“The hardest thing you’ll do today is quiet your mind.”
We’re balancing on one leg, pulling our back leg up high, higher than our heads. We’re trying to take our foreheads to our knees; the tops of our heads to the floor. Oh, and the room is 106 degrees. Over and over again, the yoga instructor’s refrain is: “The hardest thing you’ll do today in class is quiet your mind.”
Oh, so true.
After many starts and stops, I seem to have truly and legitimately started and stuck to a meditation practice. I’ve been doing it every day for about the past month, usually in the evening, right before bed. It’s a great way to quiet my mind, and I think it’s helping me to sleep more soundly and deeply. I find I really look forward to that space of time where I can really just sit quietly and breathe.
Meditation can certainly be intimidating, because lots of us focus on doing it “perfectly.” We think that unless we can totally clear our minds, and keep them clear for an extended period of time, then we aren’t doing it right. So, why even try?
I’ve discovered that meditation can be many different things, and even I don’t approach it the same way every time. Here are the many different faces it’s taken on for me:
1. Guided meditation: This is a great way for beginners to try it out, and for experienced folks to try something new. I use the Omvana app on my iPhone; there are many different podcasts and thousands of other recordings out there you can use for this purpose. I do my best to focus only on the words being spoken.
2. Affirmations: Sometimes I will pick a topic I want to focus on – a feeling I want to cultivate, a goal I’m seeking, a spiritual or emotional change I want to make – then concentrate on that topic for a specified period of time, usually about 10-15 minutes. (I use binaural sounds or white noise as a background with this.) It might be focusing on overcoming a fear, saying kind and loving things to myself, cultivating a sense of gratitude and peace, and so on. When my mind starts to drift I just gently bring it back to the affirmation I’m using that day.
3. The vision exercise: Remember my previous post about building the life you want through belief? This goes to that end. I’ll think of what it would look like and feel like if I became everything I wanted to be, and if all of my desires were fulfilled. A few years back, many people became devotees of “The Secret,” and I’ll admit that I scoffed at the notion … seemed like a bunch of hocus-pocus, just another spiritual fad perpetuated by Oprah, a woman who seemed to already have everything she could ever want. But now I’m thinking the tenets of that actually do work, if you truly believe it deeply enough, and, beyond everything, truly feel worthy of it. It all begins with the deep belief that you are worthy of getting the things you want, and capable of achieving them.
4. The quiet mind: I meet with a meditation group regularly, and this is the approach I most often take in that setting. (I do this in yoga as well.) I try my best to be absolutely present in the situation, to concentrate on how the chair feels below me, the sounds of the room around me, the temperature of the air, and so on. It’s hard for me to hold onto that mental silence for an extended period of time, so I will often bring a simple affirmation into it in order to refocus myself.
There are many ways to think about “what meditation is” and its benefits. Some say that prayer is asking God for things, and meditation is listening for the answer. Some say it’s a way to manifest beliefs and to improve concentration. Some say it’s simply a means of growing more peaceful and serene. Whatever you’d like to get from it, I hope you’ll try it out. Like everything else, it gets better with practice!
I wish you all a peaceful, present, quiet mind.