Meditating every day has been on my 'things I'm going to achieve' list for a good number of
years, but I could never quite form the habit long enough to make it stick. Maybe it's an age thing, maybe it's that I have a 'things I'm going to achieve' list that's longer than there are hours in the week, or maybe I just wasn't ready for it. Who really knows. But as of the beginning of August, I've been meditating consistently.
What is meditation?
In a practical sense, (we'll get to a philosophical sense in a bit) it's the quieting of the mind. I've read quite a bit over the years that you should stop all thought when you meditate, but that is just about impossible. If you've ever tried to not think, 7 million more thoughts than usual flood your brain, looking to solve all kinds of unsolvable questions. Meditation is about training the mind to focus on either a sound, your breath, or a mantra, long enough that you can halt the normal brain chatter that is usual.
To what extent depends on the person, but for me and many others it's about achieving a vibrational harmony with satisfaction. Being at one with the universe, man. It all sounds a bit hippy, doesn't it? But if you remove the visions of long haired, San Fran flower power, and think about how amazing it feels to be satisfied with life, to feel that you and everything around you is enough, what could be better?
Happiness is all about perspective. What one person may find intolerable, may seem like luxury to another. Being satisfied is about finding the vibration that moves your perspective to one of enough-ness, and Meditation is what can help with that.
Knock on effect
The knock on effect of training the mind in such a way is that you gain control of your thoughts and therefore emotions. Where you once may have flown off the handle in incandescent rage, the possible newly found perspective that meditation brings can lessen
or even eliminate that kind of reaction. You may also find that you can concentrate better on other tasks in life. We all have a tendency to take on far too much these days and have 10 things all going on at once. Anyone who has worked in an office environment, with colleagues constantly asking questions, emails constantly being received, all peppered with morning tea's and birthday cakes, knows that concentrating on the task at hand can be quite difficult. A calm and focused mind, simply works more efficiently.
But all this takes practice
Just like any other skill in life, focusing the mind takes practice. For most people, you don't immediately disappear in a puff of enlightened smoke, after 5 minutes of meditating. It takes weeks, months and even years of practice to train the mind not to wonder.....too much. Our brains are simply amazing. What would we do without them? Well, nothing. So they've got a lot going on up there. And for a lot of people, there is a lot of 'stuff' swirling round associated with the past, present and future. And that's difficult to put down for a while. But by consistently practicing, and by not beating yourself up for letting the mind wonder off on to the arm length to-do list, it does get easier.
So, a lot of the more 'hardcore' meditation proponents will say you have to be cross legged, rod-straight back with your head slightly bowed etc etc etc. But for most of us, especially when you sit at a desk all day, trying to sit with your legs crossed for any longer than 2 minutes, feels like trying to get the tin man so do yoga. So I opt myself for some good back support, sitting up in my bed with my legs stretched out, eyes closed and my hands comfortably in my lap. I love my bed so it's a really lovely space for me and I think that is important. If you're sitting at the kitchen table, with a stack of dishes in the sink and the washing machine going, it's not going to be a good energy space. So choosing somewhere comfortable and energetically cozy makes a difference.
Now, I've tried counting breaths, and listening to guided meditations, but I tend to either forget what number I was on, or count too far. Or get distracted or jump at the sound of a voice coming in on a guided meditation. So, I've found the best for me is a white noise app. There are lots of apps out there with constant noises on them and my preferred one is of an air filter. I set the timer for 20 minutes with my headphones on, and try to focus on the sound for as long as I can, without my mind wondering off to the next email I need to send, or errand I have to run.
After near 2 months of consistent meditation, I would say that my ability to focus for longer
periods on the sound has got a little bit better. But the real improvement is that life is just that little bit easier. I often see the question bandied around mediation forums that, "does all hell break lose when you start to meditate?" and I'd have to say that, yes it does. Things start to move in life, which is sometimes difficult to take. But trusting that life is going in the right direction (there's that perspective stuff again), usually results in things sorting themselves out. It's so easy to get caught up in the negative side of things. But 99.9% of clouds, do tend to have a silver lining somewhere along their edges.
So, what I have found is that I am more focused. And 100% more motivated. I am by nature an absolute master of procrastination. It's a skill I've perfected over the years, which my partner finds hilarious because despite feeling that way, he thinks I've achieved far too much for my 40 something years on this planet. But despite his opinion, I can put off any number of important tasks for weeks on end, without even a hint of guilt. But since meditating consistently, I've actually found I no longer want to procrastinate and I find I relish the prospect of getting something done. It's a strange feeling for me and I'm still coming to terms with it, but it feels good, so I'm going with it.
Danger - side effects
Apart from the added motivation, I've been experiencing longer periods of happiness.
Things don't bother me like they did before. Worry is less. I'm going with the flow....man.
(the hippies are back) It sounds like a cliche, but it really is (for me) true. In my opinion, if the side effect is feeling better about life, being motivated and calmer and enjoying the process of life unfolding in front of me, the only question is, why didn't I start it sooner? Which inclines me to think that I wasn't ready before.
How long should I meditate?
A friend of mind did a Yoga and Meditation week long course, with a very famous guru in such things. Part of each day was meditating for an hour. This friend said that the things that came into their mind were extraordinary, and frankly a little disturbing. So, I'm going to say that an hour isn't a good place to start.
I started out with 15 minutes and I'm now at 20 minutes. The extra 5 minutes really only because it takes me a minute or two to settle down...scratch my nose. Wiggle my back. And focus down. That's what works for me. And it's long enough to have enough periods of focus and not too long that it feels like a chore.
When I meditate, I know I've got into the zone when my body starts to rock. It's an involuntary feeling and trying to stop it feels uncomfortable so I let it do what it wants to do, without resisting it. Others have said they get twitches or feelings of whirling around. Everyone is different.
So that's meditation for me. I love it and I look forward to it every day. It's a habit now and a habit I intend to keep going.
I'd love to hear about your experiences with meditation. Do you get any sensations when you're in the 'zone'? Send me a comment.