By Ruth Lera
We all know telling ourselves we should do something is useless.
It doesn’t make us feel motivated. It doesn’t make us feel self-loving and or make us want to improve our quality of life.
Telling ourselves we should do something makes us feel like we aren’t enough the way we are now and suggests that if we just did a little more or became a little of something else we might be better.
But we don’t need to get better. We are perfect just as we are.
Constantly giving energy to the “I should be’s” in our minds is simply a way to feel worse. However, there are new behaviours worth cultivating and changes we can make to our lives that will improve the quality of our health and human experience. That is why the first step to beginning a mindfulness meditation practice is to embrace an attitude of loving friendliness to ourselves.
We can choose to develop a mindfulness meditation practice in our lives not because something is wrong with us or because our minds are crazy. Instead we bring mindfulness meditation into our lives because we love ourselves and we care about feeling good and we know that taking time out to be quiet with ourselves and work with our own minds is a great way to make our own selves happier.
We can think of it this way; through meditation we aren’t trying to get better but we do care about feeling better.
Now that we have cultivated the right attitude for our meditation practice we can make a choice to be realistic.
This is necessary because meditation is more challenging than it looks. From the outside meditation looks insanely simple. Sit down, close your eyes, breathe (which we are already always doing) and bam!—we are meditating. What is so hard about that?
Well, all it takes is trying meditation for a few minutes to know that meditating feels a lot different on the inside then it looks from the outside. The moment we are alone with ourselves we are bombarded with thoughts, images, memories, plans, pressures, physical discomfort, emotional discomfort and anything else we can think of.
And pretty quickly we often feel like we would rather be anywhere else then with ourselves, sitting still, trying to meditate.
I am here to tell you this is normal.
Everyone feels this way.
If trying to meditate makes you feel restless, squirrelly, confused, crazy, sleepy— anything but focused and peaceful, then know you are in good company.
We all feel this way.
This is not a sign that you are failing—actually it is the complete opposite. This is a sign that you are on the right track.
Meditation is an opportunity to bring all the nuttiness in our consciousness up to the surface of our awareness and then make a choice to turn away from it.
Okay, now that we know everything we are going to experience in meditation is normal and we know that we can work with anything that arises in our conscious awareness when meditating because we love ourselves and that we aren’t meditating because we should meditate, but that we are meditating because we care about ourselves, we can start the actual practice.
At first meditation practices can be short.
Five minutes is great.
10 minutes is lovely.
30 minutes might be too long at first.
Don’t push it. Meditation isn’t about getting anywhere. It is just about spending time with ourselves and learning how to work with our own mind and take control over our lives by learning how to steer our attention.
Find a comfortable sitting position. Crossed legged on a meditation pillow is nice, if it is comfortable, but sitting on a chair with our feet flat on the floor is just as good. The couch is a little too soft for good focus, though.
Then we can set a timer for our chosen time, close our eyes and begin by taking a moment to settle in.
It seems so silly to rush to meditate.
We can settle in by just noticing our body. Our body is always in the present moment. We can begin by just remembering that the past is over and the future is an illusion and we can feel our body against the floor or the chair and take a few breaths.
And when we feel ready, we can bring our attention to the breath at the nostrils. We aren’t trying to change the breath in any way. We are just noticing the breath exactly as it is.
So we sit, and notice the breath, and then suddenly we find we are thinking about something.
And this is when we often think we have failed at meditation.
But I am here to say that when we notice we are thinking instead of having our attention at the breath this is the moment of success. Yay!
This is the moment we are mindful. We have become aware of where our attention is. This is the entire purpose of the mindfulness meditation practice.
This is when we can make a choice.
So we notice that we are thinking about something and then we lovingly steer our attention away from that thought and back to the breath at the nostrils. And this is the entire practice—noticing where our attention is and lovingly steering it back to the breath.
It may seem tedious, but it just takes a little persistence, a lot of compassion and a sprinkle of discipline and through multiple short practices we will start to see a difference in the way we perceive the world.
This isn’t something we can read about. It isn’t something we can listen to teachers talk about. In the end it is just something we need to do.
Not because we should, but because we want to.
Here is a guided 5 minute meditation practice to help you get started:
Ruth Lera is the friend you turn to when your world has gone all topsy-turvy. Not because she tells you it’s all going to be alright but because she reassures you that not being alright is just part of the whole process of being human. And she might even give you some ideas about how to feel better, too. Find her at her website, her Facebook page or Twitter.
Photo: peaceful dumpling
Editor: Dana Gornall