One of my new year’s resolutions is to meditate every day. This is a habit that I know has a very beneficial effect on me, yet it’s one I always find myself postponing until it just doesn’t happen. I think this has partly to do with my perfectionism: when I do it, I want to meditate long and get it right. So I set myself a rigorous (to my untrained and sometimes lazy mind) schedule: do meditation for 30 minutes two times a day.
But when the time comes, I inwardly balk at having to sit down and confront my feelings. I’d rather do anything else. Yet when I do sit down and take the time to notice how I’m feeling, I instantly feel better, less lonely and more loved. It’s a proof to myself that I’m worthy of my own attention, care and love and that’s something very powerful and transforming.
So in order to be able to keep up my meditation practice, I’m experimenting with ways to make it more appealing and less like a chore. This requires first letting go of my perfectionism and instead to listen to what feels right for me.
This is what I’ve come up with so far:
1) Know why you are doing this. Make a list of your reasons for taking this time for yourself. Describe how you feel afterwards. Read inspiring articles such as this one to motivate you. (etc.)
2) Make sure you are comfortable. Choose a cosy spot, perhaps light a candle, make a cup of tea beforehand or take your favourite flowers with you. If your legs start hurting, pause, choose a different position or simply lie down.
3) Write down things that feel really urgent to your mind.
It’s the surest way of giving yourself some peace and quiet. If you just try to (as I have done many times) ‘let it go’ and focus on your breathing again, your mind will indignantly slap you around the head and remind you constantly why this very thought needs to be addressed RIGHT NOW or you’ll forget. Write it down so you know you’ll remember.
4) Start small. Sitting still with yourself and relinquishing all defences between you and your thoughts and feelings is one of the bravest things you will ever do. Don’t expect to endure it for long in the beginning or your mind will start to associate meditation with torture and run for the hills. Start small and carve out 10 to 15 minutes. If you manage to focus even a few seconds on your breathing and the present moment, give yourself a pat on the back. Then return to your breathing whenever you get distracted.
5) Be gentle with yourself. Most of us are not trained at all to be present with ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up if you get distracted by your thoughts (which will inevitably happen). Instead, thank your mind for coming up with valuable insights and working so diligently for you, even in your downtime. Like I said before, write down the things that seem important to remember and then focus on your breathing again and how you are feeling right now. When you get distracted, gently bring yourself back by saying ‘thinking, my friend‘ or ‘thinking, sweetheart‘ so you realise what happened. (This is an idea I got from the great buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön.)
I hope this was helpful. Happy meditating. :)