Meditation: My Why How What
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
— Alice Morse Earle
I find the above quote such a beautiful phrase, yet I recognize that in our contemporary daily buzz it is challenging to appreciate the gift of today – let alone of this very moment. I mean, while you are reading this, are you really here? No, for real. Are you really, REALLY a 100% here? Or has your mind already drifted off a few times? To an email that still needs to be sent, to what a friend said to you yesterday, or to what’s for dinner…?
Those kind of mental distractions are quite normal; there’s no point in judging them or trying to avoid them. However. If there’s anything I’d recommend it would be to become more aware of where your mind is taking you. Because the moment you become aware is also the moment where you’ve landed back in the present. BAM. Welcome back!
How to become more aware more easily? To me, meditation is the most obvious response to that question. (Fortunately you don’t have to take my word for it, because plenty of scientific research is now backing up this claim.) As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, there are many changes I’ve made in my day-to-day habits that have benefited my personal growth, and I would now like to elaborate on one of those habits:
My meditation habit.
I got introduced to the practice of meditation back in 2011, through one of the first versions of the – now well-known – Headspace app. My “why” back then was to calm the overwhelm that I was experiencing from going from a steady, “secure” job into the Wild West of a freelance existence. I needed to find some peace of mind again, and I was in a hurry to get there.
NOTE: meditation is everything BUT trying to get somewhere. It’s about noticing where you are, dropping the judgment, and having the courage to sit still with what is going on.
It took me another three years to make meditation a daily habit, but I am hooked ever since.
I can be alone all day, working on my business plan, writing blog posts, or doing whatever, and not connect with myself. Meditation makes sure I do. It’s the real me-time even though it looks like I’m already on me-time. There’s no escaping “me” when I close my eyes and sit still, and that’s exactly why I am maintaining the habit of doing so.
HOW To Meditate?
The number of ways and methods of how to meditate is, well, almost infinite. The reason for that is that meditation is such a personal practice and it simply doesn’t work the same way for everybody. Some people need to focus more, some people need to focus less. Some people need to sit straight, some people need to lie down (is that allowed? YES!). Then there are the many “rules” from experienced teachers – whether attached to a dogma or not – which can make any beginner in meditation think that she/he will never get the hang of it…
NOTE: I’ve heard surfers call surfing a form of meditation. People take a walk in the forest and say they meditate that way. I say: the how is inferior to the practice (and to the why). Just do whatever it is you call meditation and do it daily. It is your shot at seeing yourself, at honoring your existence, and I think that should be done as often as possible.
If you’ve never meditated, according to your beliefs, the above description may seem too vague, so here are some tips on how to meditate.
* sit still,
* close your eyes,
* take a few deep breaths,
* let the thoughts come,
* pay attention with kindness (our self-talk can be harsh, try to talk to you like a dear friend would do)
* let the thoughts go,
* be curious about your own thoughts so you can see them for what they are: mental images in your mind, and imaginary conversations that occupy your brain.
I often set a timer to quiet the returning thought of “Am I done yet?”. I am done when the timer says so, and I don’t open my eyes until. Sometimes I use a youtube video with relaxing music, which works as a timer and calms me at the same time (when the music stops, time’s up…).
Meet Mindfulness’ Dad
Jon Kabat-Zinn has been called “the father of mindfulness” because he translated Eastern mindfulness practices into our Western habits and ways so that we would accept and use them. Kabat-Zinn’s down-to-earth approach has touched me through statements like this one: “…to insist mindfulness meditation is Buddhist is like saying gravity is English because it was identified by Sir Isaac Newton.” (Source: theguardian.com)
For an easy start in meditation, I recommend this video where Jon Kabat-Zinn explains the benefits and practice of a lying down (!) meditation:
5 Meditation Styles In One Article
Deepak Chopra is also known for his special mix of Eastern spiritual practices and Western science. His centre, and the chopra.com website, offer a wide range of meditation practices – this article summarizes five of them:
Skeptical Questions Answered
You may have never started to meditate because of some skeptical questions nobody has answered so far. Or you may have started the practice, but stopped because these questions kept popping up. In any case, I think Shamash Alidina has done an amazing job at addressing the skeptics among us in this article:
WHAT To Meditate On?
Pardon? Should you be meditating on / about something too? Isn’t sitting still and closing your eyes hard enough already?
It’s really up to you.
Now that I have gathered some years of practice to lean upon, I diversify my daily practice according to my need of the moment. I always meditate in the morning, but sometimes I feel the need to meditate in the afternoon as well. I’ve had a miraculous meditation of 1,5 hour, which was inspired by the sound of thunder and rain just outside of my window. I’ve had visions (like this one) whilst listening to reiki music. I’ve certainly had more solutions come to me during meditation than by worrying or fretting about an issue.
There are two podcasts that I regularly use as well, because they contain guided meditations on specific topics. Topics that happen to play a role in my life, and can be addressed through these meditations in a kind, compassionate and relieving way.
Whatever you do, please don’t judge yourself harshly!
When it comes to the practice of meditation, putting in the time is the most important thing. We tend to think about and act upon everything BUT ourselves nowadays – even when we attempt to find our life purpose, we tend to look outside of ourselves to find it. Meditation is, in my humble opinion, the best way to discover more about ourselves. It is the best way to find out what is really going on with us, because that’s the first thing that will come up. Are you suffering from a lack of sleep (but perhaps not acknowledging it)? You’ll fall asleep whilst meditating. Are you trying to juggle too many things at the same time? Your mind might go nuts for a while – which will pass if you keep meditating – presenting all those items and issues that you’re trying to juggle with. Basically, meditating is looking at an internal mirror. Whatever is at the front of our lives will present itself first.
NOTE: If you don’t want to change, then by all means don’t meditate! Not only does it change your daily habits – because you have to make time for it – it will start to change your attitude and other habits as well. Meditation practiced regularly creates a fertile soil, within you, for more patience, compassion, a better understanding of your life, and the opportunity of a healthier lifestyle.
There. That’s it. My meditation habit and what it has done for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really REALLY feel the need to sit down with myself…and meditate!