People say: I can’t do it or I meditate when I go for a run. It’s the same thing.
It’s not. I like to go for runs. I like to do yoga. I find both activities useful on both physical and mental levels. But neither activity or anything else is a substitute for sitting in stillness.
People also say: I’ve tried. I can’t stop my thoughts. I fall asleep. It’s not for me.
Fair enough. Here’s what I think these people are really saying: I’ve tried to meditate, but I’m not much good at it. I prefer to do things I can do well.
There are many mindfulness meditation techniques. Here’s one that focuses on the breath. The idea is to use your breath as an anchor to remind yourself not to get too carried away by the thoughts and stories trying to distract you.
- Lower the bar. If meditation were an Olympic event, I would not be invited to participate. No one would ever pick me to be on their meditation team. The only way to fail at meditation is not to try.
- Find a comfortable, yet dignified position in which to sit. There is no meditation rule book so if you prefer to lie down, lie down. The drawback to lying down is that it makes it easier to fall asleep. Life and meditation are filled with choices and drawbacks.
- You will want to block out as many distractions as possible, emphasis on possible. Close your eyes if that’s comfortable, silence your mobile phone and ignore the person sitting in the seat next to you on the plane. Ear phones work great on planes!
- Set a timer, if you’d like. The Insight Timer app has a very nice timer with an authentic sounding basu gong sound. The length of time you choose is up to you. Many people start with five minutes or less of daily practice. I meditate for twenty minutes. That just happens to be what works for me.
- As much as possible, relax your body. Notice any tension in your jaw, recognize your heart and find some gratitude for this magnificent organ that pumps blood to every cell in your body, notice the way you are sitting and acknowledge you’ve consented to sit.
- Find your breath. Your breath is reliably always present. Notice the rise and fall of your belly, the expansion and contraction of your chest or the whisper of air in and out of your nostrils. If you don’t find your breath, not to worry. Notice the sounds around you or gently count your breaths from one to ten. Each inhale and exhale is one count. When you get to ten, or when you lose track, start again.
- As thoughts and distractions arise, and they will arise, gently remind yourself to come back to your breath or the sounds or your counting. This starting again and again is the meditation.
That’s it. Do it again tomorrow.