The most common difficulty people face when trying to start a meditation practice is that it’s really hard to “stop thinking”. Lots of people give up because they assume meditation is not for them or that they are not “good at it” (ah… the grown ups’ habit of always having to be good at things!).
I’ve learned a couple of things about meditation during my teacher training, and also through reading, lectures and workshops I’ve attended. I believe it is a wonderful tool to strengthen the mind and keep us emotionally healthy and balanced.
But I am one of the people who have tried meditation, many, many times, always with the best of intentions, only to drop it a few weeks later.
My latest attempted started about 4 weeks ago. I am still going. But before that, right after we went into lockdown, my anxiety level was through the roof, and someone suggested a 21-day series by Deepak Chopra. At the time, I was mostly concerned about finances, not sure the studio would make it, and this series was centered on abundance. There was a little talk and then a few minutes of meditation. I really enjoyed it. I believe I did it twice, with the firm intention of continuing with some kind of meditation practice after the series ended, but a few months went by before I started over.
This time around, Mr. Chopra was at the center of it again. I received an invitation to join yet another 21-day series, this one centered on relationships. I am not particularly concerned about my relationships, but I needed an entryway… so I started again.
This time, however, I set up a whole routine. I felt like I needed a morning ritual that would be meaningful and would set up the tone of my day.
During the Summer, I had also started doing stretches for my hips for 15 minutes every morning (which I did for probably 2 months and stopped). And, completely unrelated, I had recently purchased an inversion table, with the promise that if I spent money on it, I had to use it.
So I put all of that plus some together and every morning, before breakfast, I go up to my attic, spend 5-6 minutes upside down, then do the hip stretches, some foam roller massage, some stuff for my shoulders and then 15-20 minutes of meditation.
I started with Mr. Chopra’s series, but after 2 weeks, I moved on to meditation with music from Snatam Kaur, one of my favorite spiritual singers of all times. Her voice has the power of melting whatever resistance I may have in my brain and heart, and helps me to (at least for a few seconds) put me in a deep state of relaxation and ease.
Meditation is not easy for anyone, don’t be fooled. The whole practice consists of coming back to whatever you choose to focus your attention on (a mantra, a song, your breath, whatever). Your mind WILL wonder. You WILL think both pleasant and unpleasant thoughts. Worries will pop up. And the practice is to gently move away from all that mind noise, and get back to your breath or your mantra – in other words: the present moment.
Staying present is not easy. We fool ourselves into thinking we are present just because our bodies are here and we are doing this or that. But our minds may be miles away. Just observe how many times you drive somewhere and has no recollection whatsoever of the trip there. Or when you put down your keys so absent mindedly that you cannot find them later? All these are instances of not being present.
But the worse, in my opinion, is how much our ‘not being present’ affects our relationships. How many meaningful conversations with loved ones may have gotten lost because we were deep in our own thoughts, just nodding our heads, but not fully present? How many kind gestures we may have dismissed because we were busy scrolling through our phones? How many meals we didn’t even taste (our relationship with food is important too!) because we were preoccupied with something else, or watching TV while eating?
So, back to the meditation cushion (or mat, in my case, I am trying to sit less these days) we go… what is my mantra, you may ask? NOT NOW. This is it. When I realize I am thinking (and, full disclosure, it sometimes takes a while before I realize it), I gently tell myself NOT NOW, and focus on my breath and the sweetness of Snatam’s voice.
Bonus: my cat Gracie joins me every morning for meditation practice and she does her best to “keep me grounded” by laying on top of me. It’s lovely, it’s warm, it’s grounding – and it works to remind me of how blessed I truly am.
I’d love to hear what your experience with meditation has been like. Drop me a note! Happy OM!