I hear this ALL the time!
“I just don’t know how to meditate.”
“I find it really hard to think of nothing…”
“I don’t like sitting still…I get bored and distracted.”
“I haven’t got time to meditate!”
Stop overthinking it people!
Meditation doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. And it definitely doesn’t always need to involve sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed.
There are so many different ways to meditate and not one of them is “right” or “wrong”. As long as you are feeling the benefits from it, then it has to be worthwhile right?
My first introduction to meditation was when I started going to Yoga classes when I was at University.
At the end of the class the teacher would have us lie down on our mats (what I now know to be Shavasana)…
…and she simply guided us through some lovely slow breaths before leaving us to simply listen to some gentle, relaxing music for a few minutes.
It was heavenly!
That was a few (a lot!) of years ago now, but it really sparked something within me. I instantly fell in love with the calmness that those few moments on the mat brought me.
So there is one myth already debunked – you don’t have to sit cross-legged to meditate!
It can be very difficult to find a comfortable seated position, especially in your early stages of mediation practice. Your legs might get sore or uncomfortable, or your back might feel awkward… All these little niggles will distract you from your mediation and distraction prevents you from getting the full relaxation and de-stressing benefits.
So, if you find it really difficult to sit down, try lying down. Just don’t get too cosy as you will probably fall asleep!
The next myth is that meditating is all about thinking of NOTHING. No wonder so many people are put off meditating if this is what they believe it to be!
It is exactly at the moment that you are told to think of “nothing” that suddenly “EVERYTHING” comes into your head! Am I right? If I was to say to you now “Think of anything in the world, except for a tree”, I bet that all you can see in your mind is a tree!
It is very very difficult to tell your mind NOT to think of something!
So, instead of trying so hard to clear the mind, an easier way to meditate can be to focus all your attention on just one thing. Even this can be challenging, but it is definitely more accessible than thinking of nothing!
My favourite thing to think of and focus on is my breath. I use this a lot when leading groups in meditation and in my Serenity program and workshops.
The breath is perfect because we always have it with us. This means we can literally meditate anywhere and at any time!
When you are just starting out, I suggest that you simply close your eyes and concentrate on your breath for as long as you can manage.
You can try to elongate the inhale for the count of 4, hold it for 2 and then exhale for the count of 4. Or whatever number you like! By keeping the inhale and the exhale the same length, you are actually helping to bring the nervous systems of your body into sync and equilibrium. In doing this, you will enjoy a lovely feeling of calm start to sweep over you. This is a great technique to use during particularly stressful moments in your day and it is the first step we focus on in the Serenity program: http://emilyclifford.com/portfolio-item/serenity/
As you get more into meditation, there is so much more that you can do with your breath, but I will save that for another post.
I read (or watched) a lovely blog from one of my own meditation teachers recently where he talks about the importance of celebrating small successes rather than dwelling on failures.
It really spoke to me so I thought I would share it with you too – https://www.skillfulmind.com.au/blog/returning-to-the-breath.html
The basic premise is that, when you are meditating on the breath, you should celebrate and congratulate yourself every time you recognise that you mind has wandered. It is in these moments that you are returning to your meditation and that you are actually mastering and developing your technique!
So don’t feel bad or annoyed with yourself for losing focus, instead celebrate that you are in-tune enough to realise that you have drifted away and gently bring your focus back to your breath.
Sometimes people tell me that they just can’t sit still long enough to mediate, or that they simply don’t have the time.
I challenge both these statements!
If you don’t enjoy sitting still, you can try walking meditation! This is when you simply concentrate intently on each step that you take. Notice how your foot lands on the ground and how your body moves as you walk… take a moment to notice everything around you using all your senses. I recorded a video on this for my Serenity program where I go into a lot more detail about how to do this. You can find it here: https://youtu.be/uW-bVxzvdO0
And for those who believe they don’t have time to meditate, I suggest that you start out with the goal of simply slowing down and breathing for just ONE minute. Don’t stress yourself trying to allocate time to do it, or scheduling it into your already packed diary. Just use your breath, and grab a minute whenever you can.
It really is that simple!
There is no need to overthink how to mediate. All you have to do is breathe!
I hope this encourages you to give mediation a go! Please feel free to get in touch if you have questions or comments… I love to hear from you!