That is what I believed for many years. I did not get it. How do you still your mind to sit calmly like you see in those pictures? What I did not realize is that above all those heads of blissfully calm people are bubbles filled with thoughts racing around. Meditation is not about finding a moment of “zen” but rather taking the time to be kind to yourself and be able to let go of things, time to allow you to tap into yourself.
If you notice your mind moving away from your focus of being present, well guess what that is mediation, that microsecond you caught yourself and brought yourself back. Sitting there becomes this great game of how fast you can catch your mind and bring back to the present.
In January, I finally rolled up my sleeves on this vexing mediation thing. With COVID I was game to try anything, what did I have to lose, nothing has worked for me in the past. All of us have busy, monkey minds, though as an Enneagam 7, my mind seems to always be in the future and will not allow me to enjoy what is right in front of me. For instance, I love to travel, experience new things whether at work or personally, the planning aspect gives me joy, but when I am actually doing it…I am already planning the next adventure. Then several hours or days later I experience what I should have been experiencing in that moment. I did not realize but this is why I like to journal so I can remember what I am experiencing so I can then really experience it later….yes a maddening circular pattern. Case in point, I meant to write this blog as I spent a few blissful days at the beach gazing at the wintery Atlantic roll in. Nope did not happen, however after being home for 36-hours I am now in the right mindset.
In the past the one mindfulness practice that worked for me is the yoga two nostril breathing. I would do 5 to 10 minutes, it helped to calm me but since I was not consistent and was waiting for this grand “zen” moment I would give up.
I am old school so instead of downloading an app to help me I needed to read a book. Mind you there are great apps such as Calm & Headspace, which I am going to test out later. However, I dug into, and still digging into, Pema Chodron How To Meditate. I love how Pema writes, very simple and demystifies mediation. A practical approach on how and noting there is no perfect formula you need to find what works best for you, since it is your mediation practice! As you accomplish one phase she layers over more pieces, nothing overwhelming more like how ice forms one layer at a time on a winter day. For instance, I needed to figure out the best seated position, location and time of day that would work for me in order to stay consistent. So off I went to figure this out:
Your Action Items To Be Consistent:
1. Find a time each day that works for you.
2. Start with a reasonable amount of time that will challenge you, but is doable.
3. Find a place and format that works for you and you alone.
4. Eyes closed, eyes open, mix it up.
5. Nice posture, deep breaths with mouth open.
6. Sitting still not going to work for you? Then start with yoga, go for a nature walk, the key is time for yourself and focus on breathing.
7. Be kind to yourself, just the act of attempting is the win!
So how did my new mediation adventure go? I started Jan. 11th, my goal was 20 minutes, minimum 5 days per week. After 5 weeks/35 days I can successfully state I have meditated 29 days so exceeding my goal! Things I learned during my 29 sessions:
When you open your mind to new things you listen to things differently and appreciate how each piece is part of the overall puzzle. I listened to two podcasts over the last week that dove tailed nicely into what I have been feeling and thinking about.
The first podcast is Grey McKeown interview with Dr. Benjamin Hardy. I fully believe in a positive mindset vs a scarcity mindset. A similar concept is discussed in the podcast but in a practical application, having a Gain Mindset vs a Gap Mindset. You have 10 things that need to be done to reach your goal, you finish 2 of them. Do you beat yourself up on the 8 items that are not done (Gap) or do you high five yourself on the 2 things you did that were not done before (Gain).
“If you focus on what you lack, you lose what have and if you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack.”
Another poignant piece in the podcast that directly relates to meditation is the sense of time: past, present, future. When we meditate our goal is to stay in the moment, be present. Per Dr. Hardy all three exist simultaneously, there is no past, present, future rather there is present-past, present-present, present-future. If we take the time to say what we are thankful for, we will remember the good, once expressed it is now in the past and it will provide us confidence in the future. This entire process takes about 2-1/2 seconds, just think if we can continually process our thoughts this way how wonderful we would feel and most likely be able to achieve whatever we desire.
The second podcast is Live Feisty with Selene Yeager interviewing Lisbeth Darsh. I fully believe that exercise is critical to our overall health, it can be done in so many different methods that fits each person. However, the critical aspect to be successful is a proper mindset and as Lisbeth writes Strong Starts In The Mind it is not just about building muscle. There are so many great nuggets in this podcast especially for women, even dives into menopause, men do not be scared you need to listen. One statement “happiness is the joy you feel working to your potential.” Mediation is a process which helps us find our fullest potential.
What is my next 30-day meditation goal? Same as my first goal set in January, because consistency is what is critical. I will note in 30 days how things went and what I learned in my next mediation blog, because this is a process to continually be practicing.
See Part 2 - Meditation Is Not Bull Shit