Meditation is hard.
I know so many people who sit for meditation once, watch their brain bounce off the walls for a while and then quit, saying that their mind is just too busy.
I hate to break it to them – but their mind is not special. Everyone’s mind is that busy.
Meditation is really hard. That doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong or you shouldn’t do it at all. That would be like saying that you can’t take piano lessons because you can’t play Mozart.
Of course you can’t get your mind quiet. You haven’t been trained yet. And by the way, training takes about 20 years. I’ve been meditating for 4 years and I’m lucky if my mind is still for 10-15 minutes out of a 30 minute session.
So, why do it if it’s so hard? Because the rewards are epic. Seriously epic.
It seems that science is finally catching up with the Buddha. I could write pages on all the research about how meditators (who have been meditating for as little as 8 weeks, for 25 minutes a day) have better tolerance for stress and pain. They have measurable changes in the cerebral cortex and are just better able to deal with the complexities of life.
So, all that is great, but personally, I find that my meditation practice is just about the most fundamental thing I do with my day. Everything else goes more smoothly when I make time to get quiet. My priorities get realigned and I feel more peaceful even during the stressful parts of my day.
All you need to meditate effectively is the desire to do it. All you need to do to start — is to start.
Choosing a meditation space is really the first step. Of course, you can just plop down anywhere and meditate, but setting up a dedicated location and including some ritual has been very helpful for maintaining my routine. My space is a small one, in the corner of my bedroom. (I have spent hours on Pinterest coming up with a fabulous design for the elaborate meditation room I will someday have, but for now I’m perfectly happy meditating next to my closet door.)
Luckily, Grace has learned to lie quietly next to me while I mediate — but if you can find a private space and keep pets, kids and spouses out of your hair for a while, it is enormously helpful. Mostly, you just want to sit somewhere you can breathe and not stare at piles of laundry or bills.
I don’t have much in my space, just a small table with a few things that I love. I have a small statue of Ganesha (pictured above) and another one of Buddha. I have a candle, some incense, my mala, some rocks I brought home from South Africa and a feather Husband gave me when I was having a particularly bad day. You don’t need any of that for a meditation practice, but I find that I like to have things that make me happy and prep me for peace.
What you do need is something comfy to sit on, otherwise you are setting yourself up to a twitchy, achy fail. You need to elevate your hips a little and support your spine. I love my Samadhi cushion but a regular couch cushion or even a rolled up yoga mat works well, too. If you have back issues, you might be more comfortable in a chair or lying down.
I use the free Mindfulness app on my iPhone, but you can use anything to time your mediations. I find a timer to be very helpful in setting my goals and allowing me to feel accomplished when that little bell chimes.
I’ll do another post and we’ll talk about what we’re actually doing when we meditate. For now, just pick out your space and if you want any tools, like a timer or cushion, get those together. Then we’ll start increasing that gray matter!
(Do you already have a meditation practice? What is your space like??)
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