I have learnt many things along my spiritual journey, but I can fairly say that the one which has most empowered me and the one that saved me was, and is, meditation. I have said how at many times in my life I struggled with my own inconsistency, on the one hand, and with the constant, neverending chattering of my mind, on the other.
For many years, I had dabbled in what I thought meditation was, I even used a couple of meditation apps, but I was never able to meditate. It was one of those things that I would only do if I had the time and I felt like it. And I never had the time, and when I did, and I decided to meditate, I would grow tense and frustrated that I could not switch off my mind. I don’t really know if I was expecting something else, perhaps to immediately gain an air of sanctity or instant peace.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One day, more than two years ago, I finally made the decision to do it. I didn’t really care if I meditated for an hour or ten minutes, my resolution was to simply do it EVERY day. I was feeling really bad about myself, about the fact that I didn’t seem to be able to finish anything or to stick to anything long enough (of course, this was a BIG exaggeration from my shadowy side. I have been a teacher for more than 20 years now, which means I can stick to things long enough. Even when I shouldn’t, but that is another story).
So I simply started using an app which helped me track my daily medidations and I started using the timer in the app. It allowed me to choose the length of my meditation, and whether I wanted a background sound or bells to mark the passing of the minutes. I don’t necessarily recommend an app if you don’t feel like using one, but it is certainly a good idea if you need to be alerted when the time is up. Of course, you could use an alarm clock or timer for that. However, using the background sounds allowed me to isolate myself from my neighbours from hell, who had music on blasting ALL day.
I have never been able to get into guided meditations, mainly because I get too distracted. Of course, I know what you will say: in meditation you are supposed to control and overcome your distractions. But I have realised that when I do guided meditations the words invariably send me into a whirlpool of totally unrelated thoughts. Sometimes the whole meditation has finished and I become aware of the fact that I don’t even know what the meditation was about.
On the other hand, I think that guided meditations can be very useful for some people. I have known many people who swear off meditation because they say they feel it is impossible for them to stop thinking, and they only get overly anxious. So I think a guided meditation can help some of you focus your attention on what the guide is saying, instead of your apparent inability to silence your mind. Besides, many people I know dislike meditation because they feel they are wasting their time. I think that a guided meditation can provide you with a purpose for your session while it allows you to work with yourself.
It might sound to some of you that my views on meditation seem simplistic. I think that there is always room for improvement in how we approach and realise our practice, but I also think that meditation is something that would benefit every person. And because I think this is beneficial for everybody, I also believe that each one of us should approach it in the way they see fit.
Especially at the beginning, meditation can be very difficult. It is not easy to sit alone, in silence, with only your mind for company. In my case I was desperate to make my mind SHUT UP. Sometimes I got angry, some other times I cried, because I just couldn’t stop.
Many times I thought of giving up, that it didn’t matter, that nothing would change. But for some reason I kept sitting down, I kept closing my eyes, and I kept hearing the babbling of my thoughts chasing after one another.
And it happened gradually, without even noticing. I realise now that my mind never shuts up, but there is something different. I am not listening to it anymore. It is as if I were contemplating a movie in a tv set standing behind a window. I can see it, and I can hear it (faintly), but it doesn’t move me anymore. I am contemplating it, but I am not in it anymore.
I think the beginnings of meditation have to be about patience and self-love. Yes, SELF-LOVE again. Don’t set yourself up to meditate for two hours on your first session, because that will probably not work. But if you set an achievable goal for you, say 5-10 minutes, and you see that you can do it, you will want to do more. Meditation will become more enjoyable and you’ll start feeling that you want more of it. When that happens it is time to up your practice.
Try different types of meditation, and see what works best for you. It is also useful if you do other mindfulness practice, like breathing exercises, the Morning Pages or meditation walks. Gradually you will become more aware of what your body and your spirit tell you.
It will also help you if you have an intention in mind when you start meditating. The intention I initially had, to still my mind, was a great intention. Just beware of being exceedingly strict, or cruel, with yourself. Try to show up, everyday. Then slowly, you will get better, I promise you. Only don’t give up. If you are consistent the other problems you detect in your meditation practice will sort themselves out.
You will start feeling how you can absorb the world around you with no hurries, because you will contemplate it in the same calm way that you have learnt to contemplate yourself with. When your learn to be still amidst the storms of your own heart, it will be much easier to remain still when the world rages around you.
I hope I have I have given you some pointers, if you have been thinking about trying meditation. If you already meditate, what was your experience at the beginning? What did you do to hold on to it day in, day out?
Love and blessings!