Does your mind start protesting loudly when you have one thought about meditation? Or perhaps you find it hard to close the million tabs open in your brain?
You think that experienced meditators are experts at seeing empty spaces in their mind, or a lush island paradise when they close their eyes. Or, you feel meditation can only happen when someone is sitting peacefully on a beach, forest or near a waterfall.
Common assumptions made by non-meditators
As a yoga teacher and expert meditation facilitator, I often hear the following complaints or observations from my students:
- Meditation is not thinking about anything
- I don’t like meditation because my mind is too busy
- I feel uncomfortable when I meditate and it’s hard to sit still
- I can’t visualise any images, even those I want to
- Meditation doesn’t make any sense to me, neither do the mantras or syllables I’m meant to repeat
- I do yoga so that’s my meditation taken care of
- I use an app so that makes it a bit easier for me to meditate
- I need to be outdoors during sunrise or on holiday on an island so I can meditate. It’s hard to do it sitting in my home
- I feel too stressed, depressed anxious to meditate properly
Did you know that negative qualities are also part of the meditation process? Feeling busy, fickle, turbulent, stressed, agitated, depressed, anxious, uncomfortable, raw, unpredictable while you meditate are all related to the experience.
Don’t allow negative feelings and thoughts to stop you. Embrace them and see them in the same way as any other opposites.
What to think during meditation
Firstly, say hello to your mind.
Peering into our brain (when it’s calm and focused or agitated) is a meditation technique, and one of its main benefits. Learning how your mind thinks, observing it in the moment, familiarising yourself with thought patterns, even uncomfortable body sensations, for what it truly is.
Watch your brain like it’s your own movie, or like an external event e.g. a street festival full of colours and sounds. While meditating, we aren’t looking for emotions like pleasure or pain, good or bad, happy or sad or any other outcome.
It’s about developing a lifelong habit, to learn how to sit with ourselves in silence, and get to know our body, breath, mind in a particular moment. It’s like going on a date with yourself, your body and the contents of your mind, without judgement or analysis.
How do you do that? And how long will it take for you to get comfortable with meditation?
An easy meditation technique for beginners
Here’s my proven meditation technique for your first session and beyond.
Pick a time of day and a place in your home where you can sit without being interrupted. Set the timer for between 2-20 minutes. As a beginner, start with two minutes and then keep adding to it as you feel more comfortable.
Sit on a chair or a cushion, close your eyes and start paying attention to your body in a seated position, and how you’re breathing. Check the flow of breath in…..and let it out….whoosh! Pay attention to your breath flow only.
Now your mind will start sabotaging you. Thoughts, daydreams, banal conversations, it’ll all conspire to pull you away from the moment. When you notice your brain wandering, bring back its focus to your breathing. Do this many times, and it’ll start becoming easier.
Once you develop the ability to bring your mind back to the breath, you’ll start cultivating the ability to separate yourself from your thoughts.
At first, your mind will insist stubbornly on returning to its thoughts, like a toddler being dragged away from the sweets aisle in a supermarket. And you may experience body discomforts, negative memories, anxiety, future worries, impatience, and so on. It’s all normal. Stick with it!
Your efforts to keep paying attention to the breath, and to simply observe the mind (without getting involved with the thoughts or discomforts) will bring comfort, ease and presence.
How to develop a meditation habit
Remember, consistency in meditation is important, not how long you do it for. Some days, a quick meditation practice will be enough, other days, you’ll need more time.
Meditation is a practice, and not a goal. Develop the habit to care for and maintain your mental health, until it becomes as natural as brushing your teeth, having a shower or eating.
If you’d like to begin meditation or explore how it can make you feel calmer and reduce your stress, contact me for more information or come along to a retreat or workshop.