If you already have a solid meditation practice – Rock on! If you want to create a practice but haven’t been able to get started – READ on!
Here are the three things that tripped me up most when trying to create this valuable habit & how I overcame them:
- I was under the misconception that in order to “meditate” I needed to “clear my mind”
I am Type-A, self-diagnosed with more-than-a-touch of OCD, and I am most comfortable in fast paced environments – which makes me impatient.For me, I am fairly certain that “clearing my mind” is not something that is going to happen. Ever.
Setting a goal to ‘clear my mind’ was setting me up for failure.
But I thought that was how the whole meditating thing worked…?
So I failed at it, avoided it, and ultimately chalked it up as something better suited for a different kind of person – probably someone who surfs more and showers less than I do.
What I have now learned is that ‘clearing my mind’ is not the aim of mediation (not for me anyway).
At first I would sit in meditation and it wasn’t much different than sitting, well, not-in-meditation. My thoughts would come rapidly, my mind would wander, and nothing special seemed to be happening. (More on this ‘nothing special’-ness in point #2) As I have become more consistent in my practice I find that meditating doesn’t stop me from having thoughts but instead allows me to notice them.
I visualize this as if my thoughts were attached to clouds by a clothes pin. Each cloud passing through with its own individual clothes-pinned thought in tow. Once the thought comes into focus I have the choice to keep it hovering and explore it in more detail or to give it a gentle push and send it floating on its way. I mentally thank the non-productive thought-cloud for stopping by and ask it to please continue on its journey. No room for you here right now, negative thought. Peace out.
I have learned how to better distinguish my thoughts – both during meditation and in the ‘real world’. Once you can distinguish what something is you dramatically increase the control you have over it.
I am a firm believer that there are only two things that impact the way we experience life: our thoughts and our habits. This habit (meditating) offers me more control over my thoughts and, therefore, my LIFE.
I had to take the important step of changing my expectation to gain that control. Expecting to clear my thoughts would never have gotten me here. Expecting instead to notice my thoughts = game changer.
- I thought something was supposed to “happen”
The first time you exercise you do not instantly transform into perfect health.
The first time you make a positive change in a financial habit you are not instantly wealthy.
Why do we expect that the first time we meditate we’ll feel instantly zen? Or expect something to “happen”?
Sure it’s possible to feel more relaxed right away just like it’s possible to feel stronger after your first session back to the gym, but neither scenarios guarantee the corresponding sensation, and if you do feel something immediately that feeling is just the tip of the iceberg.
The game changing key for me here was to just stick with it. The commitment was critical.
I started with a 40 day commitment and all I required of myself was to just ‘show up’. Just show up and try every day for 40 days. Do not judge. Do not try to be perfect. Do not look for the “something” to “happen”.
My favorite quote on commitment and consistency is from Darren Hardy’s book “The Compound Effect”. In this particular paragraph Darren is expanding on a quote by Jim Rohn. I love this and I repeat it to myself often:
“What’s simple to do is also simple not to do. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in the doing of simple things repeatedly and long enough to ignite the miracle of the Compound Effect. So, beware of neglecting the simple things that make the big things in your life possible. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. Remember that; it will come in handy many times throughout life when faced with a difficult, tedious, or tough choice.”
This framework can (and should) be applied to basically everything in life and it was important for me to take this to my meditation pillow. I had to learn that the magic will “happen” if you keep showing up.
- I was pretty sure I didn’t have “time” to meditate
I have a standard-to-extensive morning ‘getting ready’ routine for a 30 something girl who likes hair and makeup. I have never once in my adult life had an experience of getting ready ‘too quickly’. I’ve never looked at my watch and thought – I’ll just sit on the couch for a few minutes and watch ___ (whatever adults watch – news? Not my cup of tea anyway but, you know.)
My point is it’s not like premeditation me was strategizing how to fill all of her extra time in the morning! I had a window of time in the morning and my morning routine filled that window exactly. Believe it or not there’s actually a term for this: Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that a task will expand so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Parkinson’s Law is part of the reason that nobody feels like they “have time” for anything, but it’s simply not true.
We have time for what we prioritize. We have time for what’s important to us.
This one is tricky with meditation because for us to bother to ‘make time’ (as if it’s something we manufacture) for it we have to believe it’s important.
Marianne Williamson frequently relates meditation to bathing. We bathe every morning because we find it unacceptable/inappropriate to go into a new day with yesterdays ‘dirt’ on our bodies. Once we realize the power and benefit or meditation we realize it’s equally unacceptable/inappropriate to go into a new day with yesterdays ‘dirt’ on our minds.
You wouldn’t forego showering or brushing your teeth in the morning and justify it by telling yourself you don’t have time. You’d take the task into consideration when planning your morning. You’d wake up at a time that would to allow you to get it all done.
I had (have) time. So do you.
If you’re looking to start a meditation practice (and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do!) try keeping these three points in mind:
- You do not have to ‘clear your mind’
- It’s working even if you don’t “feel” anything the first (or second, or third) time
- Commit to a time frame and stick to it
- Be easy with yourself – just commit to ‘showing up’ and let the rest flow naturally
- You have the time (as long as it’s important to you)
I have had many girlfriends tell me “Oh yeah, meditation, I’ve tried it a few times and it’s never worked.” My answer? “I could say the same thing about dating but it’s not going to stop me from trying again” 😉
PEACE, LOVE & MEDITATIVE MORNINGS