We all have read the benefits of a regular meditation practice. But, for many, just the idea of starting a meditation practice can bring on a lot of stress. It’s perhaps a “should” on our list of things to do, but, who really wants to make time during their busy day, to sit on a cushion (not even lying down for goodness-sakes) closing our eyes and trying to clear our busy minds. Sounds about as fun as filling out a tax form.
But, picture, if you will the following situation: You have made a commitment to a seated meditation practice of at least 10 minutes every night. You are three weeks into your commitment to meditation and already you are noticing a deep sense of calm, you don’t get rattled by the small things that used to upset you, you sleep better, you are more conscious of what you are eating, saying and doing and there is a great sense of presence in your daily life. Three months in; your relationships are better, your health improves, you have more energy (because you are sleeping better and eating more consciously), your generally happier, life just seems to be running a little more smoothly. You experience more ease of wellbeing.
If you could be guaranteed these benefits just by sitting on a cushion for 10 minutes a day, wouldn’t you consider it? You won’t sweat, risk injury or need to drive to a gym or studio. I’m not saying that 10 minutes will be a breeze. It’s not. But, it’s just 10 minutes. So, here’s the deal. Find a comfortable seated position in a quiet space. I meditate on a meditation cushion, but you can use an ordinary pillow. Set a timer (preferably something not alarming) for 10 minutes. Close your eyes. Notice. To make it easier, just start simply by noticing your breath. Notice where the breath begins in the body, notice the duration of your breath, the quality of your breath. Notice the space at the top of the breath before your exhalation. Then, notice your exhalation; the quality, duration, where you feel it in your body. Try not to change your breathing pattern, just breathe naturally. Then, start noticing the next breath. Lather, rinse, repeat.
When those sneaky little thoughts begin to arise (as they do!), just N-O-T-I-C-to the E…and bring your attention back to the breath. You will quickly realize how persistent these pesky thoughts can be. You may notice the first half of your first breath, then suddenly find yourself thinking about the new pair of shoes you saw at your favorite store, or remembering that you are out of milk, or the conversation you will have with your partner after the 10 minutes are up, etc. When you notice your thinking mind has become active, gently (without labeling or judging) bring your attention back to your breath. You may feel frustration, boredom, anxiety. Just notice these feelings as though they are small clouds drifting in a big blue sky. Try not to get attached to a thought and run with it. Just notice.
“So, what does all this noticing do for me?” One may ask. The regular practice of this type of meditation will begin to naturally create space between you and your thoughts, you and your emotions. So, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, or a good friend moves out of town, or something just doesn’t go your way, you will be able to just notice your thoughts and let them go without getting caught up in the anger, sadness, etc. This simple act of creating space between you and your thoughts does wonders for your health, your stress level, your relationships, your happiness and your energy level. You will develop a greater awareness for your body, which will help when perhaps your mind tells you at 10 PM at night, “Hey, how about a snack?” You are less likely to act on the thought if you have created a little space between the thought and the action. You also will more likely tune into when your body needs more sleep, rest, exercise, and good, healthy food. I personally, would not like to see what my personality, my health, my relationships would be like without my regular practice of meditation. In fact, when I’m feeling a “little out of balance” (to sugar-coat it), the first thing my family does is to point me in the direction of my yoga mat or meditation cushion.
There are many ways to practice meditation, but if you’re feeling it, start simple. Make a commitment to yourself for a little time devoted to mental spring cleaning and honor it.
To learn more about the benefits of yoga and meditation, contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jennifer will hold a one day yoga and meditation retreat on Sunday, 29 May 2011. Please contact her for more details.