Yes, many people sign up for fancy classes and retreats in order to study and learn meditation. Some travel to India and China to study with gurus, live in ashrams, and be in silence. Though these approaches may work for some, the hardest part for most is bringing the practices they learn abroad home and integrating them into their regular stress filled Western lives. I have seen many get addicted to “escaping” as far away from home as possible just to get some peace. What I am suggesting here is… how about you learn to meditate simply in your life right now and then see where that practice takes you? Maybe it will be to India or maybe it will help shape your current partnerships, friendships, careers, and even how you parent. Right now, in this moment, what is it that you’re wanting to upgrade? What if your meditation practice helped you with that? And what if you achieved some stress relief and happiness in the process? Here’s my take on how to try meditating – try simple.
Find Mindful Moments
Instead of trying to sit with your legs in a pretzel right away, take a couple of weeks to schedule daily 5 minute mindfulness breaks for yourself. What is a mindfulness break, you ask? That’s a really great question! Mindfulness can be defined simply as an act of observing yourself in the present moment. We rarely put down our devises and are even less likely to be not-doing anything at any given moment. We are in a constant state of busy.
So, DO put down your phone, turn off the TV, and take some time to observe what’s going on around you. You can go to a park, sit at your desk and shut your computer off, or sit outside at a coffee shop. Really, anything counts. Take five minutes to observe the noises and colors around you, to listen to the sound of your own breath, to really breathe in and out. Set a timer and make sure to do the full 5 minutes. It may seem long and unnecessary at first, but try and breathe through the distraction of your thoughts and judgements and I promise it will get easier.
You will never have the time if you do not schedule the time. It’s that simple. 5 minutes is not a lot, I bet you spend more time browsing Facebook every day. No judgement here, just know that you can make time! Remember, there’s nothing more important than your health and your relationships! All other goals suffer if you overlook these two things. So, make the time! For me, having these five minutes scheduled into my phone calendar (with a reminder set) works. You can also try writing a reminder down or have a friend remind you and keep you accountable. Doing this practice first thing in the morning or at another consistent time daily may help. Try it all and see what works for you! Remember, 5 mindful minutes a day for two weeks and then either move on or add… Meditation!
Find a Comfortable Seat and Breathe!
Find a comfortable place; it can be a chair, a pillow, the ground. I don’t think it needs to be a quiet place or even a special place of peace for you. Though these things help, not everyone has a quiet place to get away to and if you have one, it may not always be available. This practice is really meant for you to be able to do it ANYWHERE in any situation. So, get uncomfortable! It’s the only way to find true comfort.
You can sit crosslegged or on your knees. I suggest using lots of pillows and props if they are available, especially in the beginning! You can sit on a pillow or blanket and place some rolled up blankets or small pillows under your knees. Do what will make you comfortable. Sitting up tall is can still be difficult, but I encourage you to roll your shoulders back and endure it. The 5 minutes will eventually get shorter. Close your eyes.
Begin to control your breathing. and try to take inhales and exhales that are equal to each other; 3 or 4 counts in, 3 or 4 counts out. I like visualizing as if the breath is traveling through my whole body. Inhales travel up the front line of the body, making you taller and more open in the chest. Exhales come down the backside of your spine which allows you to feel grounded and strong. Continue this practice, even if you get away from it for a bit during the 5 minutes – come back to it. You can increase how long you sit with time. Trust me, 5 minutes is a great start!
You’ve already practiced mindfulness and now that you have your breath going and your eyes closed you can begin to observe how your body is feeling from the inside out. It is still ok to tune into the outside sounds and to even be distracted. There’s no such thing as a perfect meditation. One of the most valuable meditation lessons I’ve learned over the years is that it is not about creating a perfect environment for quiet and calm. As I mentioned earlier, it is rather about finding perfection in any space. So, acknowledge the distractions around you, hold on to them for a few breaths and then start to let them go. Maybe they fade, maybe you shift your focus back to your breath. This is your meditation practice.
Traditionally, meditation is not about listening to relaxing music or a voice recording of someone saying something inspiring. These tools are there to help you focus in the beginning. Once you are focused, you are asked to let go of the focus and try “just being” without any purpose. I truly believe that with persistence and a little planning you can get there simply. It’s not always easy, but the steps are simple, so go ahead and try! And when you do, you can work towards creating more space for yourself amongst the clutter of the distractions and to do lists. With that and with time, I truly believe anyone can find more happiness, laughter and connection to themselves and others.