How to meditate when you think you can't
by Maya Maymon (Brosnan) on Mar 14, 2023
#meditation, now trending. It's something so many of us are either giving a go or would like to get into. Meditation is the perfect antidote for our hectic, stressful, fast paced lives. The benefits of meditation are numerous, from reducing blood pressure, to relieving anxiety, reducing stress and improving your cardiovascular health to improving our ability to focus, increasing our happiness levels and even improving our relationships with our partners, children and work colleagues. But how the heck are we meant to get our busy, hectic minds to completely stop? Is that even possible?
You are not that special
Through years of practicing and teaching yoga and meditation, I find myself having many similar conversations with individuals who are convinced they cannot meditate. So many people believe their minds are way too busy to completely stop and be still. They all claim they have so many thoughts, plans, stresses, emotions, schedules, deadlines, fears, traumas, concerns (the list goes on) to deal with, there is absolutely no room in their minds for stillness. What I say to them in response is 'you are not that special'.
Let me explain.
Our minds are amazing machines which are designed to, you guessed it, think! Living in this fast paced society, in a state of constant high focus, they do have plenty of information to process each and every minute of each and every day. So yes, our minds can be busier than a 2 year old toddler. Just like a young child, they are constantly on the go. They think, process, analyse. And quite often, and in this hectic world, over think, over process and over analyse. They rarely take a break.
Just like keeping a toddler busy with a colouring in book, blocks or Lego to play with when you take them to a doctor's appointment (as we try to keep them entertained and distracted so they don't break anything!), we need to also give our mind something to focus on, a distraction when we meditate, so the mind can rest. Through different meditation practices we use distractions or anchors such as breath, sound or touch, just to give a few examples, to tame our internal toddler, find peace and bring more calmness to our minds and bodies.
The mind is not designed to be completely silent.
The sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we can get on with our meditation practice, without expecting for the mind to go completely blank. It is natural for us to have thoughts and to process emotions. The practice of meditation teaches us to not get entangled in those thoughts or emotions, as we learn to create more space between each and every bit of mind content. Like anything, the more we practice, the better we become at it. The spaces between our thoughts will, overtime, continue to grow as we continue to grow our meditation practice.
Is Oming the only way?
Many of us associate meditating with sitting crossed legged chanting or listening to guided meditation or relaxing music. What most of us don't realise is the fact that meditation doesn't always come in this form. The good news is, there are many types of meditations we can explore. One size doesn't necessarily fit all, and we generally find that one or maybe a couple of types of practice will resonate with our bodies more as we naturally become more drawn towards those. It's a matter of trial and error. Try a few, stick with the ones which are most suitable for you.
Here are some examples of meditation practices which are different to the ones mentioned above and can be practiced alone or in a group:
- Breath awareness - connecting with each and every breath we take. Following each inhale, exhale, and the space between each breath as the breath travels through different parts of the body.
- Breath counting - counting the breath backwards from the number 27, for example. Once we finish one cycle, we start again.
- Yoga Nidra - a form of tantric meditation also known as deep, restorative yogic sleep. It takes us through progressive body relaxation followed by visualization.
- Walking meditation - walking slowly, bringing awareness to each and every step we take, start to finish, alongside our breath.
- Japa (beads) - using a mala or meditation beads, we use our thumb and middle finger moving from one bead to the next, then to the next, as we softly chant a sacred mantra (synchronised with our finger movement and bead selecting).
- Listening to sacred mantras - playing sacred mantras as we go about our daily chores can put us in a meditative state as these sacred sounds, according to the yogis, resonate with our spirit, bringing peace to our minds and purity into our hearts.
- Tibetan Sound Healing meditation - tuning into the sounds created by Tibetan singing bowls, we rest our minds in the healing sounds of the bowls.
- Kirtan (mantra chanting to music) - chanting sacred mantras, resting our minds in our mantras, we purify our spirit as we dissolve mind impurities.
- Mindfulness - a simple practice of being aware and mindful of each and every sound, smell, sight, action around us, without judgement and mind entanglement.