How sick are you of being told you should meditate? It seems so unreasonably vague. Or hard. Or pretentious.
Unless, of course, you do meditate, in which case you get it and you probably know more than me. My meditation game is super simple. It has to be. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it.
And, to be honest, I don’t always do it. I do it for a while and then forget one day and then maybe keep forgetting for the next several months. My life will start feeling really hectic and I’ll wonder why I can’t concentrate or why I feel so ragey all the time.
And there are plenty of reasons why those two things might be happening, but I know that I always, always, always feel better in all areas when I add meditation into my day. It comes back to me every time.
(It’s kind of like how every month I think I’m dying and then remember it’s just PMS. Again. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. Nope.)
So, I’d like to de-mystify it for you. Because I’m about to tell you to meditate no matter how tired of hearing about it you may be. It’s just good for you. And for the love of all things, we could use a persona, and collective, sigh of relief. This will help.
I learned this meditation from my dear friend and all time favorite yoga teacher, Sarah Trelease, who got her teaching from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. All to say, my version is the very simple lay-version for a modern life. In the event you wish to go to the source of the teaching, please do. Also, most cities in the US have Shambhala Centers that offer free meditation. (I do mine at home, on the floor after my morning coffee.) Another great resource is Jon Kabat-Zinn. He has a whole body of work around mindfulness that is useful, effective, and fascinating.
Ok. Let’s do this.
Sit comfortably. Traditional cross legs position on a cushion, with your hands lightly resting on your knees. A soft but strong posture is optimal, although it can take practice to hold here for longer periods. But don’t let anything stop you. Just find a seat. Then sit and stay. SIT. STAY.
You can keep your eyes open and softly focused on a spot in front of you, or keep them closed. I like to close mine. There are schools of thought that support both. There are “schools of thought” that support literally everything – just don’t stress about your eyeballs.
Set a timer and start small. I like 15 minute sessions, but less is fine if it’s all you have. More is fine too if you’re seasoned, but starting small helps ensure a longer term practice.
It’s helpful to listen to your breathing. It’s called an anchor because it anchors your mind into your body.
When you have a thought, you may not notice at first, because your brain thinks thoughts non-fucking-stop. But, at some point, you may remember that you’re meditating! At this point, you will pretend you are putting a friendly sticky note on the thought and labeling it “thinking”. Friendly is important. You are not admonishing your brain for being a brain – just noticing it do its thing and shifting its direction. Then, go back to listening to your breath.
You may think another thought in the next .000001 seconds. No worries! You don’t suck at meditation! The deal is that you have a human brain. So all you need to do when you realize that you’re thinking again is do the sticky note again. “Thinking”. And then go back to listening to your breath.
Do this until the timer goes off.
Be proud of yourself no matter how it went.
It’s even possible that you’ll forget you’re meditating until the timer goes off. That’s ok too. Just say “thinking” and then carry on. Just meditate again. And again. The idea is that *eventually, maybe, someday* you will have more time between thinking a thought and following it. And you probably will, but even if you don’t, you still WIN at meditation.
On multiple occasions I’ve discovered that I’m no longer meditating when I realize I’m texting or checking an email. I don’t do that anymore, but it nearly made me stop meditating because of how dreadfully I performed it. But, I decided to take the revolutionary tactic of not caring and not quitting.
This is important: You cannot fail meditation.
I think people think they are bad at meditating because they think they *should* be able to turn their brains off. (Silence, brain!)
No, you are not supposed to be able to do that.
Brains stay on until they, or you, are dead.
So, let’s work with what we have, people! In this case, loud brains.
To sum up:
NOTICE THOUGHTS AND CALL THEM “THINKING”.
Things you may notice that will make you happy you tried (and stuck to) meditating:
Less stress. Stuff that would ordinarily require you to be sedated seem boring, or just not worth getting agitated over.
Longer, or better, focus. (Get more done well in less time = more naps).
The ability to be more responsive than reactive. The practice of noticing when you are having thoughts carries over into the ability to think before you speak, decide how you want to respond to stimuli, interactions, challenges, and feelings. You get a running shot at choosing whether or not you want to eat the bag of chips before you find yourself staring into a bag of greasy air.
I just read the book, “Felt Time” by Marc Wittmann where he says there’s evidence that meditators experience a slowing of subjective time. The experience of a longer life.
Pretty much everything gets better when you’re able to have a modicum of agency inside the jungle of your subconscious brain that’s doing more without your consent than you can even imagine.
An alternative for those of you who are super resistant to being in your body in silence (perhaps you have untreated trauma and the silent meditation brings things to surface that are truly unmanageable at this time), is to lay down and listen to a beautiful song on repeat. Halo by Beyonce is my favorite. But you know, whatever you love. I usually go for a minimum of 20 minutes with music.
And lastly, I think it’s really cool that the whole point is to learn to remember to come back to your breath. So getting better at remembering is all you have to do.
Get better at remembering you’re in a body. Get better at remembering you don’t have to fall into every thought wormhole. Get better at remembering to meditate when you forget to do it at all. Get better at remembering that you’re ok. Right here. Right now. In all the ways.
You are not alone, and you are so dearly loved.
You can literally meditate for 10 minutes right now. How else are you going to spend the next 10 minutes?
Need more help? Want support and accountability and all the goodness?
Perhaps we should be working together.
And am still doing discovery calls for the new Men’s Mastermind!
Questions? Hit reply and ask me. Or just say hello. I love hearing from you.
:::image credit: December 2005 cover of The New Yorker magazine. I found this on the internet, obviously, but when it came out in 2005, I received the magazine in the mail in prison, cut out the image on the cover, glued it into my journal, and used it as motivation to meditation in *ahem* less-than-ideal conditions. I hope it works for you too.