What stops lots of people meditating is a fear that they are doing it wrong and they give up before they have even properly begun and started to experience any of the myriad of benefits that a regular meditation practice brings. This is because there are quite a lot of misconceptions about what the experience of meditating is like.
Probably because on the outside when you look at someone meditating it looks incredibly blissful and serene so we assume that the experience of the person sitting in meditation is the same; that they are in some sort of mental and spiritual Zen heaven.
So when you sit to meditate and you can’t get comfortable, you notice aches and pains you never knew you had, thoughts crowd your mind and all sorts of things come in to your mind you thought you had forgotten about, let alone the fact that you’re struggling to sit still, you assume you are no good at it, you’re not in Zen heaven and never try again. Which would be a shame because the benefits of meditation are extensive.
So let’s take the first issue
– meditation position and posture – myth – you must sit on the floor with your legs crossed in the lotus position.
Physical comfort is very important when you meditate so it is absolutely fine to sit on a chair if that is the most comfortable position for you. The important thing is to be able to stay alert to the experience so the best thing to do is choose a position where your spine is straight and the rest of your body is supported but relaxed and comfortable, usually a straight backed chair is ideal. Lying down is also fine if you can stay awake…and sitting on the floor is fine if that is comfortable for you.
I should be feeling really relaxed not experiencing aches and pains – feeling aches and pains is quite a common experience when you first begin to meditate because you are allowing yourself to be still enough to notice what is happening with your body. In everyday life we spend a lot of our time in our heads thinking and disconnect from our bodies and what our bodies are trying to tell us.
Once you begin paying attention, perhaps taking care of yourself better and there is more integration between the mind and body these experiences settle down.
In the mean time though, imagine breathing into and around areas of discomfort.
thoughts crowd your mind and you can’t stop them – apparently on average we have a new thought every 2 seconds – this is what the mind does – it thinks. Expecting that as a new meditator you would be able to stop all that thought traffic straight away is quite a big ask……..and maybe stopping the thoughts isn’t the aim.
Rather the aim might be to be able to work with your thoughts rather than not have any at all.
Instead of trying to stop them perhaps think about the thoughts as items on a conveyor belt and see if it’s possible to observe them, watch them come and go, not needing to pick any item up and examine it, trying not to get involved with the thoughts and be carried away into thinking about the past or the future. If you find yourself picking up one of the objects and examining it, it is also ok once you’ve noticed that you are doing this, to then place it back on the belt.
things come into your mind you thought you had forgotten about – sometimes those are pleasant but sometimes unpleasant things come into your mind when you are still. For many of us we don’t want to think about things that are uncomfortable and so we try to push these thoughts and memories away.
To begin with, just bringing your attention to your breath as a focus, either following the experience of your breath in the body or counting your breathing will break the chain of uncomfortable thoughts.
However, once you become more comfortable with the meditation process you may find that just as we mentioned above about observing thoughts, that you are able to ‘be with’ the unpleasant or difficult experience and observe your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations, perhaps breathing into and around any physical discomfort associated with this, without being carried away with the thoughts and feelings linked to this experience.
I just can’t keep still – we are trained in the modern world to believe we should always be doing something, always be on the go…….that there is nothing productive about stopping, in fact, it is lazy………so you can see why it might take some time to let go of that conditioning and just allow ourselves to stop and be still. It takes practice to learn that it is ok to be still and let yourself ‘be’ sometimes.
There is a good reason why Google and Ebay have created meditation spaces at their headquarters for their staff, there is scientific proof that it improves creativity and productivity as well as all the other wonderful benefits of reducing stress and improving health.
In the mean time, while you are practicing ‘stillness’, it is alright to change position if you are uncomfortable, cough, sneeze etc..
Like all things it takes commitment to make meditation a part of your life and an understanding that meditation cannot be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, just let yourself accept the experience as it is. Stick with it and soon you will be reaping the incredible benefits that meditation can bring. Don’t give up-