We’ve all been told that meditation works, we’ve heard about the vast benefits from scientists, neuro-scientists, and new age gurus. You’ve probably read and heard a fair deal about it from me, right here on this blog!
But does knowing that it works make it easier to adopt a regular practice?
We’re in the age of instant gratification, where we can multitask with 10 tabs open at once, Zoom a work meeting, scroll mindlessly through social media, and browse an online store all while choosing our next Netflix binge-fest. All of these have serious implications for our attention spans, our ability to daydream, and our motivation to meditate.
If the promise of happiness comes in the form of millions of apps, online streaming platforms, and ordering online, why the hell would we dedicate our time to quieting our minds? A dopamine high comes much more easily at the click of a button, right?
This is something I think about a lot, and I believe the question we need to ask ourselves is this:
What kind of experience of life do you want to have?
We know we are more than our human bodies. We know we are having a soul experience during our lifetime on Earth. Don’t you want to tap into that innate power within? The power that defines your very existence? I’m not saying you can’t enjoy all the modern gadgets and devices of our world, but guess what’s been around for a lot longer than the Internet? Meditation has been part of human life for millennia for a reason. It’s a skill that anyone can have, and that is an incredible gift.
Practicing daily meditation is like learning and honing any new skill. I’ll admit that it can be very easy to get frustrated, lose patience, and give up. It’s the same as committing to going for a morning run, gym class, or learning a new language or instrument. It’s just like developing a creative practice that you return to again and again.
You’re not alone in your frustration. And it doesn’t mean that just because you enjoy it, you’ll keep doing it. Sometimes it can feel like work. Another chore to fit in, a task to cross off of your to-do list. If you feel like that, STOP. Don’t give up, but don’t carry on dragging around the guilt that you haven’t meditated that day or in a week or whatever it is.
Consider the following suggestions to help you stick to meditation instead of waving the white flag on it forever.
Find another Focus
Meditation is about focus and being present. If you haven’t meditated in a while and you’re feeling bad about it, try switching up meditation for another activity that requires focus. Make the decision to turn off your phone for just 5 minutes. Just simply sit and listen to the sounds you hear around you. Maybe it’s the sound of the wind in the trees or maybe it’s your neighbors shouting, traffic noise, or a cement mixer. It could be annoying or it could be beautiful, just listen to it all the same. Don’t do anything else other than sit and listen to what you hear. For 5 whole minutes. See how it feels to be undistracted in this way and notice any changes in the mind that come from this practice.
Use Sense Stimulation
You can use your senses to ground yourself into the present moment. Think about taking a walk outside in nature, having a warm bath with essential oils or detoxifying salts, or getting a massage. You can even use therapeutic touch through self-massage with warm essential oils. Choosing to stimulate your senses is a really nice way to bring you into the moment. Just a few minutes each day will bring your body and mind into a synchronistic state, which is one of the end results of a great meditation session.
Become Absorbed In a Task
Cooking, gardening, painting, or even cleaning are great present-moment grounding tasks that can take our attention away from our troubles and give us the same quality of focus found in meditation. Choose your favorite pastime and set aside half an hour to get really absorbed and engaged in it. If you are gardening, perhaps you repot some plants or prune some flowers. If you want to bake something, give it all your attention, bring yourself into the reality of the moment as you measure the flour and stir in the sugar. This kind of concentrated focus can be a shortcut to a meditative state of mind, one that is more centered and aware.
If all of the above fails, stop for a minute, and breathe deeply. Feel the oxygen filling your lungs and leaving your body in a steady rhythm. Keep your mind there for as long as it feels possible.
Once you do these little tasks more often, you might find that the next time you sit down to meditate, it feels a little easier. You’ll remember how you were able to focus on those sounds, or that gardening task or how your walk-in nature made you feel connected to the Universe.
Meditation practice is not about struggling to achieve anything, it is nothing more than a state of present moment awareness.
We tend to think that our minds are so loud and full of chatter that we do not know how to silence them. Why not think of it this way instead? They are already quiet.
Our minds are inherently quiet, we create and bring the noise ourselves. And that’s just fine, nobody except maybe some truly Zen master can quiet their minds all the time.
Life is about noise and emotions, it’s about being moved by different experiences like ripples on a pond in a breeze. Meditation is not about stopping those ripples, but it is about learning that that’s what they are. They do not have to be all we see. There is something on the other side of them.
A quiet power that we can understand lives within us all the time.
Trying these meditation alternatives can teach you to find the essence of what makes meditation so beneficial throughout your day in other ways. You’ll be able to experience the amazing benefits that come with just a few moments of focus each day.