Firstly I will invite you to close your eyes. Start to take deep breaths into the diaphragm. Breathe in slowly for 5 counts, breathe out slowly for 5 counts. Repeat this 10 times.
Guess what?? You just started meditating!
People are so stressed and running at such a fast pace these days, that there's a yearning for something to help slow us down and get more satisfaction out of our daily lives. There are almost 10,000 pieces of scientific research now that mindfulness and meditation improves our health, from increased mental clarity, improved immune function, lowering anxiety, pain management, to better sleep.
However so many people I speak to feel like they can't meditate, and if you fit into this category I would like to attempt to challenge your perception of what meditation is.
How do we define Meditation?
When we look at it from a mindfulness perspective it can be any strategy that:
* Relaxes your body
* Calms your mind
And for that matter, what is mindfulness?
* It's the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience.
I think when many people imagine meditation they see a picture in their mind of the cross-legged yogi sitting perfectly still on a mountaintop for hours on end.
However meditation doesn't have to be like this to reap the benefits of bringing calmness to our bodies and minds.
In fact it's really important that we don't set it up as another thing to feel bad about in our lives. If we make it another "should", on some level it is going to make us feel like we are falling short or not meeting a standard, and in turn that can make it feel quite grim, rather that something positive we are doing for ourselves.
Instead if we come from a place of curiosity, non-judgement and kindness towards ourselves with whatever arises, we make it a totally different experience.
Common thoughts that come up around meditation are:
* I have to stop thinking and that's not possible for me
* I don't have the discipline
* I can't sit still for that long
* I might fall asleep
* I don't have the time
Far more important than technique though is our attitude and how we approach it. So I would like to explore some of these areas to demystify some of the barriers you may face around meditation.
One of the biggest misconceptions around meditation is that you have to stop thinking. However our brains think - that's what they do!
When we meditate rather than stop those thoughts, the idea is to be able to notice them with mindful awareness, rather than attaching to them and getting lost down a path. The aim is to be able to let them go; kind of like seeing clouds passing by or watching images on a movie screen.
Whenever you feel your mind wandering you can bring yourself back and centre yourself once more. It doesn't matter how many times you have to do this. The key thing is awareness.
I will be honest some days are easier than others. The most important thing to know is not to give up just because you have a meditation that is filled with thoughts and distractions. It doesn't mean you can't meditate, or "aren't good at meditation". Even the most seasoned meditators will tell you that they all experience this from time to time, so hang in there!
Do you know that meditation can actually help you be more organized, more focused, more productive, and even manage your time better? When we are busy, it can be easy to think we don't have time to meditate, however it's often when we need it the most.
However this doesn't mean we have to be sitting for hours on end. While in an ideal world 20 minutes a day is great to aim for, the main reason for a more formal practice is to get us into the habit.
If you only have time for 3 or 4 minutes in your day, it can still bring so many benefits by just setting an intention to be present for that short period of time.
And even if it's just grabbing 1 minute to deep breathe, this will bring calmness to your nervous system and give you some time out during a busy day.
Meditation does not need to be a cross leg position. You can sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you, sit in a chair, or even lie down if you prefer. So choose a method that is most comfortable for you.
Also don't feel like you can't move. Meditation is not meant to be uncomfortable, and it's better to adjust your position slightly, rather than sit there in pain during the process.
And hey if you fall asleep, you fall asleep! It's okay, and you're still gaining the benefits of relaxing your mind and body.
While it is lovely to think we will always have a quiet space to meditate, candles lit, and a peaceful environment, often this is not what's possible.
The great thing is you can meditate anywhere by tuning both within, and to what is around you. Use your senses to come into a quiet inner space, just notice what is going on, if there are sounds, listen to them without attaching to them.
On a really stressful day I've been known to go into the bathroom at work for a quick meditation (hey no one is going to follow you there!), but just taking that space to come back to yourself helps bring a new outlook to what might be going on.
So if you want to try meditating for the first time, there are many wonderful downloads, courses and apps to guide you through. I encourage you to give it a go, and in doing so be gentle and patient with yourself.
Yes, meditation is a practice, and just like exercise you get better and fitter over time, but throw away the mindset that says if you don't do it "perfectly" you are not meditating. You can reap the benefits from whichever way works for you. One of the key things to know is that you can't get it wrong!