How's it going? Hope you're all having a very pleasant day and if you're not, I wonder what could be done to reframe your thoughts about it, to maybe salvage at least some part of it.
If you're at work and you just feel like telling everyone around you to "Suck it!", perhaps thinking about enjoying a nice glass of wine with dinner tonight might be the thing that changes the tone slightly and allows you to derive at least some pleasure, if only for the briefest of moments.
Ah, but drinking isn't going to solve the problem in the long run. If you find yourself in a funk for any number of reasons... You're sweating your ass off at the gym and eating like a sparrow, yet still you can't get the weight off... You find that you're constantly in a fight with your beloved, you get so angry at them that every time you open your mouth you feel like you have Tourette's because you just want to swear at them... You have to drag yourself out of bed each morning because going to work and facing all those dumb-asses that you work with is killing you slowly one day at a time... You swore that today was the day you were going to quit smoking as you light up another cigarette and you realize that you've been saying that for ten years and what's the use? And on and on and on...
What are you going to do if not turn to drink?
How about a lil Meditation? No! I did not say medication I said meditation. Ah crap who has time and who even knows how and what's meditation going to do for me anyway? I've got better things to do that sit around Om-ing all day long!
Fine! Stop reading then. I'm not going to force you!
Still here? Good. Then zip it will ya! You're interfering with my good vibe here.
I have been extremely fortunate over the years to cross paths with a number of terrific meditation teachers from various schools of thought on the subject and I really can say with all confidence that there is a style of meditation to suit every different temperament. Finding the style that suites you is a little like finding the right workout. How many of us went through a severely promiscuous fitness craze before we found The Tracy Anderson Method. Yikes. P90x was never going to be for me, but I just liked Tony Horton so much. Loved that guy.
In the same way you might absolutely love the idea of chanting Om over and over again, yet find that in reality repeating Om does not stop your crazy-pants mind from running amok and thinking about the kids' homework or the fridge that desperately needs to be cleaned or the laundry piled high behind the door or that dick at work who just gets under your skin till you don't care what prison food tastes like because at least you'll have access to a free gym and that bastard won't be there to bother you any more and.... see? Om isn't for everyone. But it might work for someone.
One of my favorite Yoga teachers, an Israeli teacher I met in the Bahamas and later studied with in Val Morin, Quebec, was named Swami Swaroopananda. I lovingly called him Swaroop for short. (never to his face of course and I certainly hope that he would never ever read this) once told me something about meditation that has always stuck with me. (I will paraphrase because it was 6 years ago and English was not his native tongue)
He said: Meditation, like sleep, cannot be taught. You simply fall into it and only realize that you've been doing it when it's over.
To which I thought, so what the hell am I doing here with you then if you can't teach me how to meditate. I was not the best student.
I realized later that what he was really saying is that we aren't going to sit down for meditation and suddenly reach enlightenment, the best we can hope for most days is that we can control our monkey mind (yes, we all have one, it isn't just you that wonders if you remembered to lock the car door when you came in, or realized that you went to the shop for milk and came home with a bagful of groceries and forgot the damned milk! True story. Happened this morning!). When we sit for meditation we are aiming for concentration initially. So why do we do it and where do we start?
You remember the lousy job, the ten pounds that won't budge, the annoying husband or wife? None of those things have to change for you to be able to live happily ever after. All that needs changing is your mind. How can you change your mind? It's not as simple as feeling gut wrenching despair and suddenly deciding to think cheery thoughts. Anyone who has ever suffered from depression knows this. But what you can do... is think no thoughts. You can go into neutral and that in and of itself is going to give you some relief.
Getting relief and feeling better are part of what meditation is about. So there's your answer for why do it. You do it so you can feel better. What if you don't feel bad? Why sit for meditation then? So you can connect to something bigger than you, and greater and more powerful than you. So you can tap into that infinite wisdom, love and energy and feel even better or more grounded or more stable. Some of the happiest people I know are bat-shit crazy and they need a grounding force in their life. Meditation can be that force for them.
So how do you do it?
The beauty of meditation, like the Tracy Anderson Method, is that it requires very little equipment and asks only for your time on a regular basis. There are so many ways to sit for meditation. Too many to list every one within the scope of this single post, but I'll do my best to outline a few simple guidelines.
It's a good idea for you to sit. We are working toward quieting the mind here so if you lay down, chances are that you might accidentally fall asleep. How you sit on the other hand is up to you. There is the very classic Lotus position.
