Start talking about meditation and you can see people start to fidget. They want to say they meditate, see the value in it, think it’s great. But, unless they practice regularly, they are more inclined to feel nerves rather than Nirvana when the topic comes up.
Though meditation has moved into the mainstream – backed by scores of studies that say it improves our health, focus, concentration, and stress levels – so many people are still reluctant to give it a go.
It’s not surprising. Meditation used to be so, well, Out There, for us Western-minded souls. It seemed suitable for only gurus and yogis and that left the rest of us – yelling mothers and stressed-out employees – feeling a tiny bit insecure and left out.
To explain away this insecurity, we downplay meditation as “not our thing” which is code for: It’s too hard. Too many rules. Too much time.
But here’s the thing – none of that is true. It isn’t that hard. You can meditate for as little or as long as you want. And the rules? You make ‘em.
Here’s how you too can banish the blocks that may be keeping you from meditating.
Too Many Rules. Yeah, I used to get caught up in the rules. There are lots of techniques and styles and even while sitting in meditation, I’d wonder if I was doing it right. But, there really truly aren’t a lot of ways you can fail at this. There isn’t a right or wrong, just different styles. You do not have to sit on the floor cross-legged and chanting. You do not have to meditate for an hour. You don’t even have to fly to India to make this work. If you don’t like sitting still, then do a walking meditation. Be open and create a practice that is flexible.
Try this: Set the timer for five minutes. Sit down in a comfortable chair or position. Sit still. And breathe. I don’t even care how you breathe, just keep doing it. Close your eyes if you want – or don’t. Chant or say a mantra if you want – or don’t. You see? The act of meditating doesn’t have to be complicated.
Sit down. Sit still. Sit quiet.
Not Enough Time. Did you read the part where I say set the timer for five minutes? You got five minutes right? To change your life? When I first started meditating I read that anything less than an hour wouldn’t be effective. Hogwash.
If you want to spend an hour meditating – awesome. I recommend it. But it’s okay too, if you just want to spend five or 10 minutes sitting quietly.
Telling a new meditator they have to sit for an hour is like telling me that to lose weight I can never eat another piece of pizza. Doomed before I begin.
Try this: Baby steps, people. Five minutes, a few days a week. Then, if you feel like it, five minutes every day and when you are feeling really good, and getting in the practice of regularly sitting still and sitting quiet, add a few minutes here and there. If you choose.
As time goes on, it really does become easier to get quiet and sit still and there are even moments where time just seems to slip away and a half hour session feels like a few minutes and you come out feeling restored.
For me a great session nowadays is about 15 to 20 minutes long. I do get quiet in my body and my brain and I watch my thoughts go through.
But, I’ve also had times – and do still, years into this practice — when I’m counting every second, planning dinner menus while meditating, and wondering if I can make it to Happy Hour with the gang. So there’s that.
Remember, some time is better than no time. Set a timer and get to it. Notice whatever comes to mind. You will not be graded on how well you perform.
Too much to do. Here’s another thing that bothers us about meditation. It doesn’t feel like we are doing anything when we meditate. I mean we are not typing, not paying bills, not working or folding laundry. We are “not doing” during meditation. And many of us are taught early on that in order to contribute, in order to be successful and worthy and awesome, we have to be doing, working, producing, moving. Therefore, when we sit alone in the quiet it feels, er, lazy.
Try this: You really want to get stuff done? Head into the day with a clear mind, lower stress, and more energy? A regular meditation practice can get you there. A meditation practice helps improve focus and attention which means you’ll make fewer mistakes and get more done.
I also think it’s worth mentioning that meditation can help us forget about the doing part of life and teach us to be more open to being. To knowing who we are. To living authentically and compassionately. It reminds us of what we value and allows us to make a mindful and purposeful contribution rather than just running around frantically to get stuff done.
Meditation doesn’t have to be one more thing that stresses you out. By banishing your old beliefs about meditation and establishing a simple practice it can be one thing that adds to the calm in your life.