It's a modern-day whine favored by those committed to growth and wellness, who really, really, do not want to sit still: "Do I reeealllly have to meditate?"
One of those whiners is a close friend, and after years of her telling me what to eat -- fish oil, fish oil, fish oil -- and how to strengthen my core -- planks, planks, planks (she's a nutrition coach and trainer) -- I felt like bossing her around a little, so I'll tell you what I told her when she asked.
"Yep. You ought to meditate."
Course you don't haaavve to. Nobody has to do anything. But as a half-crazed, super Type A working mom, I believe in the practice. It makes a difference in my life and I think meditation can help us all to feel better and healthier.
Meditate to Ease Stress
Not because you'll become some blissful and enlightened soul -- though some say that can happen. And, not because meditation will take away the challenge or ache of life. It won't. Life still feels pretty icky sometimes.
But meditation will help you release the drama and the worry, and help you move through the day a little easier.
It dulls the sharp edges a bit and helps me to become more aware, focused, and calm. It's like a mental massage in the middle of our stressed-out busy lives.
Yet, despite the stacks of research that says meditation is a good thing, the idea of it? Well, that makes us nervous. Really nervous. And there are myths surrounding the practice -- like you've got to sit cross-legged or go all Eat, Pray, Love and head to India to learn how to do it right.
Here's the thing, I can't sit cross-legged. And those other myths? Simply not true.
Too Many Rules. There is a perception out there that meditation has all these rules to follow. I got caught up in this idea in the beginning. I had no idea how to meditate. No clue on what I was supposed to accomplish, which rules to follow. That left me feeling a little uptight an anxious during the sessions which were supposed to be, well, anything but uptight and anxious. I spent most of those early sessions -- when I wasn't falling asleep -- wondering if I meditating right.
Sure there are a few basics you probably want to follow -- get quiet, become aware of your thoughts. And there are different styles and techniques you can learn when you get into it. But there isn't a lot you have to do.
You do not have to sit on the floor cross-legged and chanting. You do not have to meditate for an hour. You don't even have to fly to India to make this work. You don't need special shoes or clothes, unless of course you want a new pair of shoes then, you could say that you have to buy meditation shoes and they, coincidentally look exactly like the ones you've been eyeing in Nordstrom's.
Here's the biggie, you don't even have to be still. I prefer to meditate while sitting quietly, but tai-chi and walking are great forms of moving meditation. Point is, you can create a flexible practice.
Try this: Set the timer for five minutes. Sit down in a comfortable chair or position. Sit still. Breathe. I don't even care how you breathe, just keep doing it. Close your eyes if you want -- or don't. Chant or say a mantra if you want -- or don't. You see? The act of meditating doesn't have to be complicated.
Sit down. Sit still. Sit quiet.
Not Enough Time. Did you read the part where I say set the timer for five minutes? You got five minutes right? To change your life? When I first started meditating I read that anything less than an hour wouldn't be effective. Hogwash.
If you want to spend an hour meditating -- awesome. I've done it. And, in my rich fantasy life I imagine I'll do it again -- one day. For now, I'm lucky if I get 10 minutes without someone banging on the door.
Telling a new meditator that she has to sit quietly for an hour is like telling me that to lose weight I can never eat another piece of pizza. That is just not gonna happen.
Try this: Baby steps, people. Five minutes, a few days a week. Then, add to that if you want. The practice does become easier as time goes on.
Remember, some time is better than no time. Write it into your schedule. Set a timer and get to it. Notice whatever comes to mind. You will not be graded on how well you perform.
Too much to do. Here's another thing that bothers us about meditation: It doesn't feel like we are doing anything when we meditate. I mean we are not typing, not paying bills, not working or folding laundry. We are "not doing" during meditation. And many of us are taught early on that in order to contribute, in order to be successful and worthy and awesome, we have to be doing, working, producing, moving. Therefore, when we sit alone in the quiet it feels, er, lazy.
Try this: You really want to get stuff done? Head into the day with a clear mind, lower stress, and boost energy? A regular meditation practice can get you there.
Meditation can also teach us how to just be. It shows us who we are and helps us to live authentically and compassionately, mindfully and purposefully, rather than just running around frantically doing things.
Meditation doesn't have to be one more thing that stresses you out. By busting these myths and blocks you can create a simple practice that will add calm and focus to your life.