Meditation is thinking about nothing
“I can’t do meditation because my mind is too busy.” Does that sound like something you could say? Trying to think about nothing is extremely hard, it goes completely against the nature of the mind.
Instead of trying to think about nothing, try training your mind to think about one thing only.
One thing that is happening now. Like your breath, for example :) Your breath is always happening now, in the present moment, so it’s a good anchor for your mind.
Close your eyes, and start focusing on the physical sensation of the breath, notice how it affects your body in subtle ways, even if you are relatively still.
Sometimes it helps to attach words to it, like “I’m breathing in… I’m breathing out…”
And every time your mind wanders and you notice it, you just go back to your breath, (ideally without cussing yourself for getting lost in your thoughts again).
You can think of it as a game, of the die-and-retry kind :D
2- To meditate, you have to sit in lotus
Posture is very important to be able to meditate. This is originally why we do asana – to prepare the body for sitting over long periods of time without getting distracted by discomfort and pain.
If when you sit cross-legged your knees are very high, chances are your back will round very quickly, your head will come forward, your ribcage will be compressed and hinder your ability to breathe freely.
Sit on a cushion to elevate your hips to the level of your knees. If this is still uncomfortable, you could have a wall behind you. If this doesn’t work for you either, you might want to lie down (but try not to fall asleep!).
Whichever posture you’re adopting, make sure it’s one you can sustain for the time you’ve set up to meditate.
3- You have to meditate for an hour for it to be worth it
It’s like thinking that it’s pointless to draw if you don’t make a masterpiece every time. Meditation is tough, it’s a practice, and it takes time and dedication to get to a point where sitting in silence for an hour doesn’t feel like torture.
Start small. Very small. Maybe 5 minutes. Set up a timer and trust the timer (ie: don’t check your phone after 3 minutes because surely it’s been 5 minutes now, it definitely feels like more, I must have set it wrong). And when you get to the point where 5 minutes feels very short, why not try 10 minutes?
4- Meditation is a passive state
I already mentioned that meditation is not thinking about nothing, and it also means that it’s a very active state. You’re not just sitting there waiting for enlightenment to come. It’s an active practice of withdrawing of the senses (pratyahara) and concentration (dharana).
When you lose this focus and get distracted by the senses, that’s when the trouble starts (“oh, I can hear my cat in the other room, I wonder what he’s doing, he’s so cute, I love him, would he be happier if he had a cat friend, maybe I should get a kitten, but what if it doesn’t work, I could never bring it back to the shelter, uh oh, I’m thinking again, ok, back to the breath”) This is an example I just completely made up and it definitely never happened to me…….
5- Meditation is a hipster/hippy/trendy thing but it’s ultimately pointless
There are a lot of claims about the benefits of meditation and it would take a much longer post to dive into all of them. The internet is full of articles that detail them, if you’re interested.
I’ll just say that there are different types of meditation (mindfulness, loving kindness, self inquiry…) that have different kind of benefits, and for me it all comes down to what you’re feeding your brain with. If you eat crap all day long, you’re not gonna be surprised if you become unhealthy and start feeling like crap. Well, it’s the same for your mind. If you stimulate your brain with stressful thoughts all day long by watching/reading the news, going on Twitter, have negative self-talk, surround yourself with negative people… How could you be anything but anxious?
Meditation is about learning to still the mind and creating distance between you and your thoughts.
It’s worth a try anyway :)