This week, I’m going to do a Meditation Intervention with a friend of mine.
This is not because I’m The World’s Best Meditator or anything. She asked me to share my experience and offer advice, since I’m familiar with this particular stretch of turbulent waters. I’ve been fumbling my way through the often frustrating landscape of meditation for a while now.
My friend is an incredibly strong person, who has recently gone through difficult things that give me heart palpitations even thinking about. She has been doing some meditation, but she’s feeling pretty stuck at the moment.
I’m sure this sounds very familiar to all you meditators. We’ve all been there…bogged down by Monkey Mind and feeling like we are just not good at meditation. We think we are weak-willed or doing it wrong or just inherently incapable. Worst of all, we say the most horrible things to ourselves about what this apparent failure means about our character.
So, I’m going to try to shake some self-compassion into her – because here’s the thing:
Meditation is our natural state, we’ve just forgotten how to linger there.
Stillness, presence, awareness – look at any other animal in the natural world and you’ll see that they are constantly living in that state. We are the only animals that have misplaced that skill. It’s there somewhere, lost amongst the clutter of incoming texts and deadlines and trips to the DMV. We simply need to practice getting that stillness back, but our culture is so far removed from those natural skills that getting it back is really hard.
We spend decades learning to multi-task, use our critical thinking skills and plan ahead…which is all great.
But we almost never practice getting our brain to shut the hell up.
I confess: I am not a great meditator. It’s not like I sit down and it’s all stillness and light in there. I have to work – hard. It takes a lot of focus and energy for me to center myself for even 50% of the time that I am sitting on my meditation cushion.
Have I mentioned that I have had a daily meditation practice for 7 years?
Nevertheless, this is something that I have committed myself to, because of what it does for the rest of my life. It’s like to going to the gym. You don’t go to the gym to be really good at going to the gym. You go to the gym because it makes you healthier for the rest of your life outside of the gym.
Meditation is the same way. I might not spend my 25 minutes in the morning in a perfect state of bliss. I might have to chase down my mind, like I’m chasing after a puppy in a theme park. I might have itches and kinks and a really annoying eyelash in my eye. I just need to surrender to all of that.
Because regardless of how that all goes, the process of sitting down with the intention of being in stillness always causes me to spend the rest of my day in a greater sense of awareness.
So, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll say to my friend for our Meditation Intervention. There is no magic bullet for this stuff, but maybe I’ll start with this:
Meditation is one of those things you simply can’t fail at. The only failure is in being unkind and giving up on yourself.
In case you are looking for a little motivation or inspiration, these are books that I really like:
Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D:
He’s a molecular biologist, you can’t get much more straight shooting than that. He has an entire center dedicated to the proven medical benefits of meditation (or mindfulness, as he calls it, so that people don’t get intimidated). You can’t go wrong with any of his books.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook – Edmund J. Bourne:
This is the first book my therapist started me off with when she recommended meditation for my panic attacks. It has clear directions for anxiety reducing techniques and short writing exercises.
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation – Sharon Salzberg:
Perfect for beginners. I love this one because it’s a 28 day program that comes with a CD of 15 minute guided meditations.
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry – Jack Kornfield:
Besides that it’s an awesome title, this book has some great thoughts on waking up to our life.
When Things Fall Apart (or really anything) by Pema Chodron:
Particularly wonderful if you are dealing with specific challenges.
This is a great book for the cynic or the person who is convinced they can’t meditate. There are some things I don’t love about the book, but it explains complicated concepts very clearly.
Also, anything by Thich Nhat Hanh, Sylvia Boorstein or Eckhart Tolle.
And if you are looking for guided mediations, check out these from the University of Virginia Mindfulness Center.
Some of my favorite meditation posts:
- Meditations on Meditating
- Meditation information: umm, what are we doing??
- Why you should meditate even if you suck at it
- How my iPhone reminds me to remember
- Stillness training
- Relieving stress by sleeping with the troops