If you think you're bad at meditation, read this.
I've heard it a million times. "I suck at meditation." Everyone I know has confessed to me either their fear of meditating, or their downright inability to sit still and quiet their minds. And trust me, I get it. I found my meditation practice almost eight years ago when a friend invited me to a dharma class at a Buddhist meditation center. I had no idea what to expect, and I can tell you that my idea of what it means to meditate is so much clearer now, more accurate, and more exciting than it ever was before I set foot in that center.
Everyone can use more peace of mind. Right? As long as we have problems or stress, maybe related to work, family, illness, finances... we desperately need a coping mechanism, a way to tap into peace, despite the chaos of life. Meditation can provide that respite; so as daunting as it may seem, every single person can benefit from making it part of their daily lives. It's too important to ignore (or, as is commonly the case, saying "I need to start meditating. Someday...." and never prioritizing it).
Before it all feels like too much and you stop reading to move on with your busy, stressful day, I want to tell you.... THERE'S GOOD NEWS! In truth, anyone can meditate! It's super simple. Like all things worth doing, it requires a bit of effort, patience, and practice. But this is one thing that, I guarantee you, is joyful to practice. You'll never rise from ten minutes of meditation and feel more frustrated or stressed out; you can only feel better. Even a "bad meditation" (although there's really no such thing!) is helping you improve and reign in what Buddha refers to as your "wild elephant mind" (or "monkey mind"; pick whichever animal you prefer).
So how does one begin, when it really just feels overwhelming or difficult, or like there's not
enough time in the day? Think simply. A 5-10 minute breathing meditation can calm your mind, give you a sense of well-being and clarity, and all you need to do it is your breath! Forget the notion that you need to be sitting formally on a cushion with your eyes closed, burning incense, in order to meditate. Take 5 minutes in the car after you drop your kids off at school or when you park at work; 10 minutes when you sit up in bed in the morning or before going to sleep at night; use your time in the shower; replace one long scroll through Instagram, and use these bits of time to practice the following easy meditation:
- Relax your body, identifying areas of tension (forehead, neck and shoulders, all the way down to your feet) and imagine that the tension melts away.
- Gently close your eyes if you're able. If not, that's ok. Just try to remove visual distractions if you can.
- Check in with yourself: how am I feeling? How busy and anxious or how calm and collected is my mind?
- Then happily spend however many minutes you've got focusing as best you can on your breath. Just notice the sensation of air moving in and out through your nose, and/or notice your chest or stomach rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. That's all you have to pay attention to: your breath. Give yourself permission to let go of everything else. Maybe you'd like to count ("1, 2, 3, 4" in your mind) as you breathe in and out, or repeat a mantra to yourself over and over. That's great, and helps beginners maintain focus. When thoughts arise in your mind, it's ok to acknowledge them, just try not to latch on and follow them. Gently let them go, and return your attention to breathing. Continue this practice for a few minutes or more, then as you finish your meditation, try to notice any feeling of peace or calm, and carry it with you, tapping into that feeling whenever possible.
Then, proceed with your day. Enjoy the practice, remember that it's called "practice" for a reason, and commit to trying it every day, even if two minutes is all you've got. You always have your breath (it's with you everywhere you go!), so you've always got what you need to meditate, it's as simple as that. There are great guided meditation apps, and there is never a good enough excuse to put off meditating any longer. Go forth, and feel the peace.