As you already know, our lives sometimes get a bit crazy with all of the fast-paced changes occurring in the world. For most of us, it remains quite challenging to stay grounded and present, living in a state of internal peace, especially if we have limited ways to manage our stress, anxiety and fears.
Last month, I shared a profound practice that has dramatically changed my life, the Gratitude Practice. Every day, I begin by focusing on five things that I am grateful for. This causes the reticular activating system in my brain (which is like the dial on an old-fashioned radio, used to manually tune in certain broadcast stations) to automatically begin turning my awareness toward more and more things to be grateful for. Each day, as I begin tuning in on my gratitude channel, I get a stronger and stronger signal, building ever more gratitude …and you will too! It’s scientifically proven to work.
This month, I want to share another practice, one that has made even more profound improvements in my life. That practice is daily meditation.
There are many misconceptions about meditation that I would like to demystify here! First of all, you don’t have to sit for hours each day straining to concentrate or struggling to empty your mind! The fact is, meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts. In fact, these approaches will actually work against you because they only create stress and an even greater amount of noisy internal chatter. Sometimes, it’s a struggle to tune out background noise, either external of internal. It can be challenging to stop thinking about work or the list of things you need to do at home like laundry, checking on the kids or making dinner.
The key is in knowing that you can’t stop or control your thoughts, but you can decide how much attention you want to give to them!
Through the practice of meditation, you can learn to locate the quiet spaces that already exist between your thoughts. Sometimes, this is referred to as “the gap.” That interval in between our thoughts is pure consciousness, silence and peace. Knowing how to slip into that quiet space isn’t something most of us innately know how to do. But, it is actually quite easy to learn!
When trying to meditate for the first time (or any time):
- Get comfortable. Sit in a position that is personally comfortable for you, yet not so relaxed that you might fall asleep. You want to be relaxed and yet remain alert at the same time.
- Choose an object of attention. A focal point such as your breath, a visual image like a mandala or the flame of a candle, a sound like the repetition of a mantra, will provide a means of allowing your mind to begin relaxing into a peaceful stream of awareness.
- Don’t judge. When thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, you don’t need to judge them or judge yourself, much less try to push them away. When you catch your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to your chosen focal point, your breath, that image or sound.
- Know that this is time well spent. Whenever thoughts intrude, know that your time is not being wasted.
Even if it might feel like you have been thinking throughout your entire meditation, there were inevitably a few seconds when your mind became silent as your consciousness slipped into the gap, which means you are benefiting from your practice. I invite you to try this process each day for several days in a row. Then, take notice of the changes that take place in your life. Remember not to judge your meditation based on what happens or upon how you feel when you meditate. It will be different every time. Instead, base your judgement upon the miracles that will begin to happen in your life when you are practicing regularly.
For those who feel they need a bit of guidance, support or encouragement in beginning or returning to meditation, I have what I hope will be a wonderful, 6-week Meditation Class here at Nelson Healing Center starting on Thursday, July 7 and it’s free to attend. If you are unable to join us, Oprah & Deepak are once again offering their latest, free meditation experience, Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life. It starts July 11 and provides a 21-day meditation experience online.