Some people have a complicated view of meditation and that’s not their fault. Meditation has a marketing problem that has caused people to believe that it needs to be practiced in a certain way to get the benefits.
The only way to do meditation incorrectly is to prioritise researching and reading about meditation over practicing meditation. If you’re someone who has struggled to get started with meditation, I hope this post simplifies things.
meditation is simple
When I tell people about my meditation practice, they may want more details.
I tell them it is 5 minutes open eye meditation in the morning, 10 minutes closed eye at night and a few more 10 minute sessions throughout the day depending on what I am trying to achieve.
They are often surprised and ask”Is that long enough?”
To which I ask “Long enough for what?”
the “what” of my practice
The “what” for me is to use my practice to zoom out and become aware of what thoughts are going on in my head. Our everyday mental lives are a bit like swimming in a lake. It’s only once we jump out and view the lake from a distance that we can appreciate how clear or muddy the water is. It is more difficult to get an accurate view of the water we’re swimming in. Meditation serves as that distance that allows me to see more clearly what’s going on in the lake that is my mind.
To answer the previous question, 5 – 10 minutes is often long enough for me to get that benefit. The more I practice it, the more mindfulness I can carry through the day. More is better and doing zero sessions will give me no benefit, so one 10 minute session is infinitely better than none.
Some days I may have left my meditation too late and, while I am sitting with my thoughts, am falling asleep during my practice. Even though, these will likely be a pretty scattered sessions, they are likely better than doing nothing, if only from the perspective of building an evening habit for mindfulness. In short, what you can fit in is enough.
there is no right meditation
It seems like there is a belief that meditation has a list of specific instructions that need to be followed in order to do it “right.” And, for the purists out there, that may be the case. For the rest of the population that want to get the benefits of meditation without following any particular tradition, all it takes is to sit somewhere comfortable and breathe. Even the sitting is optional as some meditation methods involve walking and bringing presence to your feet on the ground and the changing environment around you.
Meditation is one of those practices that is simple but not easy. If you’re initially finding it hard to sit and breathe, understand that it gets easier with time. However, you can fast track your progress by getting an experienced practitioner to design your practice so it fits in easily with the demands of your day.
meditation as watching clouds
Another objection I hear: “I can’t even stop my thoughts for a few seconds so I can’t even do your ‘short’ practice. Meditation isn’t for me.”
There are many varieties of meditation and many of them don’t require a stopping of thoughts. In these practices, the wandering of your mind isn’t an error but is the opportunity to strengthen your focus and mindfulness.
If your mind wanders, you gently bring it back to your intention whether focusing on your breath or being the background that watches your thoughts. It’s like doing a mental push up. The more your mind wanders, the more you can strengthen your focus and mindfulness.
These are just a few examples of meditation that doesn’t involve emptying your mind. The practice is more analagous to watching clouds drift by while watching the sky. Seeing thoughts as clouds also helps to acknowledge their impermanence and detatch from them which can remove some of their emotional weight and promote clearer thinking.
And in case it isn’t clear, all that is required is for you to get started right now is
- set a timer or alarm for 1-10 minutes (yes, even meditating for 1 minute will get you started!)
- close your eyes
- focus on your breath / watch your thoughts
- continue until your timer goes off
And that’s all you have to do to get started right now. This may come as a surprise to some readers. If that’s you, I hope you start enjoying the benefits of a regular meditation practice and have a wonderful day!
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