I recently got back to a regular meditation routine again. I have often fallen out of practice with meditating. As with many things, I didn’t intend to stop, nor did I even realize I had stopped until one day it was just no longer in my routine. If this has happened to you – with meditation or something else – the key is to just start back up again, without chastising yourself for what you haven’t done.
For those of you new to meditating, or those who haven’t even tried (or have tried but haven’t stuck with it) because you’re confused about how to do it “right,” I trust this post will help you a little.
First: you do NOT have to clear your mind of all thoughts.
I used to hear this about meditating; and I tried but couldn’t do it. For many years I figured I just wasn’t cut out for meditating because I could not clear the thoughts out of my mind. Some people can likely get to such a point, but it isn’t where you start – at least it’s not where I started.
The mind’s natural state is to be busy. Often the guidance is to allow thoughts to just pass by; but this can be a tough instruction to follow, at least at the beginning.
To avoid being swept up into thought during meditation, give your mind something specific to focus on, instead. Here are some options – try focusing on:
– a word or an image you bring up into your mind’s eye (eyes closed);
– a sound – a short mantra, or a sound such as “om” or humming a single note (could interrupt others around you, but if you are free to make sounds – go for it);
– a physical spot in your environment – on the wall or floor, or a candle flame (eyes open);
– your breath: in-breath and out-breath, rhythmically – whether it’s the sound, the feeling, or envisioning your breath (whatever that looks like to you) in your mind’s eye.
Here are some of the conflicting rules and instructions I’ve read, heard, and learned over the years regarding meditation. Do any of these sound familiar? Have you found these opposing messages confusing, too?
– sit in lotus position on the floor
– sitting anywhere is OK
– back straight – specific posture
– don’t sit against anything so that you engage your core
– don’t get too comfortable
– be comfortable
– it’s ok to lay down
– don’t lay down
– keep your eyes open
– eyes must be closed
– palms up, back of hands on thighs
– palms down on your thighs
– tips of thumb and index finger of each hand touch
– back of one hand rests on the palm of the other hand, in your lap
– focus on the breath only, nothing else
– focus on a candle flame
– focus on a word
– create a sound / vibration like “om”
– say a mantra in your head
– visualize an image or word
– don’t visualize anything
– clear the mind of thoughts, there should be nothing in your mind
– guided meditation is a good way to meditate
– doing a guided meditation isn’t actually meditating
– no music
– ambient music is ok
– remain completely still, do not adjust your position
– ignore any itches or uncomfortable spots while meditating
– don’t breathe using ujjayi breath (the breath used in the ashtanga yoga practice)
– breathe in a specific way
– breathe into the belly
– breathe naturally
– and so on, and so on…
None of those things are either 100% correct or incorrect. Sure, there are some formal practices of meditation that are more disciplined, but to get started and reap some benefits of meditating – the key is to find what works for YOU.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. There isn’t one correct way.
What factors will allow YOU to sit quietly for a few minutes? Try focusing on something simple as per my suggestions further above. Even if you just sit, and perhaps get a few seconds free of the constant barrage of thoughts – that’s a win.
Here are some highlights of how I’ve been meditating this week:
– Ambient music playing;
– A pillow at my back against the wall, the back of my head resting on the wall as well, sitting on a cushion, legs loosely cross-legged, more pillows underneath my legs and ankles/feet – I was comfortable;
– The back of one hand was resting on the palm of the other hand in my lap, thumbs touching;
– Eyes closed, I focused my attention on small coloured balls of light in my mind’s eye, and also allowed any other images that came into my awareness – to simply come and go;
– At least a couple of times I noticed an itch and – and I scratched it;
– I got carried away with thoughts a number of times – but without judgment I would just return my focus to the balls of light (that’s one key component: don’t judge or berate yourself, cheer yourself on for sitting or lying there at all);
– Each session was somewhere between 3 and 12 minutes – depending on how much time I gave myself; and I did not lament that the 3min session was too short, but focused on the value in having made some time to sit there at all.
Your meditation doesn’t have to be the same each time, and it won’t be. Just sit for awhile. If you are having trouble, please reach out – let’s chat, and I’ll see if there is anything I can do to help you, with more ideas and suggestions.
I’ve removed commenting on my blog posts due to the volume of spam I have been receiving. If you’d like to comment or ask anything about this or any blog post, please reach out to me at carla(at)energycontinuum.com – I’d love to hear from you.