There have been times in my life when outside forces presented emotional challenges and pain so deep I felt they might swallow me whole. While meditation has been important to me in my everyday life, it has also played a huge role in seeing me through the painful stretches.
People seem to belong to one of three camps when it comes to meditation. The first have a daily practice, or at least make time to settle into the silence with some regularity. On the other end of the spectrum are those who think the whole idea seems kooky and way too woo-woo to have any real value for sensible folks like themselves. This post isn’t designed for either group—though I suspect at least some of the nay-sayers might be willing to give it a try, just so those who know them never find out. If that sounds like you, make sure no one’s looking and keep reading.
The final group is comprised of people who find the idea intriguing and have a sense that developing a meditation practice could indeed benefit them, but for one reason or another are doubtful they’d be able to master it. Maybe they tried once or twice, but couldn’t seem to find the sweet spot meditators speak of. Or maybe the mere idea of sitting still and silent seems so unlike them that they just can’t wrap their heads around it. In any case, these are the folks I hope to reach today (well, them and you secret readers).
You can do this. Maybe not on your first try. I doubt many find much peace on their first go-around. But let me ask you this: What have you ever learned that you mastered immediately? It takes a little time and patience, but you really can do this.
Formal teachers of meditation often have one preferred method—they’ll tell you to position your body this way or that, to play soft music, or might insist on absolute silence. Some will ask you to chant. Others might have you believe that the only way you’ll benefit is to give them thousands of dollars and in return, they’ll assign you a syllable or two that is the (only) key to the door.
I say hogwash. Just like most destinations worthy of the journey, there are many roads to finding the meditation sweet spot. What works for me might not speak to you. The biggest thing is to start somewhere. Right where you are works just fine.
I prefer silence, though that may be due in part to the fact that much of my life is noisy. I find that only in the quiet am I able to fully get where I want to go. I like to either sit on the floor on my zafu and zabuton (round pillow atop a square pillow) or on the little loveseat in my office. I don’t do any pretzel pose and I place my hands however they feel comfortable. Settled in, I close my eyes and breathe. Because I’ve been at this a while, that’s all it takes.
Here’s what you might expect if you’re new to this: You find a quiet spot, sit, and close your eyes. You’ve heard you’re supposed to pay attention to your breath, so you consciously try to slow it down, which makes it speed up after the first few exhales. You wriggle a little and hope you’ll relax soon. You remember you’re almost out of milk and remind yourself to pick some up. Oh, and your car needs an oil change. Ugh. You readjust in your seat and think again about breathing slowly. You try to think of nothing, which floods your mind with everything. You open your eyes and look at your cell phone to check the time. Three minutes have passed. What the hell?
It gets easier. It really does. In the beginning, you might want to try a guided meditation. There are tons available and while I’ve never been able to find the sweet spot with them, they’re fabulous at redirecting your thoughts and helping you relax. Most walk you through an exercise where you envision yourself in nature. You stroll along and feel the gentle breeze on your face. If (when!) your thoughts and worries intrude, you are instructed to see them drifting away on clouds, or carried downstream on leaves floating atop the water, or written in sand and washed away by the tide. You can certainly do that with errant thoughts, with or without an mp3, but if you think getting one will help, try it. If nothing else, guided meditations can bring enough still and calm to ready you to move on without them.
You also don’t have to limit yourself to sitting while meditating. Walking is popular with many meditators—though don’t try it on city sidewalks. 😉 If you have access to an unoccupied stretch of outdoors, a solo, silent walk can be fabulous. So can your daily shower. Once you’ve shampooed and rinsed, close your eyes, stand under the stream, and breathe. Don’t concern yourself with how quickly you’re breathing, just breathe. After a few minutes, your world will be just you and the water. Ah, maybe not quite the sweet spot achievable with silence, but it’s still pretty sweet.
A few hints: Set a timer so you won’t feel the urge to check the clock. Many people shoot for an hour, but that’s a little ambitious for newbies. Give yourself 15 minutes or so to start. If you’re not the only one home, close the door and let people know that unless the place is burning down, this time is yours. They might object at first, but they’ll come to terms with it. You deserve 15 stinking minutes. Take them. Oh, and make a commitment to yourself to come back tomorrow to do it again. And the day after that. And the one after that. I promise, after few weeks you won’t need to push yourself. You’ll turn into one of those people who try to convince everyone they know to give themselves just 15 minutes. You know the type.
~*~ Today’s image courtesy of pixabay ~ Free and fabulous. ~*~