Life: Sometimes it’s smooth sailing, other times it’s a sh*t storm.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, life can be challenging. However, there are things we can do to make the especially difficult, excruciatingly messy, labyrinth-like times in our lives a little bit easier.
Meditation is another.
If you’ve read anything at all about health and wellness in the last year, you’ve probably heard that meditation is good for you. You’ve probably also heard that meditation improves concentration, reduces stress and anxiety, promotes better sleep, increases creativity and is an insanely useful tool for cultivating clarity and inner calm.
While we both know this (now you do too), and we certainly want all that (better sleep, less stress, inner calm, etc.), to be completely honest, our meditation practice has been a bit inconsistent. While we “try”, we’ve yet to make it a daily occurrence for longer than a few weeks.
Like most life-changing things, worthwhile endeavors, and positive health promoting habits, it takes practice, it takes patience, it takes discipline. And sometimes, it takes going at it in a totally different way. Which if you’re familiar with our work, you know we do quite often.
There are tons and tons of different types of meditation all of which are great in their own unique way and insanely beneficial. If you’re looking for a traditional approach to meditation, please go elsewhere. This is not that. This is a simplified method specifically designed for those that “can’t” meditate. It’s the method that works for us and many of our clients. We think you’ll find it useful.
How to Meditate - A meditation for those that “can’t” meditate:
1. Let go of everything you *think* you know about meditation.
First things first, let go of everything you *think* you know about meditation. This is not to say we know everything about meditation, we certainly don’t. However, the first step to establishing a working meditation practice (meaning, one that works for you), is to let go of any preconceived notions you currently have about meditation including: what it looks like, ie. you have to sit eyes closed, cross legged on the floor (spoiler alert… you don’t). Begin with a blank slate and no expectations.
TWEET IT OUT: Begin with a blank slate and no expectations.
2. If it’s helpful, take the word “meditation” out of it altogether.
Because letting go of preconceived notions can be challenging, if it’s helpful, take the word “meditation” out of it altogether. Meditation is really just about practicing mindfulness so if the word “meditation” is causing any resistance at all, replace it with whatever works for you. Existence contemplation and mindful practice both work wonderfully. We actually stole this from one of our favorite authors, Liz Gilbert and it’s proven to be tremendously useful.
3. Find a comfortable spot to close your eyes and sit or lie your a$$ down for 5 minutes.
It doesn’t really matter where—as long as you can sit without being bothered. It also doesn’t really matter if you sit. Personally, we find lying down much more relaxing. Again, don’t be attached to what you think it should look like. Make yourself comfortable. Sit against a wall, crossed legged, on your favorite chair, wherever works for you.
As far as length of time, we’re suggesting 5 minutes, but if that feels impossible, start with 1 minute and work your way up to 5. This is very important if your goal is to make meditation a daily thing as opposed to a once and while occurrence. Make it work for you. While we love ambition and enthusiasm, this is not a test of personal fortitude nor a contest to see how long you can meditate for.
To keep track of the time we either set a timer for 6 minutes (leaving 1 minute of fidget time to get comfy), or put on a song that’s about 5 minutes in length. Our current favorite meditation track is Bless This Morning Year by Helios.
4. Focus on your breath.
Conscious inhales and conscious exhales, slowly and deeply. Think of the breath as an anchor for your mind. As we focus on the breath, we’re building the power of concentration and the mind’s ability to focus on a single object. If it helps, count your breaths. One breath in, one breath out. Two breaths in, two breaths out. When you get to 10, start over.
If you find your mind wandering (and you will) watch where it drifts off to and gently bring it back to your breath. Repeat this process until the 5 minutes have passed.
5. Stop worrying about doing it wrong.
You actually can’t do this wrong. You probably won’t be very good at it at first and it will be challenging. Thoughts WILL pop-up, that’s OK. Meditation isn’t about eliminating your thoughts. It’s about letting thoughts come, and go, while remaining “unattached” to the drama or story that goes along with it. Kind of like, “hello thought, I see you, but I’m doing something else right now” and before you know it, poof, it’s gone and you’re back to your breath.
Here’s the thing: There is no “bad” meditation attempt or wrong way to practice. Even if you realize you’ve spent your 5 minutes constructing an imaginary argument, having a confrontational conversation in your head, fantasizing about your next meal, or thinking about what you have to do today, the act of watching where your brain is obsessing is hugely beneficial and tremendously insightful. Not only does this help you get to know yourself, you become the “observer” of your thoughts and eventually—with time and practice—the anthropologist of your own life.
You begin to notice subtle shifts in your ability to be present in the moment which is incredibly useful in times of conflict and stress because it allows you to step outside of a heated situation to observe how you are reacting to it, giving you the space to change your reaction.
While meditation probably won’t stop the sh*t storms from coming (they’re part of the normal human experience), it will change how you respond to them, and that changes everything.
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xo Erika & Jess
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