It’s no surprise to those that meditate that meditation might just be the lynchpin to success in solving some major problems of the mind.
Even beyond the mind, whenever someone brings up something they’re struggling with, my common response is “well, first you must be aware of that problem if you wish to solve it.”
But for people who don’t have a mediation practice or insist they “can’t” meditate, this phrase makes no sense.
Here are some examples of why:
Want to lose weight?
First, you must be mindful of what and how you eat and be mindful enough to create a routine to exercise.
Want to be better with conflict?
If so, we must be mindful of how we speak and even more mindful about how we empathize with that person’s mindset (study Non-Violent Communication to understand why nothing needs to be taken personally).
Once we start meditating and mindfulness practice, we will find that everything else falls into place around it.
What happens when we feel we “can’t” meditate?
I’ve met a lot of people who, upon asking me questions about my Buddhist and Meditation practice, will tell me they’ve tried and failed meditation many times. This tells me right away that they were taught wrong. There is no “wrong way” of meditating—the purpose is to teach yourself how to bring your mind from mindless thinking and activity to the present moment.
The more we do it, the easier it gets.
So if you find yourself pulling your mind away from thoughts every two seconds, that’s like doing a lot of reps on the weight bench—it means we’re getting stronger.
So many people still think that meditation is about burning incense, chanting and sitting in a meditative pose for 30 minutes to one hour at a time. However, it’s been well documented that only 10 minutes a day in a state of conscious mindfulness can have some profound effects on your overall energy, attitude and mentality.
Here are three ways to meditate for those who insist that they can’t:
Method 1: Shorter Times
Start with setting a phone timer for five minutes. That’s not so hard. You’ll likely get in a ton of reps on the “mindfulness press,” repeatedly bringing your attention back to the present moment.
By keeping the times short, we don’t get mentally exhausted, which is entirely possible for those people who believe that they have little control over their minds.
Method 2: Cell Phone Meditation
No, this is not browsing Facebook mindfully.
Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and then start the Voice Memo app so it records sound. Set it beside you and start your meditation. If a thought pops into your mind like something you have to do or Google later, say it out loud so your voice memo picks it up. When you’re done, you can re-listen to the voice memo and write down everything you said out loud during your meditation.
This is what meditation is all about—not fighting our minds and thoughts, but accepting them as they come and allowing them to go. Whenever a thought enters your head, say it out loud and get it out of there. Then, go back to focusing on your breath.
Method Three: Zen Thinking
This method functions of the premise of work and recovery periods where if we allow our bodies and minds to recover and then put them back to work, we will have greater stamina.
This is the basis of the “Couch to 5K” running program where you go from couch potato to running five kilometres in only nine weeks.
We can apply the same idea to our meditation practice.
In Zen meditation, we count breaths. For example, IN=one, OUT=two, IN=three, and so on. Depending on where you read this, information will vary between “count from 1 to 10 and then go back to one” to “go from one to 100.”
My approach for “can’t-meditators” is this:
Do breath counts from 1 to 20 and when you get to 20, let your mind start to wander and do as it pleases. Think about the bills, your daughter’s recital, all your worries or whatever you want. Only do it for a few seconds and then go back to counting breaths—one to 20. Repeat this process for your five- to 10-minute meditation.
By allowing our minds to wander and think but also bringing it back to the present moment by focusing on our breath, we train our minds to do two things:
1. Stay focused on what we want (whether that’s the present moment or something that requires our thoughts) and
2. Bounce back from negative thought processes to mindful presence.
In my experience, these work best when applied together.
Keeping our initial sessions short, speaking your nagging thoughts into a voice recorder like your phone and going between thought and mindfulness will give you all the skill sets you need to develop your mindfulness.
Meditation need not be unpleasant. The more we practice getting comfortable with sitting in quietness, the easier it will be for us to be mindful and present under increasingly difficult times such as traffic or interpersonal conflict.
Trust me when I say that if you make it a part of your routine to take five to 10 minutes a day focusing on the breath and getting present, you will spend more time in the moment in the first two weeks than most humans will in their whole lives.
Author: Wade MacVicar
Editor: Renée Picard