You’ve walked into the bedroom and completely forgotten why you went there.
You’re writing something for work and you can’t stay focused. Your mind has flitted away to something that happened last week, or what groceries you have to pick up later.
You’re suddenly wakened in the night, unable to fall back asleep because the thought train has begun and there is seemingly no way off that ride.
Sound at least a tiny but familiar?
What can be helpful to hone your concentration skills in any of these situations? (and more)…..
Meditation. It’s kind of a hot concept right now, right? Or maybe I just see it popping up because Google knows I’m interested.
But look at the magazine covers as you check out at the grocery store or in the airport…a TIME cover, “The Mindful Revolution” or MINDFUL magazine.
Or read about Aetna (the CEO, Mark Bertolini changed his personal life trajectory and his corporate conscience because of his meditation practice), opening up a Mindfulness Center at their headquarters in Connecticut.
And search for how the NFL is using mindfulness to build focus on and off the field.
But don’t feel left out if you haven’t started your personal meditation practice. And you’re not alone if you feel you can’t stick with a regular daily practice. Some of the most seasoned yoga practitioners that I’ve asked, don’t have a regular practice.
I spent a week at the Chopra Center for a meditation retreat in 2014 (serendipitous timing, as a friend had died an untimely death the day before I was scheduled to go). Unbeknownst to me, the universe knew I would sorely need that time to be still.
Seated on our Back Jacks, I remember a woman next to me whispering how I seemed so at peace in the stillness. Little did she know….I wasn’t. At Peace. At all.
She noted that it was so hard for her to sit still even for a few moments….everything about it was uncomfortable. Her joints. Her neck. The endless stream of thoughts.
I reassured her that when I started out, I would not be sitting more than 5 minutes and already peeking at the timer. And shifting my body side to side. Shutting off the timer early and calling it a day. My internal thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” At least that day.
But, I came back to it. Sit after sit. Thought after thought. SLOWLY increasing the time. A huge part was finding a comfortable seat. This eliminated my mid-back pain.
So grateful for this meditation cushion that made it feel like I was floating the first time I used it (results not guaranteed). (I got in on it when they were first selling for $25!) Best purchase ever. Plus a rolled up blanket placed under my thighs/knees–has been my savior for my sitting practice.
But hey, you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor. You can sit in a chair. You need only have your back upright, feet grounded.
What I also remember about that meditation retreat, is that they coached us….it’s not important that you have this amazing enlightenment experience each time you sit. Or that your head is entirely without thought. Or that you’re able to come to some clarity every time you sit to meditate.
It surely could happen. And sometimes does. But let’s be real, you’re human. And it’s a very human thing to think. So, yes, you’re going to have thoughts throughout.
That’s the point. You’re training a muscle. Re-wiring your nervous system. Each time you notice you’re thinking, you’re back to your awareness of breath, or mantra, or imagery, or your feet on the ground with each step, whatever you’ve decided to focus on.
Just like that. Back and forth between thought and focus. Thought and focus. Focus and thought. Until 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes are up and your timer indicates that time has passed and you’re wondering, “wow, that was fast.” Or not. It takes practice (tapas).
And what they told us at the Chopra Center still holds true (at least for me). It’s NOT how ONE meditation makes you feel (though it could be). It’s the accumulation.
Start to notice how a regular practice starts to shift your life. Starts to bring you into focus at your work meeting, or your child’s play, while you’re driving or reading an article or book for a class. Able to slow down the thoughts to return to sleep? Are you now interacting instead of reacting? Are you actively listening or tuning out? Are you experiencing less confrontations? Are there more serendipitous occurrences? How has meditation permeated your life?
In This Moment.
If you like the practice of ritual, then make it just that. A specific location in your home, just for your practice. Time set aside just to sit and notice. If you want, placing small tokens/symbols in front of you (a picture, a flower, a piece of art, a stone) something of meaning, if it helps set the tone. A timer, I like this one but there are so many out there. Plan this time for you. Choose your intention, your focus.
But wait, maybe sitting for extended time, sounds awful. Walking might be you mode of meditation. Noticing each step. Noticing the sounds around you. But you can still make it a ritual. Set aside time. Make it non-negotiable.
So many ways to find a meditation practice:
- Sitting vs Walking
- Focus on a mantra
- Focus on the breath
- Focus visually on one point
- Guided vs Solo
So, my friend, how has meditation permeated your life? What do you notice shifting? Reply back and let me know.
Haven’t got a clue what a meditation practice would look like for you but you’re curious? Reply to this too. Happy to guide you through the itchy parts.