Meditation Made Simpler
I see many people in my practice and often ask them if they meditate. The standard response: I try but I just can’t seem to do it. In this post I’m going to share with you how mindfulness helped my meditation practice and some things I did to help better my chances of sitting in meditation.
I completely understand this sentiment of it being hard. I used to feel that way, too. I had some abstract concept that meditation was for those who were really serious about enlightenment, had much more time than me, and something that was just going to be out of my reach – and out of my life.
At about the same time, I started reading about mindfulness. I thought it would at least help me be “in the moment” and almost a workaround with meditation. I had no idea how much mindfulness would end up helping my meditation practice.
“Mindfulness: Paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2003
I started by washing dishes mindfully. I noticed this wasn’t so easy either. The mind wanders. Part of its job is to think and process things. I wondered if there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t keep my focus on washing the dishes. But then it dawned on me that thought in itself was being judgmental; so I let it go.
It took a while before I could wash the dishes for 2 minutes without my mind wandering off into 10 other thoughts or ideas. I continued to practice. I added mindfulness to more areas of my life. In fact, today one of my favorite things to do is to walk mindfully.
Anything you do, you can do mindfully: walk, eat, shower, play with your kids or grandkids, spend time with your friends, etc. I remind myself of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s words and bring my attention back to whatever I’m doing mindfully.
In time, I realized it got a bit simpler and I could practice it for longer periods of time. When I tried meditation again, I found it was still difficult but easier for some reason. Then it dawned on me: mindfulness was training my uncontrollable mind!
I was still frustrated at how difficult meditation was, even if it was better. Out of frustration, I took some time to think about what gets in my way of meditation. I was honest with myself by noticing excuses and what was actually true for me.
First, I found that my mind wouldn’t stop reminding me of things I had to do. I could hear myself saying, “Don’t forget to change over the laundry” or “Don’t forget to call mom”. Whatever the thoughts were at the time, they wouldn’t let me be. Out of frustration I’d just get up and do what my mind was so desperately trying to get me not to forget.
If you have experienced this as well, here’s an easy fix: have paper and pen next to you. When your thoughts keep repeating, afraid you'd forget something, simply write it down. Let it go. You’ll see the paper when you’re done so you can rest your mind.
Being a single mom of two kids for a number of years and tending to my own small business, time was a precious commodity. How could I possibly take time out to meditate? How could I not! This was a very valid excuse to me. But here’s what I did: I started simple.
If I thought about meditating in the morning and only had 5 minutes, well, it was better than nothing. There were plenty times I finally had a moment when I went to bed. I would sit up in bed and meditate. Some nights I fell asleep during meditation but I found I actually slept deeper when I meditated before bed.
When you use the bathroom, stay in there a few extra minutes and meditate. When you go to the grocery store, sit in your car and just focus on your breathing, in silence, for a few minutes before or after you shop. This can really help alleviate stress for those who don’t like to shop.
Set a timer.
Set a timer. There are plenty of apps available for free today to help you keep track of your meditation practice. I like Insight Timer, but there are a lot to choose from.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Silence your cell and home phones. This was difficult for me. I used to worry that the only time a tragedy would happen would be when my phone was turned off during meditation. I would write at the top of my paper (so I wouldn’t forget) to turn my ringer back on. Sure, a tragedy could happen then, but odds are pretty good you’ll get through your allotted meditation time without someone needing you.
Remind yourself that this is YOUR time. We give so much of ourselves to others; this is your time to receive. When unwanted thoughts enter your mind, either write them down or simply brush them aside. You’ll get to those things later if you choose.
Don't "should" on yourself!
And please don’t should on yourself! If you hear yourself saying you should meditate – stop! First, this is a form of judgment. Shoulds can really make us feel bad. Meditation isn’t about judgement. Release the shoulds! When you add “-ers” to “should” you get “shoulders”. That’s where we put the shoulds. It’s just another thing we’re not completing or doing.
Also, when you hear “should”, I’m going to ask you to just “do”! If you can, immediately sit and meditate. And if you can’t right then and there, you will when you choose to. Yes, meditation has many, many benefits and you’ll only receive them when you practice it. However, by making it a “should”, we’re simply adding more pressure to our lives. Most of us can use much less stress, not more.
No judgements! The more you judge yourself, the less likely you’ll be to try it again. Judgments don’t feel good. Stop it! Meditation may be a simple concept but it isn’t easy. Anything we do in life takes experience so please give yourself some time to learn and practice this too.
Be grateful! Be grateful for every moment you’ve spent in meditation. If you’ve been able to sit for 2 minutes and are suddenly interrupted, accept it for what it is and be grateful you had those 2 minutes.
Go to YouTube for guided meditations. When you’re listening to a guided meditation, you’re following along (typically with visualizations) so your mind won’t be as active thinking about 20 other things. You’ll be focused on that particular meditation. This is also a great way to start working with your chakras, if you’re not already familiar with them. The meditation subjects are endless and you’re sure to find something you like.
Remember, you’re not going to completely empty your mind right at the start. Many experienced meditators still have a hard time quieting their minds, including me. Some days are easier than others. The more you practice, however, like anything else, the easier it becomes.
There are a variety of styles of meditation. When you’re ready, you can find what works best for you. Follow what feels good and right for you. You can always add different forms of meditation when the time is right.
You can also seek out a meditation instructor and look on Meetup.com to see if there are any meditation groups in your area. You can do this! And you’ll love the benefits!
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You can also find my Connecting and Grounding Meditation below.