So many of us find meditation hard and a lot of us hate sitting alone, forget about sitting quietly with just our thoughts. I get it. I was in the same boat. It took me years just to be able to sit quietly for ten minutes. I avoided silence like the plague! I was on a spiritual path, working toward bettering myself, going to therapy, reading Deepak Chopra, I had just started practicing yoga, but I still wasn’t ready for my inner silence.
I would come home from work, relax on my couch, dim the lights and play some relaxing music. That was my way of meditating. I even told myself I was meditating and I was, really. Except that I wasn’t really, well not to the degree that I do now. It’s like falling in love when you’re a teenager. Are you really in love? Well, yes, but after you gain some wisdom and life experience you realize that you were, ‘as in love as you could be at that time.’ That was me. I was doing as much meditation as I could at that time. And that was sitting quietly with relaxing music and dim lighting.
But silence, nothing to shut down the thoughts in my head? I was too afraid. I was terrified of the stream of thoughts that would run through my mind while undistracted. I became addicted to deterring myself from the moment. And thankfully all this technology has made it easier and easier for us to be swayed from the moment. I say thankfully because I believe that this tidal wave of information and stimuli is only bringing us closer to ourselves. It’s just doing it along the scenic route.
I love it. I love the iPhones, the tablets, the instant access to it all. I love that I can wear my sports watch that tracks my workouts and sends me notifications while I’m working out. All of this is only making us understand when to choose to go within and when it’s okay to stay connected. We are already in a place where we can be connected 24 hours a day. Anything that becomes a crutch can be bad. So it’s not the tool that is the problem. It’s not the technology and it’s not the alcohol or the drugs, it’s the user. The word addiction means to be enslaved to something that is habit forming. Are you enslaved to your phone?
In the past it might have been harder to distinguish the difference between meditation and quiet relaxation. Now, there is no doubt. When I wake up in the morning, I sit for 15-20 minutes and I meditate. I don’t turn on lights, I don’t check any emails, texts or tweets. I sit, in silence and observe my body, my breathing and my thoughts. There are many techniques for meditation, but basically it’s all about being present. Some mornings my mind is intensely more active than others, but it’s just like exercise. Some days are easier while other days are just tough. Those days it becomes about pushing through because you know there is a benefit. It’s that benefit that most of us aren’t quite aware of when it comes to meditation.
My quiet time in the morning is meant for me, myself and I. It’s a gift to myself, it’s my time to connect with my inner world. The deeper and happier my connection is with my internal world, the happier and more connected I feel with those around me. There is a direct correlation to my inner world and my outer world. If I’m stressed out then I wind up hitting all the traffic lights on the way to my appointment. It seems like the universes way of showing me that I need to slow down and stay present.
When I made my first true attempt at meditating it failed, quite miserably, too. I forced myself to sit in complete silence. I even sat in an upright chair so my back wouldn’t slouch. I lit a candle, closed my eyes and set a timer for 10 minutes. I began to breathe and relax, but only moments after the initial relaxation did my mind start to kick into high gear. “It’s got to be coming up on 10 minutes. This feels like an eternity. Why am I even doing this? There doesn’t seem to be a benefit to me right now. All I want to do is open my eyes. Nope, just keep breathing, don’t open your eyes, you’re going to make it.” And on and on! I began to tense up, my shoulders, jaw, fingers all started locking up until finally I cracked. At 9 minutes and 43 seconds I opened my eyes. I couldn’t even make it a full 10 minutes. It was a huge disappointment. But I had broken through to the other side. I eventually made it to 10 minutes, then 15 then 20 and 30 minutes sometimes.
I eventually found myself using the quiet time to allow my busy mind to work itself out. Even if it was 3-5 minutes a few times each day, it helped to keep me centered. I’m so grateful I suffered through the hard times and they still show up today, those times with more thoughts than I know what to do with, but I keep on showing up. I keep breathing and paying attention to my breath. And I feel a sense of calm throughout the day. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Here are 3 ways to start and keep a meditation practice:
- Start with a short length of time. 1-5 minutes is really all you need. It’s acknowledging that you need to stop, reset and take a short break. It’s incredibly rejuvenating.
- Commit to doing something everyday. There is no reason that a day should go by without a check-in to your internal world. Whether you stop for an extra moment in your car or sit on a curbside before you enter your workplace. Everyday take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to settle into your own being.
- Make it at a regular time. We’re all different and have different rhythms and schedules. Find what works for you and replicate it. Morning works really well for me, I just wake up a few minutes earlier and I get to sit, breath and listen to nature wake up. It’s one of the most peaceful ways to start my day.
Photo Credit: flickr.com/MoyanBrenn