When my grammie passed away, my family gathered together after the funeral, and sifted through the hidden treasures of her home. It felt strange, going through all of her belongings- deciding who was going to get what, keeping her spirit in mind. I was living in California so the only things I could take with me were small- but no less meaningful. Old postcards and photos, pins and forgotten jewelry, and dusty books which stiff spines.
I found one that I still use to this day- The Daily Art of Meditation. The book is over sixty years old but still relevant today and will be relevant forever. I say I use it, and I do, but I haven’t moved past the first page. The first page has been all I’ve needed, so far. It offered me a very simple yet powerful mantra, a word or sound repeated to aid in meditation. This is the mantra I’ve been using for years.
I sit down on a chair, feet connected to the ground, back long and straight. I level off my chin and allow my palms to rest face up in my lap. I set a timer, close my eyes, and begin to breath. Inhales and exhales, in and out, through the nose.
I say the words in my head and tether them to my breath. (drawing)
Inhale as the word “let” fills my heart and my head.
Exhale as the word “go” escapes easily from my nostrils.
Saying each word as I breath allows my body to connect with the meaning of the words. As I inhale on the word “sink” I can feel myself creating more space in my body. As I exhale on the word “down” I settle into the space I’ve just created.
Ironically, I find the best ideas come to me when I’m meditating. The idea for this challenge came to me while I was meditating. I wanted to get up, jot them down, jump into writing, but I let them pass. Reconnecting to the mantra, reconnecting to the breath, that is challenging part of any meditation practice, along with being disciplined.
Imagine the thoughts like waves, crashing on the shore. Sometimes they lap up against you, refreshing and welcome. Sometimes they smash you and bury your face in the sand. The breath is the tide, the ebb and flow. The thoughts come, the thoughts go. When you find yourself drifting, come back to the words. If you can’t remember your place, start from the beginning.
A meditation practice doesn’t need to be intimidating. It doesn’t have to involve sitting with your legs folded for hours. That’s not comfortable, at all, and for a long time, it stalled my own practice. You aren’t going to stick with a meditation practice if it physically hurts.
If you’re like I was, and you want get into the most uncomfortable position, and try to use your breath to stay there, breathing through the discomfort...good luck cultivating a long lasting practice. Start simple. Those hardcore moments may come with time. You’re not going to be enlightened by forcing your body into something it’s not prepared for. Allow yourself to be surprised by the progress you can make when you start with compassion.
When and where to meditate?
Before I wrote this chapter, I meditated in my office, and because I benefited so much I’m going to continue that practice. So thank you, yes you, for inspiring me.
I meditate on planes all the time. What originally began as a way to pass that annoying time when you can’t have any devices on, and I didn’t have a book with me, I would sit and meditate. My back was touching the seat but my head was upright, as to keep me alert. I like to meditate right as the plane is touching down
Sometimes I meditate in the morning before I’ve been influenced by anything but my waking thoughts. Sometimes I meditate before I go to sleep as a way to let go of the day. Sometimes I meditate in the park, with the sun warming my face, and the city bustling about around me. Short answer? There is no wrong time to meditate.
Meditating in different places can have different effects as well. Sometimes you can’t find a quiet place to meditate and you shouldn’t let that stop you. Distractions and sounds can add an extra level of focus.
Short answer? You can meditate anytime, anywhere. The more you practice, the easier it will be. Finding the right spot and the right time, for you, that is going to be the challenge.
Intention? Sometimes I set an intention for meditation. I ask the question in my head, or out loud, and open myself to the response from the universe. Opening yourself to energy may be all the intention you need. If you are struggling with a specific question, asking for guidance before you begin is a good way to send the energy in that direction. Our minds are constantly kicking up all the dust that influences and shapes our lives. Meditation is an opportunity to let that dust settle and see what’s left uncovered. Trust the process. Give over to the stillness.
Challenge- Begin A Meditation Practice Today
Yes today. All you need is five minutes of your time. Looks like you have some time right now, great.
Right away, let go of any judgements of what a meditation practice is supposed to look like or feel like. Let the experience come to you as it will. Let go of perfection.
Grab your phone and set a timer for five minutes. Don’t check your emails! Don’t look at facebook! Just set a timer for five minutes. Good. Rest it next to you.
Find a chair, stool, tree stump, your front porch, just make sure it’s somewhere quiet. Let your feet rest firmly on the ground. Sit up straight so the belly is slightly engaged. Pull the shoulder blades back. Let the palms rest face up in your lap. Close your eyes and begin to breath.
Full inhales in through your nose, full exhales out through the nose. If your nose is stuffy, part the lips slightly, and take easy breathes in through the mouth. Begin to count in your head while you breath. Inhale-1. Exhale- 2. Inhale- 3. Exhale-4. Continue up to ten, and then start over at one. Notice any thoughts that come up, notice when the mind starts to wander. Pick up where you left off, and if you can’t remember, start over at one.
Notice any physical changes in your body. Notice any urges to fix or fidget. Breath into the anxiety that is disguising itself as physical discomfort. Reconnect with the breath. Start the count at one.
When the five minutes are up. Bring your hands together in a symbol of gratitude and completion.
Congratulations you just meditated.
What was successful? Were you able to find at least a few moments of stillness? Were you able to find your way back after getting lost? Maybe you had an epiphany and you’re pumped up! List three things that felt successful.
Where could you improve? Did you drop out before five minutes? Did you jump back on the idea that “meditation isn’t for me.” Maybe you had to pee the whole time. List three things you could improv upon? (go pee before you sit down)
These feelings are why we MUST meditate, and exercise, and eat healthy, and surround ourselves with positive people. We MUST quite the censor.
You might already be fighting with yourself.”I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t still my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, or her, or my job...” or whatever. Remember, you’re not perfect. Mediation is a life practice, and it’s never going to be perfect either. Find the power in acknowledging that you have begun that practice.
Challenge Part 2- Add one minute, everyday, for a week
This is a two parter. Actually it’s a week long practice. The goal is add one minute everyday. Today you meditated for five minutes. Tomorrow you will meditate for six, the following for seven, and so on until you reach eleven minutes on day seven.
You are going to meditate again tomorrow. Say it right now. Six minutes of your day dedicated to quieting the mind and letting the dust settle. I would recommend you do it at roughly the same time, at the same place so you are beginning to create a habit. A meditation station. If you can’t come back here tomorrow, same place, same time, then choose another option that best serves your practice. A place and time you know you can dedicate yourself to the meditation fully. Don’t try to twist yourself up into a pretzel. Don’t jump ahead to ten minutes tomorrow.
Decide now when you can meditate tomorrow. Commit to it. Mark it on your calendar. Tomorrow after you finish your six minutes, choose your time to meditate for the next day. Revisit the questions above. What felt successful? What could you improv upon?
Happy Meditating. :)