Let's talk meditation.
I'm guessing as soon as you read that you pictured someone sitting cross legged on the floor, omming away, maybe even a bit of incense floating about, mind clear of any thoughts.
Well stop right there! That's ONE version of meditation. It's a really effective version...for some people. For average Joe, maybe not so much.
I have been hearing a lot lately that meditation is hard or "not for me".
"How do you clear your mind, how can you just sit and breathe, my back aches trying to sit up straight for 10 minutes"...the list goes on.
We all kind of know that meditation is something we want or should have in our lives but it can seem so disconnected from our actual reality.
With a child hanging off my leg demanding more snacks I don't feel very zen. If you take the tube to work that's not very zen. Diary is jam packed... No chill there.
Life can just seem too busy to fit it meditation. " Emptying" your mind can seem like a waste of time.
It's not. Simple as that. The benefits of meditation are a whole other post but for now just take my word for it. Meditation can change the way your brain works which in turn can change your life, and that isn't even an exaggeration! It will bring you huge benefits...if you can get past the hurdles.
Let me help.
Before you try and do anything meditationy it's time to change your expectations.
In the middle of a crazy day just stopping and emptying your mind is an overwhelming and probably unachievable task. Take the expectation of instantly clearing your mind and throw it out of the window.
Done? OK..now what?
Well you've got to find your groove. There is no one magic trick to become a master meditator. I'm definitely not one. You have to put in the leg work and find what works for you...boring I know.
Before you read on, stop for a moment. What are the main things that get in the way of you meditating? Really think, make a list ( I love a good list!).
Got your list? Great, now it's time to counter that. Here are some of the most common things on that "problem list" and practical things that you can put into action TODAY to change your relationship with meditation from "it's complicated" to "in love".
I don't have time
You do. End of. You may need to be intentional with your planning but you have time. Go to bed 10 minutes later, get up 10 minutes earlier. Close your eyes on the bus..you might want to set an alarm for this one so you don't miss your stop! You have time. Use it.
I can't get comfy
The first thing you hear on any of the popular meditation apps is sit or stand with a straight back. Let's get real...that's tiring for any length of time. Right now let me give you permission to break the rules! Any meditation is better than none so if you feel good laying down, do that. Don't let someone else's rules get in your way.
I can't clear my mind. I keep having thoughts.
Welcome to being human. It would be weird if you didn't have thoughts. This is the hardest thing to address. First of all, bring your focus away from your empty or not so empty mind and focus on your breathing.
There are a few things to try here. It will take time and trial and error. Give them a try. Find what works, tweak it. Make it yours.
You can count your breaths eg:
breath in..mentally say 1, breath out... mentally say 2...
You can count the length of your breaths eg:
in 2, 3,4,5,6 out 2,3,4,5,6
Simply "note" your breaths. In, out, in, out
Focus on where you feel the breaths coming in and going out. Maybe it's the rise and fall of your tummy or chest. Maybe it's your ribs widening or the air coming into your nose. Bring your focus to that and away from your thoughts.
Now for my absolute favourite:
I like a "mantra". I use that word very loosely but to me that's what it is. My mind is busy. I'm a dreamer. I'm a multi tasker. My thoughts wander...it's inevitable. I've found that having just one thing to focus on (my mantra) gives my brain that slice of peace that we all desire from meditation without the pressure of a "no thoughts" policy.
It can be SUPER cringe and cheesy at first but it's definitely worth going through that awkward bit.
My two favourites at the moment are nice short phrases that I can coordinate with my breathing. As I breathe in and out I mentally say
"Breathe in calm, breathe out stress"
" I am calm, I am happy"
It's as simple as that. I'm no longer sitting there trying to will away the 100 thoughts buzzing around my head and when I do start mentally doing my shopping list I just direct my mind back to the mantra and it usually works.
Sometimes having just one thing to focus on takes the pressure off of having a totally clear mind and allows your brain a nice chunk of much needed peace.
I literally can't sit still
Why does meditation need to be a stationary activity? Good news, it doesn't. If you really can't get along with meditation or just as a lovely extra way to be a bit more mindful and calm pick an activity.
The trick is finding the right activity. It could be walking, sewing, gardening, Pilates. The best kind of meditative activities are rhythmic, relaxing, enjoyable and require you to focus, but just on one thing. Like I said before if you are focusing on one thing for example a Pilates exercise, your brain gets a break from the never ending to do list, the worries, the mental noise.
And really that is all that we need, a break from the constant chatter in our brains.
So there's my list of a few troubleshooting ideas for when meditation is anything but relaxing.
Now go, set a timer, put some nice music on, maybe even a candle if you are at home, or stick your earphones in if you aren't. Give these ideas a try and let me know what you think! And whatever you do leave judgement at the door, there is no right or wrong way to meditate and it's not something you can fail at so just make it work for you.
I would love to know if any of these ideas helped or if you have your own useful tips to share.