our higher wisdom.  They can relax our nervous system, clear our energy, open our breath, and deepen our focus.  The safer and more relaxed we feel in our bodies the deeper we can connect with ourselves and the world around us.    

How do you meditate?

I began meditating by doing free guided meditations by Oprah and Deepak Chopra!  Now I practice guided meditations, walking meditations and sitting in the stillness and movement of life without any external input so to speak.  The teachers I follow and have sat with include Judith Blackstone, Wendy DeRosa, Loch Kelly, Thomas Huebl and I’ve studied Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.  

What other practices can we incorporate to our daily lives to insure we are supporting the unfolding of our life?

On top of taking an extended period of time to meditate, including minutes of contemplation into your daily routine were we can check in with our inner and outer realities.  This gives us a chance to notice if we are no longer inhabiting our body or if we are relating to ourselves, the day or the people we interact with from a place of how we think things should be versus how they really are.   Self care is self love, which took me a long time to learn, and the more we love ourselves the better we can reflect that love to one another and the world.   

katherine bellando