Do you believe you can’t meditate?
If you’re like many of the people I talk to, you probably have a vision of someone meditating on a mountain top, in a temple, in a serene and peaceful (solitary) setting. They sit in lotus position, legs crossed with feet on top of opposite thighs. They sit with completely empty and quiet minds for at least an hour. They rise afterward, calm as still water, and never let anything disturb this calm throughout the day.
If you can’t duplicate that experience, you can’t meditate, right? So why try?
I believe there are people who can meditate like that. Sometimes. After years and years of practice. But most people who meditate do it differently, and in many different ways. Because
There are many ways to meditate.
And thank goodness for that, because I couldn’t sit in lotus position if my life depended on it and my mind is never really quiet. But a daily practice of meditation is so helpful, that finding a way to do it that’s comfortable for you is more than worth doing. A short list of the benefits of meditation:
- It lowers your stress level
- It increases your attention level
- It helps you get a better night’s sleep
- It increases your immunity to illness
- It increases emotional well being
The overall quality of my life has gotten better since I started a daily practice a few months ago. I’m able to bring my attention to the present moment more easily – which means I worry less about what might happen sometime in the future. And I’m more patient. While I’ve never been a huge worrier, I know that I tend to be very impatient, so hooray for that!
I find that if I don’t do my practice first thing in the morning, it’s more than likely not going to happen. Besides, it sets a gentle intention for the day, and lets me start the day in a better frame of mind.
So how can you meditate if you don’t have a mountain top handy?
Here are just a few of the different ways you can meditate. They all count as meditation practice, so pick one that feels good to you. Or a few!
Paying attention to breath.
Our minds are made to DO something. They want to think about problems, notice what other people are doing, solve puzzles. Many meditation practitioners will advise you to ‘give the mind a job to do.’ They’re referring to that tendency the mind has to always be doing something – they call it the ‘monkey mind.’ Since your mind wants to be busy, give it something to do! The most obvious thing you have at your disposal is your breath. We all have to breathe, right? So as you sit (or lie down, or stand comfortably) attend your breath. In, out. In, out. Count your breaths to 10 (in, out would be ‘1’), then start over again, over and over, for as long or as short as you like. As a thought enters your mind, notice it without giving it any importance, and return to counting your breaths. (1, 2. Oh, the phone bill is due this week. 3, 4, 5. The dog dug up the neighbor’s flowers again. 6,7. Etc.) You can set a timer, or just sit for as long as it feels okay.
There are phone app’s and CD’s available that last from 3 minutes to 30 or more that will take you through a meditation session. You can subscribe to the popular app, “Headspace,” or purchase an app like “buddhify 2.” I’ve used and enjoy both.
Headspace leads you from very short sessions to longer and longer sessions over time, and allows you to try out different kinds of meditations (body check-ins, lovingkindness meditations, among others).
“buddhify 2” allows you to choose a type of meditation session based on where you are (just waking in the morning, commuting to work, experiencing difficult emotions, etc.), what you are doing, and how much time you have. There are lots of meditation phone apps. Try some out!
Downloadable meditations are also available on the internet from a variety of teachers and providers of other services. If you already follow some people’s blogs or web pages, you may find that they have meditation programs available for purchase. If not, just search for ‘meditation downloads.’ Some meditations are quiet, some include soothing background music, and others require you to chant. Try several kinds to find what you like.
Being in nature is very grounding and peaceful. A steady walk on a hiking trail, or on a path through a park gives your body something to do, while being away from the sounds and pull of technology quiets the mind. What a relief silence from technology can be!
If you want something more structured, search the internet for “labyrinth” in your part of the world. A labyrinth is a circuitous path on the ground which one follows to the center and then back out again. Though it resembles a maze, it has only one way in and out, and is impossible to get lost in. Labyrinths are sometimes made of bricks, and sometimes made on grass or ground. Visit Labyrinth Locator to find one in your area. Though several people may be walking at the same time, the nature of the labyrinth allows for individual journeys.
Adult coloring books.
Yes, coloring in those adult coloring books can be meditative! Therapist Carl Jung recommended coloring for his patients, and scientific research has found that coloring quiets the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response, while at the same time enhancing the parts of the brain where creativity and logic live. Coloring has all the same benefits meditation does. So find a coloring book you love, and color your heart out!
When you realize that there’s no right way to meditate, the best thing happens. You realize
You can’t do it wrong!
So where will you start? Where in your busy day will you find 3 minutes to do a daily practice? Be gentle with yourself, but do begin.
You’ll never regret it.
Thanks for being here! See you next time,