I once overheard a mom tell her son that bringing your finger and thumb together is meditation. Apparently the school’s safe key program is trying to incorporate meditative aspects to calm the children. I wanted to explain to her that bringing your finger and thumb together is actually a mudra (hand gesture used during meditation ) and that meditation is something else, but, instead, it spilled over into this blog post.
There are many misconceptions to what meditation is. The biggest, in my opinion, and what kept me frustrated, is that meditation is stopping or quieting the thoughts in the mind. You sit, try to still these thoughts which doesn’t happen, and you walk away feeling like you failed. Sound familiar? Remember that It is the mind’s job to think. It’s what it does. So quieting it isn’t going to happen.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a one pointed focus on something. Anything, really. It could be simply feeling and focusing on the expansion of your belly as you breathe. It could be putting on some Classical music, turning out the lights and getting lost in it. Ever been so engrossed in a project or craft that hours slip by before you realize it? Yep, that is a form of meditation, too. But let’s focus (ha – focus!) on seated meditation, or “sitting,” as it is often called.
We become confused at the idea of quieting the mind when really, we are aiming to notice the thoughts as they arise, then let them the pass on without attaching to them or getting caught up in our stories. This isn’t easy, of course. The mind is good at spinning stories and we get sucked right in. Many minutes can pass before you realize you have jumped on the train of thought. The practice, then, is to notice you’ve boarded that train, and jump back off.
This is where the breath comes in and is the perfect tool in a meditation practice. We notice those thoughts, let them go, and come back to the breath, feeling either the inhale/exhale or that expansion of the belly I mentioned earlier. When we attach to thoughts again, we again let them go and come back to the breath. Simple? Yeah, right. But so worthwhile. Meditation is a key strategy for reducing stress, finding peace and ease, for coming home.
I encourage you to try this:
Find a time and place that you can sit and just be. Making a little area just for this purpose can help. Turn off the phones and distractions and just sit. (It is believed that seated is preferable to laying down for two reasons: One, you can fall asleep while lying down, and two, the alignment of the spine in the seated position acts as an energy conduit and assists in the process. I know – woo woo…) Once seated and situated, begin following the breath. Notice each inhale as it comes in, where it goes and how it feels. Notice each exhale as you let it go. When you catch yourself thinking about something, let it go and come back to following the movement of the breath. If it sounds daunting, start with 5 minutes. As it gets easier, and every day is different, add time. I now aim for 10 – 20 minutes, working on getting to 30. That depends on what’s going on and how much time I realistically can spend. Start small, add on. See what works for you. Take a couple of moments afterward to notice how you feel. You may find that it changes the entire day for you in a very positive way.
BTW, I use a great little meditation app on my phone that dings the nicest dings at the end of my time. Please note that I put my phone in
“do not disturb” so no one can bother me!
Good luck and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! OM