Meditation for Those Who Find it Difficult
Benefits of Meditation
It is almost impossible to go a day without hearing about the benefits of meditation. Meditation is a powerful ally in helping ease physical and mental issues and is the basis for many spiritual disciplines. It can help you feel more focused, calmer, happier, ease insomnia, depression, anxiety, lower blood pressure - the list goes on. It is of no value, however, if you can’t seem to do it.
There are many misconceptions about meditation and how to do it. Here, I hope to help clear some of these up.
The Pretzel Misconception
Many people unfamiliar with meditation envision sitting in a crossed legged position and holding it for hours. The truth is, if you are a Buddhist Monk or Nun, this may be true. If you are a busy mother or a frazzled desk worker trying to find tranquility, the important thing is to be comfortable. If you are comfortable in the lotus position commonly pictured, then go for it. If that position causes discomfort you will be defeating the purpose.
I usually advise finding a comfortable seated position. While meditation can be done in any position, laying down can cause you to fall asleep easier than a seated position. Try to keep your posture as straight as possible. You don’t have to be on the floor - a chair with good support works well.
The Empty Mind Misconception
Another thing that many new to meditation think is that you need to empty the mind completely. This is impossible. The idea is to slow the parade down as much as possible and not get caught up in the pretty floats and marching bands. One way to do this is to count your breath. Another, taught by Thich Nhat Hanh is to say “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” You can use prayer, or mala, beads. These are similar to rosary beads. Hold them in your hand and move from bead to bead. This works well with mantras or affirmations. For example, you can say “I am peace. I am love”, or simply “peace, love” on each bead. If you have an affirmation such as “I attract all the best opportunities” use that. You can use a short prayer or name of a deity if you prefer. Catholics can recite the rosary. This is all a form of meditation.
If you wish to simply sit there, just be aware of when your mind gets trapped in a thought loop. You can acknowledge the thought, bless it, and send it on its way. You can imagine it being attached to a balloon and let it drift off. Or, think of it as a leaf floating away in a stream. The idea is not to follow the thought or get caught up in it. This is a time to help you clear your thoughts, not become enmeshed in them.
The Sitting Still Misconception
Meditation does not have to be sitting in one place. Moving meditation is also very powerful. Labyrinths are a form of walking meditation. They can also be used for manifesting positive things in your life. To do this, concentrate on bringing in the positive influence you want (for instance a new job) while you are walking toward the center. When you get to the center, meditate on it for a little while, then go back out. Feel it as if is has already happened.
Walking meditation can be done in your backyard or in a park. Walk slowly and try to coordinate your breathing with your steps. Be present.
Even a chore can be a form of meditation. Mowing the lawn for example. As with sitting meditation, do not get ensnared by your thoughts. Breathe and be in the moment.
Do you meditate and is it helpful?
The Time Misconception
When first starting out with meditation, try small chucks of time. If you can only manage one minute, set your timer for one minute, no more. Forcing yourself to sit beyond your allotted time will only be an exercise in frustration. Nothing will make you want to give up more. When you have gotten used to just being for a length of time, gradually start increasing the sessions. Your mind will become used to the idea and will begin to adjust. For this reason, I also suggest that you meditate at the same time each day. Whether it be first thing in the morning, at lunch or just before bedtime, try to set a routine. This will signal to your brain that you are about to slow things down and it will also help you to stay on track. Be sure to turn off your cell phone and any other distractions. If you live with other people and are meditating at home, ask them not to disturb you for your given time.
Meditation is a practice, with all that implies. It is an ongoing process. You may be meditating without difficulty for years and suddenly hit a bump. That is okay. If you need to, go back to the starting point and jumpstart your practice.
If you find yourself unable to quiet your mind, you may also use a focal point such as a picture, statue or tree. If you are meditating outside, the sounds of nature form a perfect backdrop.
Some people prefer total silence, while others like some soft instrumental music or prerecorded chanting. For those who have a truly difficult time, I would recommend guided meditations. You can download them, sometimes for free. You can also read one to a recorder and play it back while meditating. These are good for journeying as well.
Remind yourself when meditating that you are safe and protected, and nothing can harm you. If something comes up in your thought process that frightens you, just stop. Come back to the physical and shake it off (literally).
Some people find when they start meditating that issues crop up that have been suppressed for a while. If it is something you wish to deal with, set it aside and examine it later. Of course, if you are having any form of psychological difficulties or mental illness, discuss meditation with your health professional.
Meditation is so beneficial. I wish you a wonderful experience with a newly tranquil outlook. Be Well.