I hear almost daily ‘I really should meditate but….’ which is then usually followed with some excuse either to do with ‘too busy’ or ‘I just can’t get my mind to switch off’. I get it, meditation has often been associated with having this cloak of mythical mystery wrapped around it that has only be figured out by either monks that have dedicated their lives to practising it or hippies that might have ‘lost their mind’ with it in some way.
Anyone can meditate though, it’s just that we haven’t fully evolved in how we approach/conduct it to suit our western modern world. Therefore, I thought I’d take the opportunity to give you some simple steps to help you meditate even when you think you can’t.
One of the first things I do when I am teaching someone new to meditate is overcome a few of the usual stereotypical roadblocks they generally have coming into the practice. The most common one is that they think meditation is about getting to a point where you’re not thinking. Firstly, you can not ‘not think’. The brain is a thinking machine and if you turn it off, you die. Just like if you were to turn off any other major organ of the body. Like the heart for example, you’re not going to be around for much longer. Therefore, when starting out, I like to sometimes suggest approaching meditation like a game. Have fun with observing/directing your thinking instead of trying to stop thinking. With this shift in approach those that have a ‘busy’ mind often become great meditators.
Another preconceived idea when it comes to meditation is that you need to sit like a pretzel (more appropriately known as the lotus position). This was one I bought into when I first started too and would find myself struggling to stay focused because it felt like either my knees were about to break or my lower back was about to give way. If you do yoga every day and are quite flexible, then you might find this position comfortable (and this is actually why the position is so often associated with meditation, because the original teachers would practice yoga daily and this would be a great position to ‘lock’ there bodies into so their mind could concentrate). However, if you’re like me and are about as flexible as an ironing board, I would recommend a sitting position where you simply feel comfortable. For me, this is just sitting in a chair with my feet flat on the ground, shoulders relaxed and hands resting in my lap. The only posture recommendation I do give is to activate your core (pull your belly button in) and have a nice straight spine. This is so your telling your body that is still an exercise, not time to sleep which it will often think it’s time for if you don’t do this.
Imagery via: Elena Kalis
There’s a lot of different variations of meditation however they can all be rolled up into a single summary. Which is ‘concentration on a single subject/process in the present moment.’The subject or process is where the variation comes in. This could be the cycle of your breath, a mantra, a sound or even focusing on a particular part of your body. This is why the type of guided meditation I teach through the online platform I founded, Soul Alive, I let people discover themselves what their own strongest sense is and how they can connect with it. As we all process information differently, some of us are more prone to learn and process things visually rather than auditory. Experiencing different types of meditation to find that ‘thing’ that resonates with you the most is a worthwhile step.
Another roadblock I experienced on my meditation journey was that I thought for me to become more advanced in meditating I needed to try more advanced types of meditation. This at first makes complete sense as that’s how we progress to develop any other skill. With meditation though, it is not in how many different types of meditation you can master that makes you a more experienced meditator, but in the depth of your practice. Once you find a method that works for you and you enjoy, stick with it. I often have vastly different experiences from day to day doing the very same mediation process. Just when you feel like you got the hang of it and want to try another type. I would encourage you to do the same meditation again and try and go a little deeper with it. This realisation was huge for me in taking my meditation to the next level.
Now everything I’ve suggested above, forget about it. That’s right, let it all go. This was another big realisation for me. The expectation of what I was wanting meditation to do for me was also the biggest block in it doing its magic.It was the moment where I almost gave it up as I thought it wasn’t delivering on what I wanted it to do for me, was when I really kicked in. I thought I’d give it a go one more time with this type of ‘carefree’ approach and it took me to a place of peace I’ll never forget.
This was also a bigger lesson learnt in life in general. That once you let go of expectations, life opens up to become this blissful state of joy for the present moment. So my last recommended step to meditating, even if you think you can’t is to just simply let go and enjoy the process. Relax and surrender to it and I can assure you that it will deliver more for you then the original expectation you wanted it to do for you.
This article was written by Luke McLeod, founder of the first live streamed meditation service soulalive.com.au