I just can’t meditate” is something I used to say. Since becoming a yoga teacher it seems that is not an uncommon belief amongst the beginners or those unfamiliar with the practice of meditation that I encounter.
For many years the closest I could come to what seemed to be a meditative state was hiking through the woods along the Bruce Trail on the Niagara escarpment. But was that meditation?
I have come to believe that yes, that is absolutely meditation. As humans we sometimes have a tendency to like to complicate things more than they need to be.
Quick-after you read this sentence take a full deep breath in, hold for a pause then slowly exhale completely.
Congratulations! You just meditated.
Maybe not for long, but so what-you did do it. As you practice you can learn to focus your awareness even longer.
What I have learned about meditation
-It is a practice. You wouldn’t put on a pair of skates for the first time and expect to excel as a hockey player. Meditation is the same. The more you do it, the better you become. However, it does take practice.
-To me, meditation means quieting the mind, coming into an awareness of the here and now. It means stopping the thoughts about the past and the future and just being present. Perhaps we are focusing on our breath. Perhaps we are focusing on something such as gratitude or love. Perhaps we are using a mantra to help focus our attention. Perhaps we are completely immersed in the present moment and the sights, sounds, smells around us.
It is for this reason I would say that my days hiking in the woods aware only of the birdsong, the smell of damp earth, the way the sunlight filtered through the canopy of trees was absolutely a type of meditation. My mind was completely focused on that distinct moment in time. I wasn’t worried about what I would be cooking for dinner later, or an argument I may have had with someone earlier.
How I learned to meditate
Through my yoga teacher training we worked on meditation modules. This helped me separate fact from fiction on what meditation really is. No, you don’t need to sit in complete silence for over an hour to be meditating. (Good thing-as that is not me)
Perhaps the weekend in mid October focused completely on meditation during the teacher training was the seed that was planted for me. Seeds however need care-they need water and sunlight to grow.
Despite enjoying all I had learned I suspect I still made excuses in my head in the days and weeks following the training “I get it in theory-but I’m not really sure where to begin” “I don’t have time” “I’m too busy to sit still”
That summer I had purchased my first fitness tracker, a Bellabeat. One of the features that made me choose this option was it came with a variety of guided meditations. Eventually, scanning through the meditations available on the Bellabeat I was thrilled to see there was one that was 1 minute in length. It’s easy to tell ourselves we don’t have 10 minutes to meditate, but come on-we just can’t tell ourselves that we don’t have 1 minute.
So I started. One minute was pretty easy. I bet I could do 3 or even 5. Soon 10 minutes was no problem. I enjoyed scrolling through the different topics offered and picked one that suited my mood for the day. Eventually though, I wanted something more.
While there is lots of great apps out there and everybody has their favourite there are several things I like about Insight Timer
- It is a free app to download and most of it’s content is free
- There is over 14,000 free guided meditations, talks, courses and music tracks
- You can search to find a meditation on a certain topic or theme (for example-anxiety, motivation, kid’s sleep)
- You can also search based on the length of time you want for your meditation from 0-5 minutes to 30+ minutes
- The app has an option to track your progress and gives you little ‘rewards’ as you reach milestones (it may be silly but this is a motivator for me)
- There is a timer app for those who prefer a silent meditation with bells to signal timing
- You can choose to engage with some of the other almost 6 million people who use the app. You can join groups such as Beginner’s Mind, Daily Gratitude or Poetry and Meditation. Depending on your privacy settings you can get messages from others such as ‘thank you for meditating with me today’ you can also send these message to others. It’s a little thing, but I like seeing these messages come in from around the globe. I also like sending out a little message of kindness to others.
Slowly my meditation practice has developed and grown. I still get distracted during meditations. I still sometimes make excuses and may find a week or two has passed since I last took the time to meditate. I will never be perfect in my meditation. However, I have found that when I do take a little time each day for some meditation I truly feel healthier-body, mind and spirit. I find greater contentment as I move through my days when meditation is a tiny part of the routine.
Perhaps you will give a minute or two of meditation a try. Remember to be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself and that it is a journey.
Photo by Fabian Reitmeier from Pexels