This article originally posted on GinnTree.com on December 7, 2015.
I have always found meditation difficult, a fairly common sentiment. My challenges come in various forms – not being able to develop regular habits, an unusually high (and untimely) amount of itches and fidgets, having a great meditation one day and a really bad one the next, low confidence that I’m doing it well (or right)! I find guided meditation much easier, but I’m determined to develop a strong practice of self-meditation.
Over the years I’ve tried various approaches to meditation, changing the method when I felt that something didn’t work. I thought, “If it doesn’t work, then it probably isn’t for me – the right path should be more clear, right?” Mmmmmmmmaybe not. On my Reiki teacher’s recommendation I picked up Lawrence LeShan’s ‘How to Meditate’, in which he suggests that sticking with a method is worth a try. Consider meditation to be like going to the gym to work out…picture this: it’s a new year and I’m motivated to work out, get fit, and lose weight. It’s been a while since I’ve moved any part of my body except to eat, but I somehow think dumbbells are where I should start. One should be able to lift 20 lbs right? Nope. Well that’s a shame…and a bit embarrassing.
So now, do I give up on the dumbbells? Do I move on to other equipment and maybe try again later? Or do I pick up my pride from the puddle on the floor and see if the 3 and 5 lbs weights are better suited for me? Well I know we’re all saying it…I’d better lower my expectations and try again. Decrease the load. Work at it until I get comfortable and can eventually take on more. We often expect too much of ourselves when we begin a workout or meditation practice. A teacher once told me I should be meditating at least one hour per day. After attempting to do so several times with several “fails”, I became turned off from meditation for a few years. Then a friend suggested I start with 2-5 minute sessions. WHAT?! I can do that? So I did, and though I continue to struggle, the relief from expectation has been amazing.
On September 1st I began a 30 day meditation challenge using the the count-your-breaths method similar to the one discussed in LeShan’s book:
Breathe in – 1, Breathe out – 1
Breathe in – 2, Breathe out – 2
etc., counting first to four, working up to 10
It started out really well, but as with most “challenges” I try, my endurance only lasted about two and a half weeks. My meditation frequency dwindled to every other day, to just a few days, until I was only meditating maybe once or twice a week.
Some may see that as failure, but I learned a lot during that challenge:
- I do better when I meditate in the morning instead of at night.
- I meditate better with routine and only three days out of the week allow me to have a morning routine.
- Meditating only three days out of the week is OK right now.
- I’m just finding my rhythm at the mental gym, so I will have workouts and not-so-good workouts…but at least I’ll be gentle and forgiving with myself.
- Letting go of meditative expectations makes meditating easier.
- The method doesn’t necessarily matter, what matters is the work.
Since the challenge I’ve become more comfortable with meditation. I find that my distractions are shorter and I am able to focus on my breath for longer blocks of time. I’m still not great at it, but I definitely see growth! I don’t know if I’ll ever master meditation fully, not that I don’t hope to become really great at it. I will stagnate and I may regress, but that’s OK. It’s all part of the journey.
What are your experiences with meditation? Do you have any suggestions or questions?
Courtney Ginn is a certified Reiki and Massage Practitioner. She combines her Usui and Practical (Kundalini) Reiki training with various modalities to create personalized sessions for her human and animal clients alike. For more information, please visit her at GinnTree.