Building community in a changing world

April 24, 2020

Meditation Might Not Be What You Think

Since it’s early on in this blog, I thought I would devote one entry to the basics of meditation because there is so much misinformation about what it is – and isn’t. As noted in this article, a lot of people are trying meditation for the first time during this crisis to help relieve anxiety.

I first tried to meditate nearly 30 years. I had heard that if I meditated daily for five years or so, that I would eventually “lock in” and have a clear mind. Poppycock! I meditated for about a month and gave up. Frustrated that my “monkey mind” kept reappearing as I sat still in the morning. Resigned to never being that guru huddled in the cave in the hills. That bad information cost me two decades of missing out on the best part of my day.

Luckily, many now know that you can meditate all day, every day, and that monkey mind will never leave you. It’s a part of who you are. In fact, monkey mind is a valuable part of who you are because it’s part of what keeps you safe. Walking around like a cave man saying to yourself “don’t die, don’t die” – or in our case, driving around thinking that.

So yes, you’ll continue to tell stories to yourself even when you’re meditating. Here’s what meditation is all about, recognizing that you’re telling yourself a story – and deciding to push that aside for a moment and spend that moment noticing your breath, noticing the sounds & silence in the room, noticing something other than the story. That story inevitably will come back around – or perhaps a new story will find its way to the surface – and you accept that and begin the process all over again. Coming back to your “anchor,” which for me is my breath.

That’s it. That is meditation.

So if that’s all there is, why meditate? It has an amazing calming effect. Physiologically, your body enters into a fantastic state of relaxation. Mentally, you can lower your line – so that you’re more aware of what’s going on in your head. We can spend our days acting out stories in our heads without realizing that we’re doing that. Simply recognizing what’s happening sets you on a path to being more self-aware. More self-compassionate. There are a myriad of “real world” benefits from meditation. More on all this in future blogs.

Two more things that often are misunderstood:

1. Time commitment can be minuscule – I spend 10 minutes meditating every morning right when I plop out of bed. Only 10 minutes. I do it early in the morning because otherwise the day slips away from me. Of course, it takes discipline to get into a routine even with this small of a commitment. To limit yourself, you can set a timer or listen to a guided meditation that lasts the length you desire. There’s a million guided meditations out there – check Internet, YouTube, Spotify, you name it. Just search with the term “guided meditations.”

2. Just sit comfortably how you want – You don’t need to sit on the floor with your legs crossed. It’s okay to have your back touching the back of a chair. In fact, you should if that makes you more comfortable. The key is to have good posture when you sit.