This applies to those of you who have meditated in the past and just can’t get back to it, those of you who are trying to – but it just isn’t working! And also for those of you who have never meditated, but are interested.
Meditation is a wonderful thing, but it’s a tricky business because we often forget how great it is. We lose sight of why we should meditate in the first place, and then we just don’t do it and soon after we get feelings of being lost, or stressed or overwhelmed by life, as if life is going to take you under.
Meditation doesn’t fix your life, it doesn’t get rid of the stressors or make everything easy-peasy.
This is what meditation does:
It gives you a place of centring inside yourself. So that when life knocks you, there is a safe haven inside you to come back to. It’s like an anchor in a stormy sea.
It allows your mind to be less busy. It can give you clarity of thought, and more focused thinking.
You will have the ability to see your moods go off on unhelpful swings, and you will have the strength to pull them back to a more neutral place.
You will develop the skill of seeing thought wondering into negative territories and your mind will be able to view them in a more equanimous way. Meaning you won’t always believe what your thoughts are telling you, you’ll respond to them in a less reactive way, in this manner, you will have overall calmer, and even kinder, thoughts.
You’ll feel that you have been given back some time that has been rushed away from you. Through the mindfulness muscle that you’ll develop with meditation, you will have pauses in your day that will connect you to what you’re actually doing, in this way you’ll feel that you are actually living your life, and it’s not in fact zooming away in front of you.
These mindful connections with everything, life, people, thoughts, emotions is what meditation really cultivates.
So what is meditation?
Meditation is a practice of being aware.
Sounds simple right? Well the mind doesn’t like to just be aware of one thing, it likes to flit between sounds and thoughts and emotions and distractions. So to sit in pure awareness takes many, many years of practice.
Being aware will give you all the benefits I listed above, but for the mind to stay awake and aware, it has to be trained. And meditation is the ultimate mind training programme.
Meditation asks the mind to be aware either of sound, or the body, or the breath or an object or everything at once. It asks the mind to see thoughts come and go, without getting tangled up in them. But to just be aware that they are there. Meditation is to see a mood or feeling bubbling up, and not going off into a story about it, but seeing it come and go.
Everytime we meditate, we use a new muscle in the brain called the mindfulness muscle, to pull the awareness back from a sparkly shiny thought, and into the realm of a more balanced awake state that isn’t grasping at everything. And this pulling back, over and over again, is the training of that muscle, just like pulling your arm back when it’s holding a weight in the gym. That muscle will get stronger over time, and when you get up off the mat and go into the rest of your day, you will find that you now have a new muscle that will pull you back when there are things out there that want to suck you in. Stressful colleagues, negative thoughts, overwhelming situations. That pulling back into mindfulness won’t get rid of those situations, but it will let you view them from a more balanced perspective, just the same as when you don’t get tangled up in your thoughts when you sit on the mat.
I want you to know that to feel that you have a centred place inside you is an amazing, fantastic gift. But the only way to experience this wonderful feeling is to actually meditate! The magic is in the doing it. And that’s where life gets in the way.
Here, I’m going to show you how to get your butt on that mat, when you have to do the washing up, when you’ve run out of time, when you’re exhausted and when you just don’t really feel like it. Because to meditate takes some sorting out of things.
HOW TO GET MEDITATING!
The Magic of the Night Before.
Sort everything out the previous night, and you’ll make meditating in the morning that much more accessible.
- Set a night time alarm. This alerts you that it’s time to turn off the devices. (Ignore the irony). Too much screen time, with pictures, and ideas, and new things constantly is a lot for the mind to process. Stop flooding the brain with too much STUFF, and let it unwind.
- Put your yoga mats out, or cushions, or chair, and whatever space you need to meditate in. Lay out clothes if you don’t fancy meditating in your pj’s. If you like a clean space, then perhaps do the washing up or sweep the floor now, so that you have a pleasant and clear room to greet you in the morning. Remember to think of your future self. That person is YOU! We forget this, and let the future us do a lot more work that the present us. So get present-you sorting stuff out now, so that tomorrow’s you will have an easier time of it.
- Pour some stuff onto paper. No need to call it a diary or a journal. But having a little notebook, where you can just write down anything that’s on your mind, including to do lists for tomorrow stops your brain whirring away into the night, keeping you awake. A good rest AND a good sleep are vital for your health, and your ability to get up and meditate the next morning!
