I first “meditated” about 7 years ago.
I was in my 20s, just beginning life as an “adult,” and my life was a chaotic haze of stress, anxiety and cheap beer. My life was not going the way I thought it ought to, and my mental and physical health were suffering for it. Several people who cared about me recommended that I try meditation as a way of dealing with the overwhelming stress and anxiety that life was causing me.
Now, I didn’t really know what it meant to “meditate,” so, I just sat on the floor, closed my eyes, and tried deep diaphragmatic breathing, like the kind I knew about from some yoga instruction. I tried to concentrate on a focal point- like the space between my eyebrows, or my belly button.
I would feel occasional moments where I felt I “got there-” but most of the time, my mind just wouldn’t stop wandering. I couldn’t maintain the singular focus that I thought I needed to reach that magical state of “bliss.”
I ended up frustrated- I just wasn’t sure if I was “doing it right.” I thought meditation was about getting in some sort of blissful “zone,” but even when that did happen for me, it still didn’t have any real effect on the troubling life obstacles that I hoped to overcome. I felt good for a moment, but things didn’t really change once I went back to “reality.”
But here’s the thing- the concept of “bliss” is a complicated one, and though it has a very real role in the meditative process, there’s no direct line to some perpetual state of bliss. What I did discover, though, which helped me greatly, was the concept of “non-judgmental awareness.”
Let’s say you’ve really made a commitment to meditation. You know you can set aside just 5 minutes a day to start, at 6 pm when you get home from work.
You’ve got a nice chair with a cushion that’s just comfortable enough, or maybe you have yourself in the Qi Gong Horse Stance, nice and centered, with your feet grounding you and your eyes soft focused in the middle distance.
You’re ready to get “in the zone.” Then, out of the blue, you remember how you have a report due on Monday, and you’re only a third of the way in. Then, you start thinking about those misspelled memes Uncle Bud has been posting on Facebook… and is your right knee aching?
The floodgates of past embarrassments, stray feelings of indignation and physical discomfort are about to open wide. It’s OK! No need to panic- these thoughts and feelings are neither good nor bad. They simply are. With Non-Judgmental Awareness, you can identify and adjust for these thoughts and feelings.
Take these thoughts, and gently label them for what they are. Thoughts of that upcoming report? Label that with something like “work stress.” The Meme-Rage, you might call “Indignation.” Let them go with a simple phrase like, “Not Now,” or “Please Cancel.” It’s best to say these phrases aloud, but it works to say them in your head until you’re comfortable, you know…talking to yourself. Just be firm, but gentle and don’t judge yourself. For your knees, adjust your posture to alleviate the discomfort. Then, just keep going.
Meditation isn’t some magical, inaccessible thing. Anyone can do it, but it is a process. In fact, it is a journey that is its own reward. And like any journey, it begins with small steps. I hope what I’ve shared today can help you move forward with a few small steps of your own.