I have heard many people say that they can’t meditate. One belief is that meditation is finding an altered, peaceful state, where we can escape from our anxiety and negative thoughts. Meditation is not this. Rather it is an opportunity to take a pause…
There is no right or wrong way of meditating. You don’t have to find 30 minutes or an hour to practice each day. Even five minutes each day can be helpful. If you can carve out more time, great, but the important thing is starting, and practicing regularly so that it becomes a healthy and helpful habit.
Meditation is NOT about stopping your thoughts. Rather, it is a practice that allows you to step out of the relentless, babbling stream of endless thoughts, and to place one foot on the bank. It allows you to find some perspective and clarity as you take a step away, even for a few moments, from being rushed along by the non-stop stream of thoughts that we constantly experience.
Even the most experienced meditators do not stop the thinking. The practice is to recognise when thoughts occur, acknowledge and label it “Thinking”, and re-focus on the breath and the present moment.
I have found this way of meditating helpful: (with thanks to Peter Goodman)
First, sit on a chair, ankles crossed, chin slightly lowered, and eyes lowered – not closed – and focused a little way ahead of you. Relax your shoulders, your mouth and your eyebrows! Adapt your sitting position to suit you, and don’t get hung up on having to sit without moving whilst you start your practice.
1. Focus on your breath. Just as it is. Notice it. Don’t feel the need to change it. Take deep breaths if you need. Breathe out through your nose or mouth, whatever works for you.
2. Notice your bum on your chair. This connects you and helps you recognise you are in your body in this current moment.
3. Listen, without thinking, to the sounds around you. Follow the noise of traffic. Hear the ticking of the clock, the footsteps going past your cubicle, the telephone buzzing in the distance.
As thoughts occur (which they will – you are not trying to stop them, just step away from them), notice you are thinking and label it “Thinking” and return to your breath, your bum on the chair, and the sounds around you.
Practice for a minimum of 5 minutes. Try for soon after you are up in the morning, and also at anytime during the day, and/or before bed.
Journalling after meditation can be helpful.
1. Identify the anxious or recurring thoughts that you kept returning to.
2. Identify the mood you are in during this meditation practice.
3. Provide yourself with a positive mantra for the day.
I have found Pema Chodron’s, Taking the Leap, helpful in developing self-compassion and practicing meditation.
The Mindfulness Clinic, Toronto has free downloads for guided meditations: http://www.themindfulnessclinic.ca/downloads-resources/downloads/