Meditation is not as big a mystery as you think it is.
Have you ever said something to yourself over and over again? Maybe under your breath or out loud? Maybe right before a big presentation and you’re telling yourself “I can do this. I can do this.”
Have you ever gone to someplace quiet or took a walk so you can sort out your thoughts? Or to escape your thoughts temporarily?
Have you ever used music to enhance your mood? Whether to cheer yourself up or as a way of expressing your feelings?
Have you ever taken deep breaths to calm yourself down when you’re upset or anxious?
Well, guess what? Those are all ways of meditating.
And there are countless of ways to do it. You might not realize that you’re already doing some form of it in your day-to-day life. We picked up these techniques from different people – maybe we saw it in a movie or read it in a book… Regardless, you have been unwittingly meditating to improve your life and get you through stressful times.
This is not to say that you couldn’t learn so much more about meditation. Only that it’s not as inaccessible as you think. You don’t need to be in an ashram, sitting on a cushion, surrounded by incense… It is a tool already found within yourself that you can use at any time.
And imagine this, if you are already benefitting from the little meditating that you are doing, how much more would you gain if you put more time towards practicing or studying meditation?
These days we’re hearing more and more about the benefits of meditation. We’re reading about how it can make you more alert, reduce your stress, enhance your creativity, make you taller and pump up your biceps… (Okay, scratch the last two…) But it is starting to sound like the magical pill that will cure whatever ails you and it seems like everyone is trying to get in on it… After all, it’s only about sitting on a cushion, closing your eyes and breathing deeply, right?
Well, yes and no.
Meditation could be as simple as that but it actually takes a lot of work to get there. And you’re selling yourself short if you don’t consider all the possibilities of meditating. Don’t forget that it is an ancient tradition and certainly an important part of any yoga practice. Its powers can literally transform you if you let it.
But what makes meditation hard? Well, try this little exercise with me: Sit still for a moment, hands in your lap, back straight and shoulders relaxed. Now turn your attention to your breath and let it come in and out without any effort. Then clear your mind… Try not to think of anything. Just sit quietly blank for a few moments. Continue to keep your mind clear and keep pressing away any thoughts that may come in. Are you breathing still? Okay, now keep it going for a solid ten minutes…
Not so easy, is it? Little thoughts keep trying to jump in and drag you away from your center. Maybe your back will start to twitch or slouch or maybe you get completely carried away and start to fall asleep! Like everything else it requires discipline and practice and a helluva lot of patience.
But, Sam, how can I get in on this, you ask?
To start, I highly recommend you participate in a guided meditation class to get an idea of how it goes. Let someone ease you into it. Let them guide your breathing and your posture. You can very easily find a free class to join if you google “free meditation class” in your neck of the woods. Try it a few times. Try several different studios until you can find one where you feel comfortable. Then go ahead and try it at home.
Don’t forget that there are many different styles of meditation. And just like yoga, meditation is a personal journey. Some need a space to do meditation while others can do it just about anywhere. Some include moving (e.g. walking) while others involve visualization. There is no one correct way to do it. It’s about getting in touch with what feels good for you and what allows you to let go and surrender to the present. I wish I could tell you how it’s supposed to feel but I can’t. It is going to be different for you.
I think it would also help if you read about meditation, its history and its tradition. I would recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh. Allow yourself to obtain a deeper understanding of the practice including its variations. Learn about different techniques and immerse yourself in it. It will give your process a whole new dimension.
But make no mistake meditation is not a quick-fix for your not taking care of yourself. If the source of your stress is doing too much or not getting enough rest, an additional activity is not going to help. Trust me. It certainly does not take the place of much needed sleep or exercise.
So that is MY take on meditation. Excuse me while I get off my soapbox now. If you have tips, books or experiences in meditation to share with me and my readers, please feel free to do so! In the meantime, let’s all slowly say OM together… Ooooooooooommmmmmm….