So, let’s continue our meditation chat, shall we?
You have your space all organized and you have something to comfy sit on and your timer.
Pick an amount of time that seems not terrifying. Is it 3 minutes? 5? 25? Whatever it is, set your timer.
Now you have some choices. These are all meditation methods that I have used and liked – of course there are many others, but these are my go-to techniques. I tend to bounce around between them, depending on my mood.
Watching the breath. Just sit there and breathe. Feel how the breath feels at the nostrils and how the belly and chest move in and out. Put all your concentration on the incredibly vital - and constantly overlooked – miracle of the breath.
Count the breath. Inhale one, exhale one, inhale two, exhale two – and continue until you get to 10. Start over again at one.
Use a mantra. I like Om Mani Padme Hum. You can use any word that makes you feel good. “Peace”, “love”, “just here, just now” are all good options. Repeat and place your focus on the sounds and the physical feeling that the words create in your body. Using a mala can be helpful here, too. This is a string with 108 beads on it. You say the manta once, then move your fingers along to the next bead. It’s a nice tactile thing to keep your attention.
Lovingkindness meditation. Start with yourself – say “May I be well. Be happy. Be healthy. Live with ease.” (If you are uncomfortable with giving kindness to yourself, consider it to be like the airline requiring you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Only when you are in a good place, can you be of help others.) Then move on to those people you love. “May _______ be well. Be happy. Be healthy. Live with ease.” Then, move to those you don’t know. Those who annoy the hell out of you. And then to all sentient beings.
Use a guided meditation. There are some great ones on iTunes podcasts and as a apps. Most are free. The University of Virginia has a wonderful Mindfulness Center and they have some free guided meditations on their website as well.
See what might work for you – when I started, I found the guided meditations and mantras to be best, because I needed all the help I could get. The constant re-directing of my mind was helpful.
Do this every day. Carve out time for yourself. Even if it’s just for one, single, solitary minute.
Here is the important part – YOUR MIND WILL WANDER!
It will flip out and tell you that you can’t do this and it’s stupid. That’s fine. That is what minds do. Commit to sit there until your timer is done. No matter what happens.
I like to think of my mind as a puppy. Have you ever trained a puppy? You have to be compassionate and kind but firm. When my mind is chewing on everything and peeing on the carpet, I simply and patiently bring it back – time after time. The puppy will get scared and obstinate if I get mad and yell. If I give up, I’ll have to live with this unruly creature forever.
My most major realization came when it hit me that if I can hear myself thinking, I must be something other than my thoughts. I am not my mind. I can get it under control, but it takes patience and determination. My mind had 30 years to run amuck and it’s going to give me some grief about sitting still.
People tend to think that the goal of mediation is to be in this blissful, thought-free state of Nirvana for hours. I guess perhaps some people can do that. I’m not one of them.
The goal of meditation is to notice when your attention has wandered and bring it back.
That’s all. Because the moment of noticing when you have floated off to worrying about that email you need to send later - that is the epic moment. That’s when you can change your mind.
Some days I sit for meditation and my mind runs all over the place and I get only five seconds of watching the breath. That is still success.
Because when I make the space in my life to be still, when I set the intention to train my puppy and when it sits, even for one moment – I have done something hugely important. Each moment that I am present means that my awareness is cracked open and that is something to build on.
This meditation stuff is not for the faint of heart. Your mind will throw everything possible in your way. You will fight demons and monsters that have been lingering under your bed since childhood. Ugly things will come up that you wish would stay buried.
But if you choose to keep with it, if you decide that you are stronger than your run-away thoughts and emotions, you can gain a sense of power and peace that is unequaled.
You get to be one of those people who understands that your mind is just the surface, that it can be tricked and cruel and just downright wrong. You get to go deeper and find out who you really are beneath the endless loop of judgmental criticisms of yourself and others. You get to get it.
I will readily admit that after 4 years of meditation practice, I am not quite there yet. But I’ve seen glimpses of it. And it is so damn beautiful I can hardly stand it.
Want more? There are so many amazing books about meditation. Here are some of my favorites:
Wherever You Go There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation – Sharon Salzberg
When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation – Thich Nhat Hanh
I still consider myself to be a beginning meditator but I’d be happy to answer any questions about meditation or my experiences. And I’d love to hear about your trials, tribulations and joys with meditation – so come back and tell me how it went!
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