When I was a kid we took a few summer road trips with us three kids packed in the back seat. This was the time before cell phones and tablets, so it didn’t take long for one of us to grow bored. One of the ways we’d pass the time and maintain our intesest was to play the staring game. You may recall the one I mean, where you look into each other’s eyes and the first one to blink loses. The game was half concentration, half glutton-for-punishment to see who could hang in the longest.
That game kind of reminds me of my meditation practice. It’s a deliberate practice of staying present but it isn’t always easy or even immediately rewarding. Whenever the topic of meditation comes up in conversation with others, some of the common objections I hear are:
I can’t sit still that long
I don’t have time
I can’t stop thinking
I get too restless
I get too bored
Mindfulness and meditation get a lot of attention these days. While the intention may be well meaning, the media hype promises us bliss and overwhelms us with options—different techniques, methods, and apps all at our ready disposal. The mystery of meditation can be revealed, and I want to help you find some simple practices to add this amazing tool into your daily routine.
At a basic level, meditation is about creating conscious and deliberate focus. If you think about it, we apply focus everyday—driving, working, talking together, searching the web. Mindful meditation is simply focusing on one thing, on purpose and in the present moment.
The lasting benefits of meditation include:
Clarity of mind
Responding thoughtfully rather than reacting
Improved health and wellness
With continued and consistent practice, the benefits of meditation will come. It all boils down to creating a winnable game of it for yourself.
Meditation in the Moment
There is a way through the overwhelm of meditation advice and protocols flooding our world. The important word in the phrase “meditation practice” is practice. Practice is the ladder we climb to mastery and the best place to start is exactly where you are now. There is no rule
As an experiment, I once kept track of every minute of my waking day for about 5 days. I learned that, while I have a demanding schedule, I also have pockets of time throughout the course of an average day. You don’t have to do the same experiment to notice that your day has little windows of opportunity—a minute here, 10 minutes there—to practice mindfulness. Meditation gladly welcomes practice in any dose or measure throughout the day. Inviting mindfulness into the momentary pauses in the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day is a wonderful way to begin your meditation practice.
Sometimes, I meditate while standing in line at the store or while seated in a waiting room before an appointment. I skip the magazines and put down my phone and bring awareness to my surroundings, an image I carry in my mind, or an object I carry with me.
• In line at the checkout? Focus on how your body feels standing in line.
• Preparing a meal? Focus the feel of tools in your hands, the color and texture of your ingredients.
• Reaching for your phone to check social media? Set your timer for 60 seconds (or more) and focus on your breath, an object, an image or a positive thought.
Just Do it
The absolute goal for a meditation practice is: just do it. I encourage you to release the expectation of a perfect practice because that expectation alone can get in the way of your steady progress. It’s not a race, it’s not a competition. It’s just about showing up one moment at a time. It’s so easy to find reasons to move around doing the practice, but just showing up and seeing what the mind will do, and observing just that, is a beautiful practice. One way to encourage practice is to tie your meditation practice to something you already do.
After morning coffee, do meditation for whatever time you have
At the end of the day before you get into bed
Before or after a regular meal
Even a moment in the car before you head into work
If The Shoe Fits
Meditation doesn’t have to be done in any particular pose. A good guideline for meditation posture is finding one that feels relaxed and resilient, and that can vary too. Here are some possible body positions for meditating:
Sitting in your favorite chair
Standing in a natural position
Lying on the floor or a bed
Walking a path in the park
Washing the dishes
Playing scales on the piano
Fixing your favorite food
Yes, you can be in almost any position to meditate (except while driving or operating heavy machinery). The key is to be comfortable while still able to pay conscious attention. Whatever method or time or posture you may choose, I hope you will find some quiet space in your routine to help yourself connect and grow.