But let's face it. If you've never done this, you are going to be in all kinds of pain and thinking more about that than anything else. So get comfortable. You can pile up cushions on the floor to sit, you can sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Sit in a way that is comfortable and doable and realistic for you. Be comfortable.
Something else that will help is if you create a special space for meditation. Doesn't have to be elaborate. It might be as simple as a candle on the dresser. The idea is that you have a space that is quiet, hopefully with dim lighting, in a location where you will not be disturbed. I am lucky in that both he who shall not be named and I meditate so we have an alter set up that we both use.
Create a peaceful environment. If you have a Catholic family and suddenly you set up a giant Buddha in the living room, this might ruffle some feathers and work against the peaceful vibe you were going for, know what I mean?
Then decide when the best time is going to be. Many teachers suggest first thing in the morning. Very early, almost before the rest of the world wakes up. You won't be disturbed by anyone, the phone is sure not to ring, and your mind is not yet that active. For me? So not a morning person so I spend 20 minutes hitting snooze, fighting the desire to stay in bed, the whole thing works against me and sets me up for failure. I like to do it right before bed.
It allows me to wash the day away and go to sleep thinking good thoughts (hopefully). Make it work for your lifestyle. It might be in the middle of the afternoon while your baby is napping. It doesn't matter when you do it, just that you do it and you do it daily.
The other thing that puts some people off is this idea that they have to sit for 30 minutes when they have ten billion other things that need their time too. 30 minutes might feel like too much for some of you. There is no harm in starting with ten minutes. Ten or fifteen minutes before bed, is that really asking too much? When you start sleeping better and feeling more relaxed and the world starts responding more positively to this happier you, you'll be itching to light the candle and ten minutes may not feel like enough. Adjust accordingly, there are no hard and fast rules here.
To get you started if you have never done this, I'm going to list off two or three of the more popular methods. But I would encourage you to look into it in more detail. Browse a few books, search online, watch a couple of YouTube videos, download an app. The resources at your disposal are endless.
But, if you are just beginning, I'd suggest picking one style and staying with that for a week at least, to give it a chance to work. If you chant a mantra for a minute, then gaze at the candle for a few minutes, then try watching the breath, you are simply allowing the mind to do what it does best, jump around and not stay focused.
The idea behind all of the various methods is to focus your mind. One of the first and easiest ways to do this is my engaging your senses so the mind has something to focus upon. It's pretty hard to concentrate on nothing. Arguably the most dominant sense for many of us is our sight. So lets use it for good.
This method of meditation is called Tratak. It is when you sit for meditation with your eyes open and you stare, often at a lit candle and train your mind to focus on the light. There is a fabulous description and how to here.
If you find having your eyes open to be more of a distraction than a help, another technique that is often used within Buddhist meditation is to follow the breath. Again, sit comfortably in the space you have created. Close your eyes. Get quiet and start by taking a long slow inhalation through your nose, hold it for a beat, then exhale through the nose. (there are variations on this wherein you might exhale through the mouth, or hold for longer or shorter periods of time but for our purposes here will keep it simple and breath using the nose) Do this two or three times before allowing your breathing to resume to normal and then simply notice or pay attention to the breath moving in and out. When the mind wanders and it will, gently bring it back to the breath, again and again.
If you need a little more to concentrate on than the breath, mantra meditation might be a good one for you. This is the OM we were talking about earlier. You can start out loud. As above, get sitting comfortably in your space, then gently inhale and as you exhale you can release an audible Om and hold it for the length of your exhalation. Repeat getting quieter and quieter until you are om-ing silently within you mind, using the breath as a guide.
And finally, another simple technique that can be useful is to find an external sound in the room and concentrate on that. If it's early morning on a spring day, you might hear little birds outside the window. Concentrate there. If it's a stinking hot summer night, it might be the hum of the air conditioner, dead of winter might provide you with the comforting sounds of a crackling fire, I have an app called relaxing melodies that I listen to with head phones because I live in the heart of busy city neighborhood and have a wannabe rapper living next door. The trick it to find a sound, any sound and let you mind rest upon it.
If you're still not sure, as I mentioned, there are several guided meditations available for download on your phone or computer, or that you call use on Youtube. If you try one and it doesn't work out, try something else. You wouldn't go to a buffet with hundreds of dishes on offer, taste one food and if you didn't like it leave the buffet would you? No, you'd try a few different dishes to find the one you like. Meditation is no different.
Enjoy the process of finding your way. When you finally hit upon it and do it with regularity, it will become something to look forward to and the joy you feel, when you're not looking, may very well start spilling over into other areas of your life.
Good luck, hope this helped.