Have you ever tried to sit and meditate only to find no matter how hard you worked at it, you just couldn’t silence your mind? Well you’re not alone, I faced the same issues every time I would attempt to meditate. Just as I got settled into a quiet mental space, I would immediately fall out of it by thinking about the silence. Increasing my resolve and effort, I would strive to find the elusive state of radio silence within my skull-sized world, only to fail repeatedly. My challenges grew as I struggled to hold the traditional cross-legged posture, while reverently chanting OM through an overly extended exhale. Eventually, my frustration outweighed my resolve. I became convinced I was incapable of meditating, so I gave it up altogether.
In reflecting over the years since I stopped ‘trying’ to meditate, I have come to realize I have been meditating all along. Meditation happens in many more ways than I originally thought. Every time we pause to consider, contemplate, muse, reflect, ruminate or deliberate over something, we are meditating. It’s a natural occurrence requiring little effort. Meditation occurs from a choice to focus our attention on a single object, thought, sensation, idea or image. The key is to focus our attention on what we are experiencing, without thinking about or analyzing what’s happening. This conscious attentiveness, creates the space for a meditative state.
Here are a few simple techniques that have been valuable tools in helping me mend my relationship with meditation and find greater levels of peace, harmony and balance.
Just focus on the breath. I know this sounds like what all the meditation books and experts are already saying but it is a simple technique that works. Paying attention to our breath is not hard work, especially if we do it with curiosity.
As I breathe in, I pay attention to the sensation of the air entering my nose and vibrating against my nasal passages. I notice my lungs expanding, causing my chest to rise and my abdomen to inflate. The same thing goes with the exhale. I become aware of the physical sensations as I release the air through my mouth. I sense my chest slowly deflating while my abdomen falls back to a relaxed position. I simply put my attention on the different sensations created from the miracle of breathing. If I find myself thinking, I acknowledge the thought and then choose to bring my focus back to what I am physically sensing from my breathing. This technique can be done for a few breaths while stuck in traffic, waiting at the check-out line or sitting at a desk.
Pay attention to what you see, smell, taste and hear around you. Our senses are always communicating valuable information to us about our surroundings. By focusing our attention on what we are experiencing from any one of our senses, we can learn to silence our mind as well as improve our awareness skills.
For sight, I find something to focus on and simply look at the object without engaging my mind. I impartially observe the object as if I have never seen it before. I take in it’s shape, form, design, texture and colour, without trying to define it or name it.
For sound, I may choose the monotone ticking of a clock, a piece of ambient music or sometimes I go outside and listen to the sounds of nature. The important thing is to stay present with the sound without thinking or processing. My focus of attention is to be present with the sound as I experience the feelings the sound elicits in me. Doing this with the other senses of smell, touch and taste is equally effective.
Meditation doesn’t have to be hard, time consuming work, requiring us to carve out precious moments from our already busy lives. Even if we only do it for a few seconds, we will soon find ourselves accessing a greater sense of tranquillity and peace no matter what’s going on around us. It’s an effective tool to help reduce stress, worry, anxiety and lack of focus, while improving our relationships, creativity and overall health.
There are countless ways to meditate anywhere and anytime during our day. We are only limited by our imagination. Dare to be the curious explorer, experimenting and discovering whatever works best.