I’ve been at it for some time now, and I’m not sure the conventional way is for me.
Meditation, that is.
I’ve had an on-off relationship with meditation since I first attended a meditation retreat in the spring of 2015. The retreat itself blew me away; it allowed me to open myself to the truth of who I am. To really look beyond the societally built facades and life-long conditioning, and to be truthful. I felt sure I’d be hooked.
But after leaving the retreat and being left to my own devices, I started to develop some lukewarm feelings for this thing called “meditation.”
I think a simultaneous sense of yearning and repelling is a fairly normal relationship to have with meditation, particularly in the early stages. And it’s not surprising. It’s hard. It sounds easy, but really, it isn’t. The idea of it, according to many people, is all serenity and zen, but the reality is something quite different. In my experience it is more irritation, frustration, self-deprecation, and at times, pure contempt for the mere existence of the practice.
I’ve found it really useful to acknowledge that this is okay. This frustration, these thoughts, the self-directed insults—this is okay. This is part of the practice, part of the process. Meditation is about sitting with and noticing thoughts, and then letting them go—even those that are beating us down with a big, judgmental stick about the very activity that we have set out to do: meditate.
What I’ve also come to realise is that it’s okay to create my own version of meditation. A version that works for me. Traditionally, a person engaging in meditation either sits on the floor or on a chair, head held high to the heavens, bottom firmly secured to the seat, back upright and majestically erect. Eyes are closed or open depending on the tradition, and it is commonplace for the practice to take place indoors.
But I struggle with this.
So I’ve created my own version. It differs from traditional practice in three key ways:
1. I stand up.
I struggle with the sitting in meditation. My back hurts; I become fidgety. As much as I can sit tall, I find myself more able to focus when standing tall. Sometimes I even allow myself to walk, so long as I am mindfully walking—feeling into each step, noticing the sound of my foot against the floor. Full awareness of every muscle moving me from one space to the next. A mindful encounter with my body.
2. I do it outside.
There is something for me about nature that goes hand-in-hand with a meditative practice. I like to feel the wind on my face, to hear sparrows singing their morning melody, and to smell the faint, residual smoke of a day old bonfire. I like to use my senses when meditating—and being outside surrounded by nature feels, to me, is the most natural place to be to foster a sense of oneness with the world.
3. I do it with my eyes open.
Most meditative practices from my experience involve closing the eyes and connecting with the “third eye.” Again, I have fought with this. I have urges to open my eyes that overwhelm me. While the practice would be to acknowledge this urge and sit with it, I’ve personally found it more useful to keep my eyes open from the outset. Not to look around and allow myself to be distracted, but to keep my eyes in a soft gaze at a particular spot. I am still in awe of how much I can witness in my peripheral vision when staring at a single spot only, when I’m fully engaged with the present. The sound of a passing fly becomes so precise and alive, and the moving leaves on the trees take on an almost electric or digital quality. I urge you to try this!
So, that’s what I do. I don’t beat myself up for not doing it the way others tell me to. I don’t even see my practice as a stepping stone toward this. I take where I am right now and feel my way in to knowing what is right for me.
So, if you don’t think meditation is for you, yet you’re a little bit intrigued to try a meditative practice, give this a go. Try five minutes a day, and see what happens.
Author: Louise Lee
Image: Flickr/Kate Brady
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis