A wise man once told me, “meditation is the practice of observing that which is.” This could be anything from walking to driving to cleaning to traditional meditation practice. That wise man is both a colleague and student at The Yoga Loft, a man named Wayne Porterfield. A year and a half ago, through the talented and grounding teaching of colleague and student Rolynda Simpson and Wayne I finally began to learn about meditation in a meaningful way: one that was embodied through both learning teachings, and the consistent practice of those teachings. But perhaps the most important teaching for anyone starting a meditation practice is this: start where you are.
I don’t have to tell you that meditation practice is a good thing. It took five seconds to search the internet and find one of thousands of studies on meditation. Of all places, a Detroit chemical plant implemented a meditation program and after three years posted the following results:
- Absenteeism fell by 85%
- Productivity rose 120%
- Injuries dropped 70%
- Profits increased 520%
I am sure that these employees’ days were not necessarily better, or realistically less frustrating. What I imagined began to happen, overall, is that their capacity increased. Their capacity to pause, to breathe, to see situations from a broader perspective, to see beauty, and to actually see each other, were increased.
We know it is good for us, like good sleep, drinking water, and eating a balanced diet but why are these things so hard to actually do with consistency?
I believe many of us subscribe to the all or nothing line of thought – “Carbs are the root of all evil; cut them out.” Or,”I haven’t done any exercise this winter and I feel like a slug. I will sign up for a half marathon next month.” We set ourselves up with unrealistic goals because we think should do it.
After re-reading that last sentence I thought to myself, “Maybe meditation is just one more of those things we feel we should add to our endless list of things to do.” But I suspect if you are reading this, it is because you are interested and want to dive in, but how?
Start where you are.
How do we create consistency and sustainability?
- Start small.
Tread lightly. Maybe one minute is where you start and every week you add one minute to your total time spent daily. Mindfulness is like building your muscles at the gym. The effects are cumulative and as we cultivate our attention, it grows!
- “Practice is its own reward.”
I had a teacher that used this phrase. There is no expectation that things will be good, bad or otherwise. There is no such thing as a bad meditation. We have to put in the time, like it’s our first time. Be curious.
- Create space and time.
Maybe there is a space in your home that is bright or cocoon-like. Perhaps you sit in a chair. I sit on three stacked cushions. Maybe you get up five minutes early. Or perhaps sit before sleep. Maybe you sit in your car for one minute before or after work and just listen to what your body is telling you. Choose a space and a realistic amount of time for one week and see how it goes. Have your eyes open or closed. Create a space and a position in your body in which you can find ease and alertness.
- Find community.
There is no replacement for meditating in a real, live community, but this can be incredibly intimidating for people, among many other reasons. If there is a meditation group near you, perhaps you try it out, maybe with a friend. I have enjoyed a virtual community on my meditation app “Insight Timer.” Every morning I thank Tito, a grandfather from the Phillipines, for meditating with me. It is a delight.
So how do we direct our attention? The beauty of mindfulness practice is the simplicity. Simple doesn’t mean easy. Our mind will find any way to escape what it perceives to be boredom or discomfort. Here are 3 techniques that you can use to begin your journey.
- “Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.”
These phrases come from a Buddhist Monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. Let these phrases follow your breath rather than be the leader. If they feel longer than your breath, or too wordy, shorten them to their essence “Breathing in. Breathing out.” or “In. Out.”
- Counting the Breath.
I like this one as it can feel like a bit of a game. But be good-natured or it could become a frustrating game. All you do is count one to three, repeatedly, and count the number at the end of the exhale. If you become distracted by an external force or thought, you start at one again. You may count one repeatedly. And then remember the part about there being no bad meditation.
Even more simply, you could follow the raw sensation of the breath or the sounds around you. If something comes up, when you notice it, label it. If it is thinking, in your mind’s eye state, “Just thinking.” Or more specifically: “Just hungry.” “Just money.” “Just worry.” “Just desire.” The label acknowledges it. The “Just” connotes its current insignificance in relation to your practice.
These are some current thoughts on mindfulness meditation and are by no means the only way. Please feel free to tweak any of the above techniques to suit your needs or email me to ask questions.
One of the best ways to connect, ground, and find peace of mind is to be outside. Come and join me next week for a mindfulness walk in Kenna Cartwright Park. You can register at www.youryogaloft.com.
~ Tania is currently working full time as a rehab assistant which is a vast world in which she is now a Jill-of-all-trades. This including teaching yoga therapeutically to those with chronic-pain and trauma. She is currently focusing her studies in the realm of Trauma Informed Practice and infusing this lens into her teaching and therapeutic work. Tania teaches three classes at the studio: restorative yoga, foundations, and prenatal yoga. Watch for upcoming workshops, mindfulness hikes, and blog posts. You can contact her at https://www.facebook.com/GroundedandSound/ and firstname.lastname@example.org.