Does this word conjure up an image of a serene person in lotus position on an exotic beach?
But does the thought of trying it send shivers of fear up your spine?
You’re probably aware of all the benefits of meditation – clear mind, reduced stress, happier outlook, inner peace.
Why is it excruciatingly hard to put this terrific habit into practice?
You’re not alone. Sitting practice is a monumental challenge for many.
Rather than pummeling yourself, try to refresh your outlook. Eventually you might venture a try. (Note: if you don’t, you’re not a bad person)
1. Start with bite-sized chunks.
If you started running, would you go for a 10k your first time? Your hamstrings and shins plead “no”. When you start a sitting practice, no need to sit for 30 minutes. Start with 5 minutes. That’s all. Set your iPhone timer. Forget about your worries for a little while.
2. Consistency trumps length.
A little consistent practice helps more than sporadic marathon sessions. Try as little as two days per week. Mark your calendar and stick to it. Monday 7am “Sit.” Saturday 9am “Sit.”
3. Let go of goals and enjoy the process.
“Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.” – Alan Watts
Meditation is unlike almost everything else we do in our goal-obsessed society. Meditation is not about getting to a clear mind as quickly as possible. A calmer mind can be a nice bi-product of meditation, but it is not the goal. Rather than focusing on how you aren’t doing it well, enjoy the moments, however they unfold. Try to enjoy this process of self-discovery.
4. Just be.
It’s simple. Sit and see what happens. Let go of the expectation of a quiet mind. If you can embrace the sensations and thoughts that arise, then let them pass, you will gradually unfold the layers of your mind. You might just unearth a hidden jewel.
5. Use a very simple technique.
Focusing on your breath is a simple, yet profound technique. Your breathing connects your nervous system to your mind. Calmer mind expresses itself in a calmer breath and slower heartbeat. Keep your attention on each inhale and exhale. Repeat. As the mind wanders, coax it gently to your breath. A thought comes “I forgot to email Scott about tomorrow’s meeting”, notice, then note that it can wait.
6. Practice improves (it’s never perfect!).
Did you know how to drive the first time you get behind the wheel? Unlikely. Meditation takes practice. Be kind to yourself and release expectations of how a session “should” be. Images, thoughts and sensations will present themselves, notice and come back to your breath.
7. Make yourself comfortable.
No need to sit in lotus. Images of serene yogis sitting in caves are pretty cool, but you don’t have to imitate them. No need to screech in agony. Use cushion, or a chair, or a pillow. Put blocks under your knees if they are achy. Be comfortable. Laying down is not recommended because it is harder to stay awake. All other positions have green lights.
8. Embrace the craziness.
Never suppress. At times you will feel like a crazy person. A great master said that we become aware of our neuroses in meditation. We let them come up and acknowledge them. When you see your neurosis, they become a lot less scary.
And now over to you. What’s stopping you from trying it? Let us know in the comments.