Electric Relaxation: A Hip-Hop Guide To Meditation

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Hi. We recently created AFH TV, Ambrosia For Heads’ streaming video service, because we believe real Hip-Hop deserves its own dedicated TV home. But, there are doubters, so, we need your help. If you have enjoyed anything on AFH over the last 7 years, we are asking you to subscribe to AFH TV. It is only $1.99/month or $12/year, and already features some amazing content, but the best is yet to come. Thank you for all of your support.

With mental health and self-care being at the center of so many conversations, it’s no surprise that lots of folks are talking about meditation. Schools, corporations, sports teams and many of your favorite MC’s have incorporated some sort of meditation practice into their lives.

Big Sean spits “life got me meditating, J. Cole raps “meditate, don’t medicate, and then there’s Big K.R.I.T. along with  Kendrick Lamar who have both spoken about its importance. Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek’s “Reflection Eternal” gives a nod to being mindful. RZA, Rick Rubin, and B.o.B talk about it too. 50 Cent says that Deepak Chopra hipped him to meditation, and Russell Simmons even wrote a book about it. Sa-Roc, whose video and song “Forever” look and feel like a meditation, is deeply rooted in metaphysical philosophies.

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Why do we meditate?

To be more calm, peaceful and relaxed

So we can be kinder to the people we love

It improves our physical health

So we can think with more clarity and make better decisions

Whether consciously or unconsciously, many of us have used music to help us get centered, relaxed and focused. The lyrics, the voice, the track and/or the vibe of a good song causes us to be more present and helps us to cut through the noise of our daily lives. It helps us to be more mindful. Mindfulness, another word that is buzzing right now, is simply a form of meditation. It is not a religion but a complement to meditation or whatever it is you choose to do to be emotionally well.

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Doing these four things made meditation easier for me:

CLEARING my mind by writing. I empty out everything in my head by putting pen to paper in a journal or typing it out. Every night before lying down, I write a list of everything I am thinking about -things I need to do, or people I need to call, and it’s easier to relax.

BREATHING is its own meditation. Slowing down the breath relaxes the mind, calms the nervous system and shifts the focus from stressors to being present in the moment. There are so many breathing techniques available: I inhale slowly through my nose as if air is entering my belly causing it to expand like a balloon; I exhale the air gently through my lips with eyes open or closed.  It is a simple exercise that has a profound impact on our emotional state.

COUNTING blessings by saying my gratitude list out loud or in my head. Focusing on gratitude shifts me back into the present moment. Sometimes I say:  I am grateful for ________. I say it over and over, filling in the blank until I run out of things to say. There are days when I go so deep that I find myself spilling tears of gratitude at the end of this meditation while on other days my heart just smiles.

MOVING my body helps me reconnect with myself and to get my mind right. Sometimes my meditation requires motion, so I take a walk and listen to guided meditations from youtube or one from my own series. Dancing, boxing, and hot yoga are other forms of movement that I have grown to appreciate for clearing my head. Meditation does not have to be about sitting still all of the time.

Getting started:

Step 1: Create a vibe – burn a white candle or oils/incense, lower the lighting or open the curtain to let the sun or moonlight in.

Step 2: Get in a comfortable position – you don’t have to be cross-legged on the floor.

Step 3: Breathe – simply focus on your inhale and exhale and maintain the pattern.

Step 4: Focus your attention on the breath without trying to modify it; just breathe.

Please remember that you don’t have to stop thinking in order to meditate. One of the myths about meditation is that if you don’t have a blank mind, you’re doing it wrong. Here are a few other approaches to incorporate into your life:

Use a guided meditation – find one that works for you online.

Reciting a mantra – write a mantra – an affirmative statement or a favorite quote can work.

Choose something to focus on. It could be a light, a pattern on the rug, a tree blowing in the wind, the moon.

Some of the most helpful tips I’ve heard about meditating include these suggestions:

Sit for just two minutes and let that be your practice initially

Do it anywhere – on the train, at your desk, on the couch

Talk to yourself when getting started, guide your mind

Do it first thing each morning after waking up

Don’t get caught up in how to do it…just get it in

Be OK with whatever happens and don’t focus on doing it right

If you need to count your breaths to focus then count them…

Be gentle with yourself. If you wander, simply come back in

Do it right before you lay down at night

Pay attention to feelings that come up and acknowledge them

Scan your body from head to toe releasing tension wherever you find it

Breathe naturally and slowly

Now, there are all sorts of new-agey sounds to meditate to if you need music, but meditative Hip-Hop beats are another option. A Tribe Called Quest, for instance, has been serving up the vibes for years.

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There is also “Chill Hip-Hop” and what some call “Lo-Fi Hip-Hop” that is presented as music to relax or study to.

I doesn’t matter whether you choose silence, guided or mindfulness meditation or use music as a tool to get you in the zone,  just remember J.Cole’s lyrical wisdom — meditate, meditate, meditate.

Learn more about Toni Blackman.