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Quiet and dark room…check.
Comfortable cushion and perfect-seated position…check.
Set amount of time I knew that I would be in quiet solitude…check.
Drumming CD with earbuds for optimal enhanced concentration of session…check.
The intention was always the same. I would go on a journey to visit my “inner shaman” and seek answers and meaning to life’s events. Maybe I would be doing a session at which I would scan my chakras and try to sort them out.
To be honest, when I first started diving into meditation, I thought that is what you had to do to be successful at it. I thought that you had to accomplish a purpose. Don’t ask me where I got that notion, probably something I read on a website or self-help guru book and felt that was what needed to be done because a self-proclaimed expert told me to.
I guess I enjoyed it, but it was work. It was actually really hard work. The idea that I had to have this perfect setting and perfect outcome ruined some of the meditations and defeated the purpose that I was trying to accomplish in the first place. Yet, I continued to practice my mindfulness that way.
Then children happened.
After what was a few years’ break from a consistent meditation practice, the renewed sense of wanting to return to a more mindful way of living crept back into my life. Only, the process didn’t quite look the same as it did before.
Meditation looks extremely different for me today than it did 20 years ago. Then, I would set up a perfect sanctuary-type setting under what I considered ideal conditions to have an ideal experience. Now, trying to grab even just five minutes to concentrate on my breathing at my home base while connecting to my equanimity and succeeding is a calming win.
Equanimity is that place of acceptance of where you are and what is going on around you. Accepting what is and being calm and okay with it, not wanting to change it, but in turn, acknowledging it. (Not the Merriam-Webster definition, but the best way I understand and can describe it.)
It has taken patience with myself to get to this point. Meditation wasn’t a “jump back in and succeed right off the bat” deal. I have been working at it and continue to work at it. My ideals from years ago are impractical. My life does not operate in the fashion that my preconceived ideals would even work. My meditations are often messy, looking from the outside.
I am a messy meditator, and I am proud to admit that.
Some days, my practice does look like the stereotypical meditation setting of a quiet space and a meditation pillow that I have always envisioned as somewhat the perfect setting. Some days, my meditation practice is me, sitting in my car, focusing on my breathing while waiting for my child to get out of whatever activity she is participating in.
Yet, I have had days where a moment of mindfulness looks like me, standing in front of my workstation, eyes relaxed, looking down, taking two minutes to breathe and gather myself. Regardless of how it looks from the outside, the purpose and the end results are what I am shooting for.
How do your meditations look? Are you disciplined, or are you of the messy sort?
Here are a few things I have come to believe when it comes to my mindful practice that have helped me succeed. Maybe they will help you too.
Throw out the ideal setting mindset.
Having to live up to vastly unrealistic ideas of how meditation is supposed to look and work ruins the process. You don’t need a meditation mat, pillow, incense, bells. What you do need is to safely be able to quiet the mind and concentrate on your breath in the present moment. That is all.
There is no time limit on meditating.
I don’t care if you have only two minutes. You can meditate in two minutes. I am good for standing in front of my machine (I am a machinist), run a two-minute cycle program, and take that time to concentrate on a 5-5 breathing pattern to bring myself into the present. That mere two minutes is sometimes all I need.
It isn’t always about being still.
One of the greatest things I realized I did for myself and my mindful practice was routine. Every morning, as I fire up my workstation at my job, I run an interval timer to do a routine of stretches to loosen up the body. I also take this time to set my intention for the day. It is my five minutes of mindfulness to get my day started—even if to the outside world it looks like I am just stretching.
Tomorrow is another day.
This is the one concept that I continually struggle with—I am always working on myself. I am notorious for beating myself up if I don’t get a few minutes to partake in mindfulness, or getting a chance to go and take even 15 minutes to work out for my physical strength—I get agitated and moody. It has been part of my mindset practice to learn to forgive myself. Tomorrow is another day. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, life will no doubt get in the way of our plans, and we just have to pick ourselves back up and try again tomorrow.