I began meditating when I was 15 years old so you think by now I’d be a pro at it?! Well, that’s not exactly how it works. Exercising our minds is like exercising our bodies: the more we do it the easier it gets, but if we miss a few days here and there, it’s like starting back at square one. The key to any meditation practice is consistency and dedication.
Here are some tips to help get you started!
1. Create a Sacred Space
Creating a space in your home that’s used only for meditation will not only help to set the tone and get your mind in the mood to meditate, but it will also help to create consistency in your routine. We are creatures of habit so creating a meditation space helps our minds to register and know that it’s time to meditate and to be in a silent space. Tip: Choose things that are meaningful or inspirational for you and fill your space with it. There are no wrong or right things, just whatever makes your heart smile and feel at peace. It doesn't have to be a very large space either! I use a tiny corner in our bedroom that gets some nice sunlight throughout the day.
2. Focus on Your Breath
Anytime your mind wanders (which will be constantly!), bring your attention back to your breath. Observe each inhalation and exhalation without trying to change or control it. Just notice. Is your breath shallow or deep? Fast or slow? Heavy or light? Simply observe your breath knowing that your mind will wander.
We can’t expect our minds to maintain sustained focus without training and practice. So try not to get frustrated or annoyed if you don’t get it right away or even after years; you’re not supposed to! Just keep redirecting your focus back to your breath like an archer redirects a bow and arrow's aim to hit the bull’s eye. Aim and re-aim your focus as often as you need.
3. Release the Myth
There’s this myth that many people have about meditation: that you’re supposed to feel elation, joy, and bliss, and never get angry, irritated or impatient. Well, this simply isn’t true! Meditation is not about being happy and perfect; it's about learning to remain unchanged by whatever comes your way. Even saints have negative thoughts, they simply don't interact with them. They observe them without judgment, allowing them to come and go like the ebb and flow of the ocean's tides without a second thought, or any resistance.
We have to realize, know and accept that things are going to happen, that there is no escaping pain or discomfort, and, most importantly, that just because we experience pain or unpleasant emotions, doesn’t mean that something has gone wrong. It’s simply a part of life. But just because we experience it, doesn't mean that we have to lose our peace, our inner stillness, our center, our calm.
That's the only thing we actually have control of, how we choose to respond, react to or perceive such moments in our lives. In the beautiful words of Adyashanti, “this is what meditation actually is: letting go of our conflict with life, dropping the struggle with who and what we are.” So release the myth that life is supposed to be perfect and free of struggle. In the paradoxical ways of the Universe, the moment we release the need to be free of struggle or discomfort, the less we actually experience ;)
So how do we remain in this state of calm? How do we remain still inside amidst the noise? Well, it takes time to change the way we respond to or view things. We have years of auto-pilot living to correct, but like all things, if we want to get better at maintaining our peace, we have to practice. It's easy to think that just because we want to keep our peace, or even recognize the patterns that hold us back, that it will come easily or that it will simply just happen.
But wanting to be a good basketball player doesn't make us one. The same holds true for meditation. We have to put our wants into action. We have to try to get better every day. And, just like in basketball, some days we score high and others not so much. There will be days where keeping our peace comes naturally, is easy, and times where it's quite difficult. Just because it's difficult one day, doesn’t mean that we’ve failed or that it's hopeless. It's just one day. It’s just one moment. We can begin again. Each moment brings a new opportunity to begin again. The bottom line is if we want to be a pro at this, we have to put in the work and practice!
5. Be Consistent!
I said it before and I’ll say it again: the key to any meditation practice is consistency! Find a time every single day to sit in silence and focus your attention on your breath. No matter how hectic your day, make a point to sit in the same space daily for at least 5 minutes. 5 minutes! Trust me, even a few moments of intended mindfulness goes a long way.
6. Surrender to the Moment
No matter what arises in your mind or body, allow it to be exactly as it is. Release the need to change it no matter how pleasant or unpleasant. If your mind is racing with nonsense thoughts, let it. If you feel fidgety or discomfort, don’t fight it! Simply try to notice these feelings and sensations and allow them to be however they are. The more you observe yourself in all of your lights, the more you’ll begin to realize that all things are fleeting, no matter how good or bad your mind deems them to be. So no matter what arises, allow it to be without resistance knowing that this too shall pass.
7. Dedicate Yourself
Set a goal and stick to it! Whether it’s 5 minutes, 10, 20, or 60, pick a time frame that works for you and make a point to hit that target daily. Behaviors and thought patterns won't change overnight or even over days. We have a lifetime of conditioning to outgrow and remold. This takes dedication. If this is something you really want to do, then do it. Set a plan and work towards it. And, know that with continued dedication, the results will follow!
As Always, Love + Light,