A few friends of mine have expressed their interest in meditation but can’t seem to get past some excuses. Whenever I hear why they haven’t meditated, I begin to see that they don’t understand what meditation actually is. I’m not saying everyone has to do this. I just think that if you know what actually goes on, you may rethink your reasoning.
Reason #1: “I can’t stop my thoughts.”
Great observation. Correct too. You can’t stop your thoughts. So it’s a good thing meditation isn’t about stopping the voice in your head. It’s about taking some time to notice what the perpetual torrent of thoughts that’s bulldozing through your head is comprised of. Is it good stuff? Bad Stuff? Are we rewinding the film back to that heated/alcohol-infused conversation and saying what you should have said? Maybe this isn’t the best use of our mental energy?
When you sit down to meditate you aren’t stopping your thoughts. You’re noticing focusing on your breath. Then when you realize you have been distracted by your thoughts, you focus on your breath again.
Reason #2: “I don’t have time.”
When we’re busy, it seems that we’re using every second of the day for productivity. As Tony Robbins says “If you don’t have 10 minutes for yourself, you don’t have a life.” Wake up a little earlier and meditate in the morning. The 10–15 minutes you lose in sleep will be dwarfed by the benefits. You’ll be less rushed and get more done throughout your day. I recommend doing a little stretching first to wake yourself up.
Also, you don’t need to spend 30 minutes a day with an instructor to get results. I started with 1 minute for 2 weeks. Then I did 3 minutes. Then 5.
Reason #3: “I’m too stressed.”
You’re too stressed to meditate? I’m having a similar issue. I’m too unhealthy to exercise. I’m too stupid to learn. See the flaw in logic? If you’re stressed, then meditation is perfect you. After only 5 minutes of meditation for a couple weeks, your relationship to stress can completely change. Sitting down and watching your breath for 5 minutes each day has a bunch of nice little byproducts.
You walk into a movie theater. Pictures that are playing on the screen catch your eye so you walk right up to the huge screen. There are fight scenes so you feel the aggression from those scenes. The sex scenes make you feel aroused. You feel anger when the character you grew attached to is treated unfairly.
At some point you look behind you and there’s a guy in one of the theater seats. He was also watching the same scenes you were. He didn’t feel aggression. He didn’t feel aroused. He didn’t feel anger. He was meditating.
During meditation you are sitting in awareness. You get to sit in the theatre seats and watch what’s happing but not get caught up. Sometimes you’ll notice that you’re back near the screen feeling and thinking a bunch of stuff. That’s okay. Walk back to your seat. When you realized you’re thinking, is a cause for celebration not frustration. You noticed. Good on you.
You’re sitting in a lawn chair on the side of the freeway (like a true hick). Cars are driving by and you watch them as they do. At some point you feel the need to direct traffic. Also, yellow cars aren’t supposed to be on this freeway! And that van with the broken window? You’ve seen that van before. And it is your duty to have a 25-minute scripted conversation with the owner because you have wisdom to impart, and that your opinion is GOD’S LAW. WHY ELSE WOULD I BELIEVE ME IF I WASN’T 100% CORRECT?!?!?!
Hmm. Maybe we should go sit back in that lawn chair? Watch the cars cruise by? If it’s that important to yell at the guy in the van, I’m sure he’ll show up again.
In the end, meditation isn’t about not thinking or being aware for 10 minutes straight. It’s about sitting down (or standing up), and trying to notice what is going on around you.
For beginners, I recommend using Headspace or the 10% Happier app(which is better for you hard to convince folks out there). My routine is to do it every morning for 10 minutes. If you find it especially difficult to begin, start with one minute every morning. This is how I began.
Photo by Tina Leggio