It’s easy to tell ourselves that we enjoy meditating, or that we understand the benefits of it, and it’s also easy to get off to a flying start with an intention to meditate every day and then sputter into a landing field of hit or miss efforts. When we first begin meditating, it can seem like an idea that came from “out there”—a seminar, a book, a friend who suggests it and makes it sound like something not to be missed.
Then we give it a try. We close our eyes, listen to a guided image meditation audio, or try to still our thoughts. And we can’t seem to get those squirrels in our head to settle down: they keep bouncing around, reminding us of chores to be done, urgent tasks, errands to do, things to tell someone who said something irritating last night. All those distractions! Who could possibly meditate! So we grimace to ourselves and guiltily get up, deciding to make a fresh start in the morning and do it right.
But…the days keep going and sometimes we meditate for a few minutes, but always the interruptions take precedence over our goal to discover inner peace.
Maybe you’ve had this experience, or you know friends who have—and you could share this blog with them.
David Michie is one of my favorite authors. In his book, “Mindfulness Is Better Than Chocolate: A Practical Guide to Enhanced Focus and Lasting Happiness in a World of Distractions,” he says:
““Ah, but I don’t have time,” people sometimes say. If that thought just crossed your mind, here’s a question: if, by meditating regularly, you knew that at the end of a three-month period you’d receive a massive multimillion-dollar prize, would you somehow be able to find ten minutes each day? So how much is it really about time versus willingness?”
I think that’s the key to unlocking our regular meditation practice: finding a way to want it. Want it for you, not for the people who’ve told you to do it. Want it for your own personal reasons. Want it enough to keep on practicing, and forgive yourself for the mind chatter. Understand it’s called “practice” –and give yourself a break! All too often, we watch someone who is an expert at a task, skill or ability that we want to enjoy for ourselves. Perhaps you enjoy cooking and you watch food shows featuring professional chefs who are at the top of their game. You have a choice in the watching: learn and enjoy practicing what they do until you get better at it yourself, or watch in envy and tell yourself you’ll never be that good.
It’s often said of people who want to play the piano that what they really want is to bypass the lessons and practice stage and immediately sit at the keyboard to play like a virtuoso.
Are you doing that with meditation? Imagining you’ll never be very good at it, so why bother? Everyone starts in the same way, with a decision to feel more calm, more peace, more thought control.
And when we take up the practice with the idea of simply enjoying the journey inward, then it’s a whole lot more fun, and we can treat ourselves with gentle amusement when we realize we meant to count our breaths to the count of three exhalations, and we suddenly said silently, on an outbreath, “And 21!”
My feeling is that when I can see meditation as an integral part of my life instead of something I’m trying to glue on to my outsides so I can say that I meditate daily and not feel like a hypocrite or outsider in the personal development field, then I can create a happy practice. With that attitude, it becomes easier to release resistance to the chattering thoughts – what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind” – and let those thoughts drift past while my breathing becomes slow, deep and evenly spaced.
Ten minutes a day—can you spare that for inner peace?