If you can breathe you can meditate! Maybe you’ve heard this before and maybe was a relief, but if you’re anything like me hearing it was more irritating than anything else. As a meditator of twelve years I can tell you that my journey with meditation has been so much more than “just breathing.” In truth, my practice has evolved to become a variety of experiences. From cultivating a deeper awareness of when my mind is trying to time travel from the present moment to a future one (and not usually a good future one) to lengthening the fuse line between my life and my reaction to my life, meditation has been the constant that is ready and willing to show up for all of it. Maybe you’ve been scared away from meditation by some common misconceptions about it, so let’s quickly cover what meditation isn’t.
Meditation Isn’t About Having An Empty Mind
Meditation has been around for thousands of years for a reason, so let’s take away some of the biggest barriers that have likely been stopping you from diving in. I promise, the water is warm. First and foremost, I give you permission to let go of the idea that meditation is about “stopping your thoughts.” It’s not. Not even a little bit. Your practice will never be about silencing all activity from your mind, not because you’re a bad meditator but because you have a pulse. The time spent in meditation is more about getting better at noticing your thoughts. When we sit in meditation, we create space between ourselves and our thoughts and rest in simply observing. It is that role of the observer that we carry out of our practice and into our day.
Meditation Doesn’t Have To Be A Dramatic Experience To Be Effective
The second thing you no longer have to worry about is what happens in your meditation. I used to say that meditation is like Vegas- what happens there stays there. The meditation filled with a-ha moments or visuals like swirling colors is equal to the meditation that is filled with mental turbulence. Nothing needs to happen in your meditation for it to work. You just have to do it. Know that each meditation will be different and will be an amalgamation of a few different experiences. Falling asleep, getting wrapped up in your thoughts, and feeling a sense of stillness or deep relaxed calm are all ok! The benefit of your meditation shows up outside of your meditation, not necessarily in your meditation. What a relief, right?!
Meditation Doesn’t Have To Be Uncomfortable
The third thing you get to let go of is the notion that you have to sit a certain way to meditate. It might sound silly but one of most common obstacles I hear people voice when thinking about starting a meditation practice is that it’s uncomfortable. Starting now, you have my permission to sit comfortably when you meditate. We don’t generally repeat activities or stay committed to practices that are uncomfortable and I would like to see you meditating regularly for the rest of your life. From now on, it’s ok to be comfortable!
Connect With Your Motivation
Once you’ve moved past those pesky roadblocks the remaining important thing to tackle is your “why”. I’m the first to admit that most things feel more important or more fun than “sitting and doing nothing” which is what meditation can often feel like. Once you connect with the underlying reason for meditating, you’ll have a more tangible anchor for this habit that you’re building. Meditation can create balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Ask yourself, “What do I want to shift in my life or in myself?” As you start to create a (hopefully) daily habit, staying anchored to your “why” will aid in you staying committed.
How To Meditate
Now that you’re a bit clearer on what meditation is and isn’t, let’s dive into the how. You didn’t think I was going to leave you out to dry on that part, did you?
First and foremost, decide how long you’re going to meditate for. There are various meditation timer apps you can use to keep time but my favorite is Insight Timer. Set your timer and find that comfortable seated position. You can do the following steps in real time or read through them and then try them on your own with your eyes closed. I start many of my meditations with a body scan. To do this, allow your awareness to drift from the crown of your head down through the bottoms of your feet. Along the way actively relax any areas where you sense tension or tightness. I pay special attention to the muscles in my face and my shoulders where I tend to hold up the weight of my world. From there allow your focus to gently rest on the sensation of your breath. Follow the journey of that breath from your nose to your chest to your abdomen, connecting to that rise and fall that accompanies each inhale and exhale. And if your mind or environment are feeling especially turbulent you can also invite the silent repetition of “I AM”. As you inhale, silently repeat “I” and as you exhale silently repeat “AM”. Knowing that it is in the nature of your mind to wander, let go of any judgment when your attention drifts to another thought, a sound in your environment, or a physical sensation. When you notice that you’ve drifted, gently bring your focus back to your breath and to the silent repetition of “I AM”. And when your timer goes off, gently open your eyes.
I will remind you that regardless of what that meditation felt like, it worked! Your job is to start looking for evidence of your meditation outside of your meditation. Be aware of corroborating experiences you see in your life like having more patience, being more kind, feeling less anxious or sleeping better. And perhaps most importantly, continue to evolve with your “why” so that your meditation practice becomes a fixture in your life. As you read this, take a deep breath in and know that you have what you need to start a new practice that can be a catalyst for the greatest transformation you’ve ever known.
You’re welcome, in advance.
To read more of Megan’s thoughts on meditation, you can find her 2019 book, Don’t Hate, Meditate! here. You can also visit her website for more information.