I started meditating on Christmas Day 2020.
This isn’t the first time I’ve started a meditation practice. It’s been an on again, off again affair for many years (with lots of breaks in between). But on that day, I made a commitment to starting a daily practice. Every day for ten minutes. And I’ve kept that commitment to myself.
If you’re someone who’s tried meditation and have come to the conclusion that you couldn’t do it, or you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you find it impossible to sit still, then I totally understand. There’s a good possibility that you are not mentally ready to give meditation a go. However, that doesn’t mean that you will never be able to benefit from the practice. Sometimes we need to work on ourselves a bit first in order to get to a place where we’re ready to start, and that might be where you’re at. Acknowledging that is important, and doing so gives you the opportunity to explore how to overcome those barriers.
I recently had the opportunity to go to a school and give a presentation about yoga and meditation to a class of Year 6/7 students. At the end of the session we did a three-minute meditation practice. I asked the kids afterwards how they felt and one boy raised his hand and said he felt uncomfortable. I asked him why, and he said because he had to sit with his eyes closed. I really loved that response because I totally understand what he means. I explained that if we’re not used to sitting with our eyes closed, especially in a classroom full of our peers, focussing on our breathing, then it’s going to feel uncomfortable. I went onto explain that we can also meditate with our eyes open, usually focussing on a candle, a picture of a loved one (human or animal) or a mandala of some kind. Closing our eyes in meditation is not essential, it’s just one way we can meditate.
So what have I discovered as a result of the last 55 days of meditating?
Firstly, I’ve found that meditating has a huge effect on how I feel on a daily basis. It’s even getting to the point where if I think about putting off my practice until later in the day, or shirking out of my commitment entirely, it feels strange and uncomfortable. Kind of like going to bed without brushing my teeth.
Secondly, I’ve also discovered a newfound peace and, dare I say it, ‘Zen’ like quality to my life. For the record, I’m not some Zen master (and don’t aspire to be), but the process of sitting quietly for ten minutes and breathing seems to have a very calming effect on my nervous system. Now, if the first thing you do in the morning is have a cup of coffee, then sitting quietly is probably going to be a challenge for you. If you want to start a meditation practice, then I would suggest you do some activity first to get your energy moving before taking some time to quiet the mind and breathe, before you have that first cup of coffee.
If you’ve read ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear then you would know something about habit stacking. If you haven’t, habit stacking is the process of identifying a current behaviour and stacking your new behaviour on top. For example, after brushing your teeth, you floss them. Or after going for a run, you do ten minutes of stretching. Pretty simple really. Having established my own routine over a number of years, I’ve used this habit stacking process and added the ten minutes of meditation into a logical place in my routine – after my morning yoga practice.
Finally, I’ve learned that meditating gets easier the more you practice it. I know we’ve all heard that before. But it is the absolute truth. Everything gets easier with focussed practice. Whether it’s learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, lifting weights, etc. It takes practice, dedication and commitment. I guarantee if you start a practice and stick to it, then it will become easier and more natural. And if you are struggling with it, then find another way to do it. Maybe the style of meditation you are trying isn’t suited to you. There are so many different ways to meditate – seated, standing, walking, eyes open, eyes shut, using a mantra, using mudras, using music, guided, visualisation, hypnosis. The list is endless. Be like a kid in a candy store and explore the different flavours available. I guarantee you will find something that works for you.
I’m really interested to hear about your meditation explorations. Please leave a comment below and share your experiences.