You know how you’re mind spins and works all day, regardless of what you are doing? You know how you say that you should try meditating but, rarely follow through? What I’ve found is there are two major obstacles that stop people from adopting a meditation practice. The first is that they don’t know what they will get. Just like any purchase, people want to know what value they are getting for their time. This is a difficult question to answer because if you’ve never experienced the benefits of meditation then words like “presence” and “the Now” won’t mean much to you. One of the realities of meditation is that it takes a significant amount of work just to get to the “starting line”. This means that there is a high likelihood that you will remain fully immersed in 100% thought until, well, you’re not. When you reach the point of which you are only in the Now, this will start to make more sense and you will begin to see the value of a mindfulness practice. The second barrier to meditation is the “How To”. This is not taught in most schools, most homes, or anywhere for that matter. Yet, it is so insanely simple that even a small child can understand. Here is my 4-Step Guide to Meditating.
Step 1 - Get Comfortable
This one should be fairly easy since you do this every day. The difference is that, this time, you want to get “really comfortable”. Try to relax every single muscle of your body, piece by piece. Check in with your toes and then move up all the way up into your face muscles and jaw. You may not even realize that you are holding tension somewhere in your body until you begin to scan through it. Don’t worry so much about how to sit in the beginning. Maybe you want to sit with your back against the couch, maybe you prefer cross-legged on a cushion or maybe you feel better laying down. There is no wrong or right way to adjust yourself so just listen to what your body wants.
Step 2 – Breathe
Once you feel your body is relaxed and comfortable, begin with a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. As your breath slows to its natural rhythm, cover it with your attention as it flows down into your lungs, expanding your chest, and then gently out through your mouth as you feel your whole body relax even deeper. It may be helpful to try a few breathing exercises such as square breathing or alternate nostril breathing to keep your mind occupied. Remember, your mind is like a small child. If it doesn’t have a task, sometimes it will run around and do all kinds of weird stuff.
Step 3 - Be Aware
This is one of the most obvious practices of meditation yet, the most difficult. The goal is to essentially be aware of anything that arises within your experience in each given moment. What this will often look like is a focus on either the breath, sounds, bodily sensations or thoughts. What you may quickly realize is that you are pulled away from your focus by short stories and movies within your head. Sometimes they are relevant and sometimes they are completely random. However, if you find yourself lost in thought, do your best to see if you can slow down and capture their image or flavor the moment they enter into your awareness. When you start to become aware that you are not this body, this ego, this “self”, you are no longer bound by the petty wants and needs of it. Of course, it seems almost impossible to stay here forever and those things you have to do to stay alive and well are not going to go away but, this experience of “one taste” or “presence” will certainly give a warm, welcome, respite and fresh perspective to the continual babble of anxiety, fear, and obliviousness that is currently running the show.
Step 4 – Return
As is the way with achieving anything that is difficult, don’t give up and return to your work every chance that you have. Every return to your consciousness is like a spiritual push-up or sit-up. You will undoubtedly get sidetracked, lost, disoriented, bored, fatigued, and uninterested. This is all valuable information to notice, too. What is it that happens you when you sit still? What does bored, fatigued, or lost feel like? Where do you go when you’re not here? What do you think about? Amidst all the breath and body work, you will also receive revelations on what really goes on within your mind. This is part of the fun! And then next time you get distracted by that to-do list, that thing you should have done, or that tornado of nonsense, gently return again…and again…and again. You are here. You are now. You are meditating.