- Set an action trigger in your mind. See yourself getting up in the morning and meditating. Just visualizing what you’re going to do in the future, will set up your mind and body to want to follow that path. Just think it, and you’ll be more likely to do it. Easy.
A New Day Begins.
Get into a new routine, and soon it will become an ingrained habit that will positively ripple out into the rest of your days, and your life!
- Wake up knowing that you will meditate this morning. Remember why you want to meditate. Think on the benefits above and go with the idea that you’ll give it a fair shot to see what everyone is going on about. And not just a one day shot, but at least a month.
- On arising, everything should follow the path towards meditating.
- There are a few options here:
- Do all your bathroom stuff first.
- Either drink tea now, or make it just a glass of water to not slow you down.
- Either exercise now, or after meditating.
- If you exercise first, consider making that exercise yoga. Yoga IS meditation in movement. It was created to allow the body to be limber enough to sit down in meditation. In your yoga practice, let your mind do what it needs to do, and then bring it back to whatever you’re doing. So if you’re thinking of that meeting, see instead if you can feel your left foot on the floor.
- If you meditate first, then you might be in a calm enough state to just breathe – getting in there before your mind wakes up.
- Consider writing a new list this morning. If you find that during meditation or exercising that you are remembering loads of things that you need to do, and are worried you’ll forget them; then get them out now. After you’ve made a list you’re happy with, you’re going to have to leave the rest of the thoughts bubble away in the background, trusting that you’ll remember them later.
- Don’t rush off the mat/cushion/chair. When you’re done meditating, just check in with how you feel, give yourself a pat on the back and set a new action trigger that sees you feeling calmer today, and visualize that you’ll have mindful moments in this new day. You’ve never lived this day before, it’s brand new. Will you be awake to see it?
The Day Flows Differently.
Don’t make meditation a morning only thing, during the rest of your day get mindful, and you’ll find that this is where your morning practice really positively influences your day. As you have more mindful moments in the day, then you’ll also be in a better place to meditate the next day. A positive cycle is born!
- Set mindful alarms. Either using a device, or using a routine. Mindful reminders, like washing hands in the kitchen or bathroom, or when walking a certain route, even a corridor in a building, allows you to come back to that feeling of connection and awareness. It doesn’t have to last long, but this really is the real deal. This is where you pull back your focus from your thoughts and you FEEL your life instead. You feel your body doing whatever it’s doing. You become aware of the sounds around you. You look at a scene differently, seeing things you never felt before. This is where the magic happens, because in these small moments you’ll feel that you are actually living your life. You’ll feel that time isn’t rushing ahead of you, but you are in a timeless moment, simply feeling water on your hands. And then you’re off again letting your mind get back to its work mode, and that’s fine. You don’t have to connect with every single moment of your day, but do connect to some, otherwise, why bother? This is your one life, actually live it! You don’t have to bunjee jump to feel alive, you just have to connect with whatever is in front of you!
- To get more out of meditation, try these:
- Find a teacher. An actual real life person. This is where you can be guided to exploring what meditation actually is, and try new things that you wouldn’t try on your own. Go to a meditation workshop, or a class. You train your body in the gym, so train your mind in a class.
- Find guided meditations online. Try Andy Puddicome’s Headspace. A free ten day trial, where you get a no nonsense ten minutes of meditation without tinkly music, and the option of signing up for more.
- Listen to talks about meditation whilst doing chores. When you’re washing up, find a podcast that discuses meditation. I like audiodharmma but this is more Buddhist, and may be more spiritual than some prefer.
- Build up a routine of ten minutes in the morning, if you’re not finding many benefits in the day, then increase the morning session – even just five extra minutes – so 15 minutes of meditation can make a world of difference. Sometimes I feel I have a wall. Just like runners get when running, after hitting the wall, things become easier. So it is with meditation, perhaps your wall is 7 minutes in, so give yourself more time after to be in the settled zone.
I always feel so lucky that I discovered meditation. I’ve been meditating for more than ten years now, and I don’t know where I’d be without it. It’s given me a connection to my life, a sense of safety inside when my worst enemy used to be me. With that mindful muscle I have learned to stop the shaming self-talk, and be kinder to myself. With me on my side, my life became a million times better!
I sincerely hope that you will get back to your practice, or try it, if you’ve never done so before.
Let me know how it goes, and I wish you many mindful moments!