Mark Twain said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
I feel the same way about meditation. Only it’s thousands of times I started. Thousands of times it never really took.
Every time I fall off the wagon, I wonder if it really will help me as much as “they” say. Will it help me get clear on what my soul wants? Will it provide a multitude of health benefits? Will it increase creativity, improve memory, kindle compassion, fine-tune my focus?
Apparently, yes. (But don’t take my word for it. Google “Benefits of Meditation” and see if you don’t dust off your meditation cushion immediately.)
It’s a panacea!
One part of me recognizes the value of a regular meditation practice.
In my coaching practice, I help people identify and change habits and beliefs that don’t serve them so they can become more fully who they want to be.
And, any time you decide to become more fully the person you want to be, you start with self-awareness. Meditation helps strengthen and refine that awareness.
But, my God, it’s agonizing!
I quit meditation dozens of times because I didn’t realize the truth about meditation.
It kind of sucks while you’re doing it. And that’s part of the trade-off.
It’s like exercise. Normal people don’t like to run five miles or do biceps curls or swim laps in a pool.
It’s BORING! And hard. And something might get sore.
But do you ever regret having gone for a run or having sweated through a spin class?
Nope. No regrets.
Same with meditation.
It’s boring. And hard sometimes. And something might get sore.
But, like exercise, it releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals from your brain). And those endorphins swirl around in your system the rest of the day.
Woo Hoo! You feel good the rest of the day.
And more focused and productive and anti-inflammatory, too.
Was it just me getting harassed by militant Buddhist nuns?
If you fidget too much, though, a buddhist nun might yell at you to cut it out after waking you up at 5am with her smug little bell. Never mind that someone in your dorm-style accommodations kept you up all night with their epic snoring. And the nuns’ll make you clean toilets as your contribution to the community and you’ll binge on the chocolate chip cookies you hid in your bag because you knew they’d serve rice pudding for dessert. Yuck. THEN, you’ll vow never to meditate again.
Oh, I digress.
But not really.
It doesn’t have to be so hard.
I had some misgiven ideas about meditation for years which kept me from embracing it, even though I knew it did good things for me. I’d studied with some teachers who’d set some unrealistic expectations about the practice (see buddhist nun aside above).
I bought into those expectations (because I was a straight A student, recovering now).
Don’t make the same mistakes I did!
Unrealistic expectations #1-3:
1. That you have to meditate for an hour. 2. That you have to meditate for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. 2. That you have to spend 3 full days in meditation EVERY MONTH in order to really benefit.
The Truth: No, no and no!!! Unrealistic expectations like these only ignited the rebel in me and made me resist the whole idea of meditation, straight A’s be damned. Who has 3 days a month to set aside for meditation?
A more realistic expectation would be to start with 2-10 minutes every morning and pat yourself on the back for consistency. Working up to 30 minutes a day would be awesome. But, honestly, a little is better than nothing, so if 2 minutes is all you have, gold stars and high fives to you for those perfect 2 minutes of breathing and focus.
You’ll probably find that over time 2 minutes is not enough and you’ll want to sit longer. Or not. Either way is perfect.
Unrealistic expectation #4:
You have to sit perfectly still, spine straight, legs contorted, itches left unscratched. Or else the buddhist nun cracks your knuckles.
The Truth: Sit any way you want. Sit in a chair, in your bed, back supported if that’s what you need. It’s not fun to sit in meditation, usually, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer, either.
And being perfectly still is for the birds. And the Zen Buddhists. I teach a meditation that uses arm movements to capture mental energy and bring it to the heart center for transformation. You get to wave your arms for a while, which leads to more stillness later.
Unrealistic expectation #5:
That there’s only one way to meditate.
The Truth: There are a thousand ways to meditate. You can watch your breath. You can focus on a mantra. You can practice loving-kindness meditation. There are walking meditations. Meditations focused on your heart center. Chanting meditations.
Find what’s right for you. It may vary from day to day.
You don’t need any special equipment from the online meditation superstore.
Be consistent in your practice.
It’s your practice. You get to decide.
Decide to start and decide to be gentle with yourself if you don’t do it perfectly.
You can’t do it wrong.
Start where you are and enjoy the journey to where your soul leads you.
Just start. Your mind, body and spirit all will cheer.
I’m really curious…how do you meditate? Leave a comment below and let me know what your daily practice is (or will be if you haven’t started yet.)