Whenever I ask someone if they meditate, a very common response is, “Oh I’ve tried that, but I can’t do it” or “I’m not good at it.”
That is because the common idea about meditation is that the goal is to quiet the mind (left brain). If we go into meditation with the goal of quieting the mind it can be very difficult. That would be like telling yourself not to blink, or not to swallow. Telling yourself not to think is very tricky indeed.
Instead, if we go into the meditation with the goal of training the mind to focus, a quiet mind is something that will eventually happen all by itself, without you even trying. It is a byproduct of the meditation. But the more you try to make it happen, the more it will elude you.
The mind (left brain) is like an unruly child that has never had any discipline. In meditation we have to distract it and give it a task to do. And…hear this…you will NOT be able to stay on task, especially at first. No one can, because the mind is not trained to do that. After only just a short while the mind will go running off, thinking about something it forgot to do yesterday or worrying about something that might happen tomorrow……and you might be out there for 5 minutes before you realize you are not doing the task. It does not matter! You just bring yourself back to the task and start over, again, and again, and again. It does not matter if you have to start over 100 times in 20 minutes. Just do it and you will get better at it. Do not worry if you think the meditation was a mess. You will still benefit. Very soon you will begin to notice a difference in your days!
A simple meditation I start people out with is counting the breaths. Sit in a comfortable char with your feet flat on the floor or you can do this lying down (if you can stay awake). Make sure your spine is erect (if sitting) and relaxed, with your eyes closed. (Use whatever props you need to to support your body so you can relax) Count 4 breaths and then start over and count 3 breaths, start over and count 2 breaths, then one. Then start all over again with 4. Repeat this for 15-20 minutes a day.
Finding the right time of day to do this is important. For some, first thing in the morning is best for them. For others it works best just before bedtime. For others, getting up in the middle of the night works really well. (When I began meditating my children were small and the middle of the night was the only time I knew I was not going to be interupted by kids, dogs, doorbells, phones, husband etc….It is still my favorite time to meditate.) Your goal is to stay awake during the whole meditation. If you fall asleep now and then it is not a big deal but if it happens often, try a different time of day.
Finding the right time place to do your meditation is important. Try to find a space that will be quiet and you will be undisturbed. Try to make this space special. Create an alter of sorts with special things nearby.
Also, there are a million ways to meditate. Meditation does not need to be done while sitting or lying down with our eyes closed. We can meditate while washing dishes, or driving a car, or taking the dog for a walk….the key is to be in the present moment. If you are walking the dog, notice the temperature of the air, is there a breeze? Is there a smell in the air? Notice the shrubs and trees and clouds and birds and cars going by, etc…If you are washing the dishes you might notice how wonderful the warm water feels on your hands and feel the slipperiness of the water and the bubbles and notice the texture of the smooth glass you are washing and notice the texture of the cloth you are using etc… Again, you probably won’t be able to focus for long before the mind runs off but that’s OK. Just bring it back again and again…..we are training the mind to focus!
15 or 20 minutes a day is enough (more is great!) That sound like it should be easy to do but you will find it to be very difficult. The mind will find every excuse in the book to keep you from doing this because it does like to be told what to do. It likes running all over the place and running the show. The mind, (left brain) takes over in early childhood and it is not a bad thing, it is part of our protective mechanism, it helps us survive childhood. But at some point in everyone’s life, the left brain being in charge no longer serves us….and it can actually become quite unstable. Meditation can assist to bring the left brain back to its proper place, as a tool, a servant, a resource center, to call on it when we need it, to walk along side us. We need the left brain, we could not survive in this 3rd dimensional reality without it but if it is out front running the show, we are in trouble. “So it will thwart your every effort to get it under control. When the left brain is arguing with you, trying to convince you that you can’t meditate now, maybe later, maybe tomorrow, you might have to step up and say “Who is in charge anyway? But just make the commitment and discipline to do it and it will change your life!