THE MOMENT IS NOW TO BE WITH THE MOMENT
Raise your hands if you've heard of mindfulness? [All the hands in the virtual classroom go up]. Raise your hands if you've read an article about the benefits of mindfulness? [75% of hands go up again]. Now raise your hand if you've meditated once in the last week? [10% of hands go up]. There is a disconnect here.
As a society we have never been more crystal clear on the benefits of mindfulness. We know what it is, we understand how beneficial it is, and yet, many don't practice mindfulness on a regular basis. Certainly, seated meditation is just one way to practice, albeit the most trusted and true form of doing so. Many are able to cultivate their practice by practicing mindful eating, being mindful of their word choice, taking a mindful walk, or the truest test of mindfulness: everyday life. Not enough of us in the general public take the time to sit and be with our thoughts on a regular basis, focusing on our breath. I'm here to help you change that, today!
So, let's start with building the habit of meditating daily. You're bought in, you know the science, you want in! You just can't find the time, headspace, location or have the patience to “just sit there.” I understand. Building new habits is difficult. “Just sitting there” is simple, but can certainly be difficult. We are a “doing” culture. We pride ourselves on efficiency, productivity, and “getting shit done.” I get that. However, it is important to look at meditation as the sharpening of your most vital tool – your mind – so that everything you do after is better, more efficient, and less stress producing. By dropping into the “being” mode of meditation (we are human beings, after all), we are allowing our mind to process information, get what it needs on a deep level, and regenerate so that we are able to attack our To-Do list more effectively.
To build a habit, I turn to James Clear, author of the best seller Atomic Habits. Clear shares some keys to building a new habit:
- Make it incredibly small
- Increase your habit in small increments
- If you miss a day, come back to it right away
- Stick with a pace you can maintain
Of course, this can relate to any new habit you want to take on. In terms of meditation, you don't have to sit for long. Start with 5 minutes per day! Even that can be very difficult for those of us in the ‘go-go-go' mentality. But sit. Set a 5-minute timer and, if helpful, pull up a YouTube page with some ambient nature sounds (there are hundreds).
Then, increase your meditation time by a minute per week. 1st week: 5 minutes, 2nd week: 6 minutes, 3rd week: 7 minutes, etc. If you feel you can make a jump that's a bit bigger, give it a shot! But don't jump from 5 minutes to 10 minutes right away. That could throw you off and make you feel you're not “meditating well.” As if!
Next, missing a day. There will come a day where your intention is there but you just don't get around to your seated meditation. Don't judge yourself! As a matter of fact, non-judgment is part and parcel of regular mindfulness practice. However, DO get back on the cushion the very next day. Tell yourself at the outset you won't miss two days in a row!
Lastly, stick with a pace you can maintain. If you add a minute per week, after 10 weeks you'll be up to 15 minutes per day. If that feels like a good place to stay, don't add more time at that point. Stick with your daily 15 minutes of seated meditation for an extended stretch if that feels good to you. Remember: meditation isn't to be judged as “good” or “bad.” Like the thoughts that pervade our minds when we're seated meditating, meditation simply is.
Now, before you hit the ground sitting, I want to debunk a few myths about meditation that sometimes come across as hurdles for well-intentioned folks.
- In order to meditate I'll need to be able to clear my mind of thoughts.
This is not accurate. Meditation is not about clearing your mind of thoughts, nor would it be possible if it were! The mind will constantly have thoughts distracting it while we are meditating. The key is not to empty your mind but to EXPAND it. Recognizing the thought once it has appeared, and allowing it to pass, is fundamental to meditation.
2. Meditation is spiritual or not part of my religion.
Meditation and religion are not one in the same. Many organized religions have meditation built into them but modern meditation has no official tie to any particular religion. This can be a wholly secular act of attempting to re-wire your brain for enhanced performance.
3. Meditation takes a long time to get good at.
Again, your meditation practice is never good or bad, it simply is. Any moments spent taking time to sit and observe your breath, recognizing thoughts without judgment and letting them pass along is beneficial to you. While a great many benefits do come from meditating over time, you can feel more relaxed, more at peace, and sharper after a single seated session!
So, don't delay! Today is a great day to sit and be. Be with your breath, watching it as it swings in on the inhale and out on the exhale, like a door slowly swinging open and closed. Now is the moment to be with the moment. Will you try?