Like any new skill, it takes some time to get comfortable with meditation, but there are three really important things that I wish I’d figured out sooner.
It would have made it easier to hang in there and keep persisting with my desire to learn more about this seemingly elusive path to peace.
1. Not everyone visualises in the same way.
I started out listening to guided meditations, because I was flying by the seat of my pants figuring this out on my own. I needed that direction and focus. But I found it really frustrating that I couldn’t hold onto a visualisation as the meditation unfolded. I ended up expending a lot of energy and focus just trying to visualise what I was being told and to stay with it.
It felt like I was doing it all wrong.
Then I read Ian Gawler’s book, The Mind That Changes Everything, which explores the power of the mind to heal the body. In relating some personal tales, he mentioned that the person had trouble creating or seeing pictures in their mind for their healing visualisations.
Relief—it wasn’t just me.
He went on to explain that some people feel the images instead. I later worked out that I could bring the visualisation to life in my mind with key words, or a series of brief images, smells or emotions. It didn’t have to be a fully fleshed-out movie in my mind. It still worked, and importantly, it worked in my own way.
So personalise your practice, play to your strengths, and use whatever means most naturally works for you.
2. You don’t have to sit in lotus position if it’s not comfortable.
Seriously, if you hate it, are fidgeting around and just not really engaging with yourself, you end up spending more time thinking about how your back hurts or whatever, than actually meditating. Choose a posture that works for you, and experiment with other positions as you develop your practice.
For many months, while recovering my health, my preferred position was to lie down flat on my back, on my bed. Yes, I did often drift off to sleep toward the end, but that was just what I needed for my body and soul at that point in time. I still meditated for at least part of that time, and the short nap and meditation helped to heal me in so many ways.
Now I prefer to sit up in a straight-backed chair, or sometimes lie flat on the floor (less chance of snoozing but still really relaxing for the body), or sit cross-legged on the floor with my back against something for support (wall, chair, edge of the sofa).
Pick one that works best for you and just go with it, better to be doing it somehow, than procrastinating because you know you’ll be uncomfortable.
3. Something special, or transcendent, is supposed to happen during meditation.
This one is from a book by davidji, Secrets of Meditation. He says:
“Blissful, calming, and entertaining experiences can occur during meditation, but that is not a requirement and not our goal. Special moments don’t have to happen for the experience to have its emotional, physical, or spiritual benefits.”
In fact, those “special” experiences can be kind of distracting. He talks about how this can get us so caught up in evaluating our experience that we actually move away from stillness and back to thinking!
So what is the point of our meditation sessions then?
“Those 30-minute sessions are the practice for the rest of your day… for the rest of your week… for the rest of your life. The benefits of meditation happen in your waking state, so don’t be looking for clues during the meditation. Just do it!”
While those amazing experiences do keep you going back for more, don’t feel that you’re doing something wrong if you don’t have a mind-blowing session every time.
Look for the cumulative benefits in every part of your life instead.
Author: Angela Wheeler
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Andrea Floris/Flickr