Think of a pinball machine, how the ultimate goal is to not let the pinball fall back down into the machine. This is how I meditate. I’m constantly trying to bounce my thoughts away from the my imaginary mind’s eye.
It is as tough as it sounds. Actually, lately it’s been even tougher for me to meditate simply because I’m out of “meditation” shape. For a while, over the summer, I had really become loyal to it. Reserving even if just a few minutes a day to meditate. My schedule is slower in the summer; I could afford the time. By dedicating this time to meditation practice, I hoped that my new comfort with meditating would flow into my busier days to help ease my stress and regain calm focus once we hit fall.
But, I have found myself distanced from the art of meditation. New career developments, my recent engagement, my change in living circumstances have all become good excuses not to meditate. Ironically, this is when I should be meditating the most. Meditation noticeably curbs my anxiety, self-doubt, over or under reactions, clears up my thinking and enhances my sleep. Meditation is the only time we can ever fully control our minds; even when we sleep, our dreaming swirls us in different directions. Meditation, in a very real sense, is empowering.
Last night, I tried to meditate as I had taught myself, but it was incredibly difficult. Thoughts kept sneaking into my mind’s vision. As soon as I thought I had reached my goal, another thought and then another thought slipped into sight.
So, I’m back to square one. It’s very easy for me to try to meditate for a second and then give up, because I’ve neglected the practice for too long, and I am admittedly a complete novice. In order to help you and me get back into the garden of our minds, I’ve designed a little guide to meditation for beginners.
If you look up the definition of meditation, there is none. However, numerous interpretations and explanations of what it is flood the web. This is because the practice of meditation spans across many diverse cultures. I used to feel intimidated by the term, “meditation.” I associated it with monks in Tibet that I could never live up to. I assumed people that can meditate must carry more grace and focus than I ever could (especially with an official diagnosis of ADHD under my belt). I realize I was wrong. Those that meditate are those that practice meditation. Like any other skill, meditation can be worked on, improved and self-taught.
Tips for Practicing the Art of Meditation
a comfortable place to rest
TIME. Don’t be hard on yourself. Meditation takes TIME to learn. The reason it can be so hard is because we aren’t used to sitting and doing “nothing” for random amounts of time that could be spent cooking, emailing, working etc. Literally, start with a timer set for one minute. Don’t expect to be able to meditate for a half hour right away. This blowing away of thoughts is hard work. It’s best to start small and not become overwhelmed or discouraged.
PLACE. Choose a place to meditate preferably where you can be more isolated from potential sounds of the media or communications. Finding the right place also will take time and perhaps design. When I first started to meditate it was in my bed, trying to fall asleep. My number one struggle with sleep comes from incessant thinking. So, to sleep, I practiced meditating. Now, I prefer do it sitting up on my porch or sofa in the living room. If you really enjoy design and décor, this can even become a fun and self-supporting hobby. How will you design your meditation space. What candle fragrance relaxes you the most? Incents work very well for me during my practice of meditation.
The place you choose to meditate in is truly yours. It can be outdoors in a garden, the beach, a prairie, a pond, or if you feel like staying indoors it can be a cozy spot in your home. I sometimes meditate in the bath!
SOUNDS or SILENCE. When it comes to meditating, it can be tempting to play some music. But, then it’s not meditation; it’s listening to music. However, silence can be, ironically, overwhelming for many of us. I suggest for those of us that are not yet comfortable with utter silence, meditating outside, opening a window, or playing nature sounds on a music device. Somehow, the sound of leaves rustling or dogs barking don’t pull at your mind’s eye as much as the pleasures of harmony. Remember, meditation is not listening; it’s meditating.
SELF-CARE. Part of learning to meditate is to practice self-care, to be able to turn off the phone, even if for five minutes only, to tell your partner you will not be available while you meditate, to put aside the work that needs to be done “asap.” While ten minutes of meditation on the short-term may seem like a waste, on the long-term basis it will make you much more efficient, productive and polite. In other words, you must learn to take hold of your own time for your own self-care and healing.
DISCIPLINE or FOCUS. This is where I fell short recently. Ironically, I took my newfound ability to meditate for granted, and now I am a brand new rookie again. For beginners (yours truly), an alarm, ironically can be helpful. If you set an alarm for 5pm everyday, this can remind you to close the laptop, put down the pencil, the remote, the phone etc. and meditate.
PASSION. If you really want to practice meditation, you really must want to. Otherwise, it becomes a chore. Then, you are more likely to give it up. Be loyal to your mental health and to meditation. You’ll be surprised that through meditation, you may find a semblance of reliable friendship.
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