Look for the calm within yourself
Updated: Jul 28, 2018
Most people have heard of meditation, or mindfulness. Many have given it a try. Quite a few have found it to be challenging, or that it's hard to maintain. So let's walk through it!
Meditation is really little more than focusing your mind, so intently (and intentionally), that there is little or no room for anything else to enter it. Imagine . . . no distractions, no chatter, no external influences . . . just you, your single thought, and peace. Sound impossible?
Can you breathe?
Take a moment to focus on your breath. Just observe it, and try not to influence it. Notice where your abdomen rises and falls. Notice the sensation of air passing through your nose. Notice how long each breath takes. Try to become aware of every aspect of your breath. Don't look now, but . . . you're meditating!
In the early stages, meditation need be about nothing more complicated than attending to your breathing. If that sounds boring, well . . . it kind of IS. But the idea is to practice on something simple, something automatic, something that requires no effort, so that you can become used to the idea of narrowing your thought process and averting distractions. When you can focus on your breathing for just a single minute, it's time to try for two. You'll most likely find yourself distracted by other thoughts or sensations, and that's perfectly okay! You're not supposed to "master" it in your first week. You're supposed to practice being a beginner at it.
What is the purpose?
For the most part, the purpose of meditation is to learn how to control your thoughts, rather than having your thoughts control you. It's about being the director of your thoughts, rather than being directed by them. It's about deciding how much internal chatter you have, and when, rather than just allowing a cacophony to take hold whenever it pleases. And eventually, it's about finding the calm that exists within you . . . the quiet, the peace, the spaces in between thoughts. It's like turning off the television, and enjoying the silence!
Then why do I struggle?
Often, people have become so used to noticing every little thought or feeling that they find it hard not to. They are so alert to minor distractions that they often lose attention when and where it's necessary. They come to expect that every mental activity MUST be addressed on the spot, in the moment. And so for them, it is challenging to let all of those thoughts, feelings and sensations pass by. ("What if they were important?!?!" They're usually not.) The practice of meditation helps us to see that we don't have to engage with everything that crosses our minds. We're allowed to just notice, and let it pass. WE are in charge.
Try another one. See if you can find your heartbeat. Try it without putting a finger on your wrist at first, and see if you can detect the rhythm of your own heart. Notice where in your body it seems most noticeable. (Your chest? Belly? Legs?) Try to get attuned to the beat, to how steady it is, and how constant. Keep that focus purely on your heartbeat. If you get distracted, gently bring your attention back to the rhythm of your heart. Aim for 2 minutes.
It's really that simple! This is the beginning of meditation. Focused attention on a single, simple, chosen aspect of your being. Once you've gotten good at maintaining two minutes of focus, aim for 5. If you prefer to bring music into your practice, choose something calm, soothing and wordless. It also helps to create a comfortable space where you won't be disturbed, and to even bring other things (such as incense or oils) into that space. The more you practice, and the more you add to that practice, the easier (and better) it gets.
If you want to know more about how YOU can make meditation a part of your daily routine, let me know. If you want to take it further, let's discuss how that would work. For now . . . get practicing. And good luck!