Meditation does not come easily to me. At first, I thought I simply wasn’t able to do it at all. Then I realized I’d been meditating in my own way all along. I just hadn’t given myself credit for it.
It is important to understand what meditation actually is, rather than what you expect it be, or believe it should be. Don’t feel you have failed if you can’t sit still for half an hour. Don’t think you’re doing it wrong if you aren’t sitting on the floor in a Yoga position. And Don’t think you have to buy stuff to do it right, either. Do understand that your mind does not shut off during meditation; you may have thousands of thoughts and feelings as your ever-active mind finally begins the process of winding down and relaxing.
Start with 60 seconds, sitting quietly. Try finding a place where you don’t have distractions (like clutter, even if you think you function in clutter). Give yourself the chance to succeed by setting the stage and not overwhelming yourself with big goals. Listen to the ticking of a clock for 60 seconds while just breathing in and out without feeling pressured, impatient or annoyed. For 60 seconds don’t focus on your daily aggravations, give your brain a coffee break.
2) Get Distracted
I meditate on public transportation. That is the one time my mind stops being so busy, I don’t feel guilty or restless and I can drift along for the hour-long bus ride across town. No doubt this won’t work for everyone. Some people would find being on the bus frustrating. For me, it’s relaxing. I forget I’m even there and connected to anything or anyone. But, I don’t miss my stop.
From this I have learned meditation is all about distracting my mind. Instead of sitting quietly, while compiling to-do lists in my head I can focus on something kind of bland, routine and yet not actually boring or pointless. There are endless household chores which work great for meditation: washing dishes, folding laundry, painting something. Anything simple, not requiring a lot of thought, will work.
Getting your body busy with a routine will free up your mind. Just like the bus ride, there isn’t anything very challenging to occupy your brain, so it can take a back seat for awhile. Doodling is another option, a creative outlet. I’d try Zen Tangle but for a perfectionist like myself I would be trying too hard and focusing on making something memorable. I would rather draw standard doodles: lines, circles, odd shapes and then shade them in or fill them with dots, connecting lines. . . and so on. No mental stress involved.
4) White Noise
If your pen has run out of ink, doodle in your imagination. See swirling shapes, colours, like your personal screensaver. Or try some music. Background, white noise, very quiet — not something that’ll make you want to jump up and dance. I know a local Pagan store which sells CDs with the sound of the ocean, trains, just about anything people could use to wind down for sleep or meditation.
A counsellor gave me the idea to go from your head to your toes, relaxing each part of your body. She has a recording of the exercise. Take your time, get comfortable and make sure you are not too cold or warm. Start with your face, how does your face feel? Close your eyes (if you can, I’m not good at that part) and sense the muscles of your face, mouth, eyes, chin, nose, ears. Move around to the back of your head, down your neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands, chest, belly, back… all the way down to your waist, thighs, knees, calves, feet and toes. Be aware of how each part of you feels and then relax each part before moving on to the next. Don’t rush it and pay attention to yourself, your body.
You might think a glass of wine would get you in the mood, but keep it for a reward after instead. Dulling yourself with something else isn’t the same as giving yourself that feeling of stillness, quiet and peace from your own efforts. Also, you don’t want to rely on wine, rely on yourself instead. Let this be something you accomplish yourself and can feel good about.
6) Accomplish Something Else
Get something off your mind or crossed off your to-do list. This does not mean you start a fight with someone and get two (or more) people all stressed out. Take a look at your to-do list, find something you’ve been putting off but need to get done and do it! The after glow from having it done makes you feel great. Meditating is taking more time to enjoy that feeling, extending the happy feeling of accomplishment. When you already feel good it’s easier to feel better.
7) Get Outside
If possible, meditate outdoors. Take a walk. Collect pebbles, beachcomb or watch the leaves fall. If you find a good spot to sit under a tree, on a blanket or picnic table get comfortable. There is something relaxing about being outside, in nature, part of the planet rather than hooked up to civilization, technology and all the rest of it. Feel the air on your skin, smell the garden, hear the birds… how much of the outdoors can you feel with your eyes closed? If you can’t be outdoors you might open a window (if there isn’t too much distraction).
8) Take Notes
When you decide you’ve had enough or your time is up, write about things you thought about or felt. What emotions came up? What ideas did you get? Who did you think about? Try writing a journal before meditating and then afterwards. See where your mind went and if you found solutions once you were able to relax and focus on something else. Creative writers write Morning Pages as a writing exercise, ten hand written pages every morning. The routine comes from Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. Writing things down helps sort out your thoughts from the jumble and traffic in your mind. Writing things down could help you to meditate.
9) Do It for Yourself
Of course, nothing is really going to work if you think meditation is silly, or not worth your time. That is a different problem for someone trying to meditate. But, a good reason to try it alone, on your own, privately, without someone making you feel foolish or judging you. If all else fails, start with a nap!