I never wanted to meditate ...
A regular meditation practice is something that has helped me feel calmer, more stable and be more sure of myself. But it wasn't always this way. Over the next month, I'll be looking at ways to make meditation less daunting and more enjoyable.
When I first started meditating, I found it SOOO hard. I struggled to find a comfortable way to sit (I thought that the only way to "properly" meditate was to sit on the floor with my legs crossed). I always felt like I was doing it wrong because I couldn't silence my thoughts and find the elusive "quiet, peaceful mind" and I usually finished the meditation feeling angry and frustrated instead of calm and happy. It always felt like a chore rather than a treat; I had "meditate" on my to-do list every day, and every day, I found something seemingly more important to do instead.
Two things changed all this for me:
- When I did my yoga teacher training, the meditation teacher (Jake Dartington) said something that really changed my perspective. He said "WHEN thoughts enter your mind, observe them and let them go"
- When I read Arianna Huffington's book "Thrive" she says "we don't 'do' meditation - meditation 'does' us. The only thing to 'do' in meditation is nothing."
These really changed the way I looked at how I was meditating, and I realised that meditation is an opportunity not just to quiet the mind, but also to observe our thoughts. I realised that the goal wasn't to have a blank mind, but that meditating is an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves by observing our thoughts, and really listen to what's going on. From there we can notice repetitions and thought patterns, and make changes based on what we observe.
It's also an opportunity to STOP doing, rather than another item for the never ending list. It's a chance to be still, to be quiet and to really listen:
- How is my body feeling?
- What's going on in my mind?
- What do I feel in my heart?
Once I shifted my perspective, meditation became easier - it became a treat rather than a chore. And on days when I don't take the time to listen and be still, I notice that everything in my brain is a bit jumbled, and everything in my heart feels a bit heavy.
Now my meditation practice is simple - I have no rules or expectations about how it should be; I let my mood and instinct guide what happens. Sometimes it's after my yoga practice, but I often do it first thing - before I've gotten out of bed or looked at my phone. I put some pillows behind me, sit up in bed and spend about 10-20 minutes checking in before I start my day.
I don't have a specific routine - sometimes I focus on inhaling and exhaling, sometimes I repeat a mantra, sometimes my mind is all over the place and it's really hard to stay focused. On days when it feels like a chore, I skip the practice altogether; usually by the next day I've missed it so much that it's easy to start again.
Whatever happens, I always appreciate having taken the time for myself.
I'd love to hear about your meditation experiences - let me know in the comments below or use #meditateoctober.
And check out my Instagram feed for the upcoming 10 day meditation challenge, starting on 10th October for 10 days #meditation101010
Photo credit: @alischillingphotography