There are a million good-for-us reasons to meditate, and somehow we find even more reasons not to.
We say we want calmer minds, more focus, better sleep, and less anxiety. We’ve heard that meditation can help us actually achieve these things—or at least get on the path.
Here are some of the excuses that often come between us and a zafu cushion:
>> I don’t have time.
>> I can’t focus.
>> My mind races; there’s no stopping that train.
>> I don’t know how.
>> It’s so hard; I can’t be still.
The best way to get over the excuses—which are generally based in fear and intimidation—is to simply sit down and shut (the f) up.
Benefits of sitting down and shutting up:
>> Better focus at work.
>> Deeper rest and sleep at night.
>> Feeling more centered.
>> Discovering peace.
>> Experiencing less anxiety.
>> Becoming more mindful.
>> Less reacting to the world, more responding with intention.
>> Having time to listen to our thoughts and feelings.
“We fear violence less than our own feelings.” ~ Jim Morrison
Fear stops us from doing a lot of things, one of which is meditating. A lot of our fears are about what we might discover if we are quiet enough to listen. When we are not swimming in a pool of distractions, we are faced with only the reality of our inner world, our emotions, feelings, and thoughts. If we have unattended hurts, or experience incessant internal chatter about ourselves or our lives, going within can be a scary place. To avoid these fears we generally tune out by placing our attention on distractions.
Hurt only heals as we give it attention, and become present to the pain. Just like an infection, if we don’t tend to it, it only gets worse. Wounds need TLC, time, and attention.
The more we resist our own growth, the more disconnected we become from ourselves and our reality, which can cause anxiety in the mind and trouble in the heart.
Another large obstacle between us and meditation is judgement. All of those self-critical thoughts and wounded feelings we carry around stress us out and wear us down. They make us feel less-than, unworthy, not able, or not good enough to have peace and happiness. We’ve convinced ourselves that something is wrong with us that cannot be corrected, as if anxiety and failure has set in and is eating away at our souls.
This is obviously not true, but the belief and fear of it keeps us from self-care and healing. If we can get past the mental judgement of constantly questioning whether we’re doing something right or wrong—or if we could be doing it better, we can break through the intimidation of meditation and just do it.
This morning I meditated while lying in my bed.
When I woke up, I didn’t even shift my body. Instead, I simply allowed myself to become awake, and then focused on my breath. Right there, before I even opened my eyes, I practiced meditation. I found that although I’d just woken from a full night’s sleep, the conscious resting allowed me to relax in a different way—deepening my awareness of my being, and the beauty of the morning.
Take the mystery out of meditation.
We don’t need to make every meditation session a mystical event. Forcing it to be more than what it is just distances us, based on fear in the mind.
We don’t need to pay for a fancy mantra. We don’t need special music or clothes. We don’t need expensive altars or shiny crystals. These things have their places, but requiring props or tools is just more ammo for our resistant minds. Meditation is free and can be done absolutely anywhere with absolutely nothing.
So, just sit down and shut up.
Start by focusing on your breath as it enters through your nose. Each breath is the meditation. That’s it—just sit and breathe. Close your eyes if you want to, it can be nice once you get familiar.
When we bring our focus to our breath, we become more aware. Being present allows our minds to shift from outward thinking about the world around us, to conscious, mindful thought. Being aware of the moment, of the breath, of our inner experience is all part of that.
The more we do this, the more centered we become. When we find this place within, we can retreat there any time to find safety and peace. It all starts with the simple technique of sitting down and shutting up.
Author: Leah Guy
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman