Coming off the last post I wrote, Pay Attention, I wanted to talk about meditation. Meditation is recommended for a myriad of mental health issues including ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. The problem is that most of us do exactly what meditation will teach you not to do: we are trying to meditate, we are goal setting on meditation, or trying to achieve something. Meditation is doing nothing and being everything.
Sitting meditation is challenging. As soon as you start settling, your body will begin whining, your brain will attempt to focus on the whining and create new whining to go along with it. There’s lots of people who struggle with having thoughts about their thoughts, and this noisy charade goes on while they try to meditate.
Meditation will not necessarily silence the mind. In fact, I would go so far as to say, meditation will show you how futile it is to attempt to silence the mind. What you can learn from meditation, is more important: You Are Not Your Thoughts. You are observing your thoughts and focusing on your breath. Quieting your mind is more about not responding to your thoughts vs. not having any thoughts. The most noise in our brains come from us talking back to our thoughts with new thoughts. Meditation teaches to allow the thoughts to come and allow them to go without a response – like an unwanted dick pic from Tinder.
Meditation can happen while you are driving, cleaning, building a puzzle: it doesn’t matter where or how. The principle is to remain connected to your breath either by counting or by observing the natural flow of your breath without influencing it. The same rule applies to thoughts, they can be observed without influence, judgement, or an attempt to make it go away. A five minute meditation is as effective as 5 hours, because there is no race, deadline, or even finish line. Meditation is more effective when there is no goal or expectation. If there is a goal or expectation, then the left hemisphere of the brain is attempting to control, analyze, or add logic to a practice that is attempting to connect you with reality by simply being.
One of my favorite ways to meditate is using Yoga Nidra, or Yogic Sleep. This meditation is done laying down flat on your back with your arms spread out and feet apart, like savasana in Yoga. The biggest challenge in Yoga Nidra is remain awake. Yoga Nidra takes you to a bridge between your conscious and subconscious mind. YouTube has tons of guided Yoga Nidra meditations. This form of meditation is deeply peaceful and relaxing. The meditations can be as short as 10 minutes to over an hour. I typically do yoga nidra in the middle of the day when my energy is dipping, because this is a restorative meditation that will help with energy and calm.
In any form of meditation – walking, sitting, mindfulness, or yoga nidra, the aim is to help focus return. Right now, focus is very difficult, we’re all yanked around by so much stimulation and noise. But by turning to meditation, it teaches how to utilize your focus by realizing you are the only person who can direct your focus, unless you are letting someone or something control you. Not only that, but old emotions, trauma, anxiety, etc. has space to come to the surface and be healed. There are so many forms of meditation, and the only way to know the best way to meditate is to find your personal style.
Finding your own path can be pretty nerve-wracking and confusing. Group meditations or guided meditations are helpful to start, because someone will help bring the quiet state with verbal cues. At the end of the day, though, only you know how it feels to be in your body and mind, and if you find a particular style of meditation to be frustrating, try something else. Meditation is about just being: not trying, not doing. Open awareness and complete allowing of whatever is just is.
I find now, if I don’t meditate at least once a day, I’m an irritable confused mess of a person. Some days, I can sit for 5 minutes, somedays it’s 50 minutes. It is irrelevant either way. There’s no gold medal for best meditator ever. The more important part of meditation is to practice consistently so you can find deeper states of relaxation and understanding.
By becoming aware of thoughts and emotions, there’s no further need to escape them. If anything, there is a need to express them and heal them. Often, whatever is disturbed on the inside robs focus and leaves us distracted and out of whack. Inner worries, fears, and feelings about self project in our lives and relationships, but meditation creates awareness, and by simply being aware, the situation is changed.
Sitting and doing nothing seems counterintuitive, but in reality, it will increase efficiency and focus. By focusing on breath, it’s easy to bring conscious breathing in any moments of stress or unhappiness. It helps align your focus to what you really want and your best path forward. It connects you with intuition. When our brains are so noisy, we almost never can hear the small voice guiding us from within. Meditation is a do not disturb button on life. It’s a mini vacation for life. So many of us cannot or will not disconnect from life to connect with themselves. This gives no chance for focusing on what is really happening in your body and mind. So often we blame externals for unhappiness, when in all likelihood, unhappiness is sitting within, but being projected on others.
TIPS FOR MEDITATION
- Create consistency. Pick a time you can sit quietly for a few moments.
- Create a space to meditate. Get a bolster or something comfortable to sit on. Try to find a quiet space, so that you will be minimally distracted while learning how to go inward.
- Light incense or a candle. A smoothing scent that you light right before you meditate. It will have a Pavlovian effect eventually, that when you smell that scent, you slip into meditation
- Try different forms of meditation to see what resonates
- Keep a journal and write any feelings, thoughts, etc. that came to you while meditating
- Begin meditation by cultivating gratitude – for good things and bad things, because everything brought you to the now moment, where you are perfect just the way you are.
- Don’t make meditation a burden, sit quietly for as long as you can, and stop when you stop.
- Don’t focus on what you did or did not get out of meditation, leave your expectations behind.
- Don’t judge or criticize your performance in meditation.
- Don’t give up. This is not instant gratification. This is a patient practice that can only deepen with consistency and time.