Meditation You Can Practice Anywhere at Anytime
And you don't have to sit cross legged with your eyes closed! If just the thought of sitting down and being still and quiet gets you feeling anxious then read on because this post is for you. It's also for anyone who just can't seem to make meditation a regular part of their daily practice no matter how many times they try.
Meditation has a stigma surrounding it as being incredibly difficult, very uncomfortable and not all that fun. In many ways, that's all very true! That's exactly what meditation aims to help us with; learning how to cope with life's countless day to day difficulties, uncomfortable situations and all the stuff that's not so fun that we have no choice but to go through. It's actually hard wired into our nervous systems to react to potentially harmful situations by either fighting or fleeing the scene. This came in very handy during the times when a hungry lion came wondering around our ancestor's cave dwellings looking for a tasty meal. The problem with now is that even though the majority of us aren't ever dealing with our lives being in imminent danger, our minds and bodies are still processing anything that's even remotely stressful as being as dangerous as that lion that's about to eat us. That's why the silly things we worry about are so hard to let go of... we literally feel as though our lives depend on them. Clearly, that's not the case. We'll still continue breathing even if we don't get that promotion at work. We're not going to die if that person doesn't like us. The sun will still rise tomorrow even if we totally botch that presentation. Literally...it's all good! When we're completely present and living in the moment, it's all pretty freaking great actually. And yet our minds like to take us on a stress trip down memory lane and into the fear zone of fretting about the unknown future whenever there is a slight lull in the day. Our minds literally will not shut up with all the endless chatter, stories and nonsense. So much so that it's hard to see and experience all the good things happening right in front of us at any given moment in time. There's all this beauty all around us constantly and yet we're too stuck in our heads to notice it. Soooooooooo the question is...how can we learn to deal with all this mind chatter and senseless stress? How can we handle life's day to day discomforts with a little more ease?
Answer? Practice meditating.
"Buuuuut meditation is so hard! Plus I don't have time in my life to just sit still and do nothing for 10-20 minutes. Plus is sucks and I hate it!" Hmmm...sound a bit familiar?
The majority of people who have ever started a meditation practice in the history of humans have probably felt feelings akin to the sentiments above at least a few times in their journey towards enlightenment.
The thing is, learning how to sit with our thoughts and our discomforts (rather than tying to control them or stop them), learning how to breath through them, let them go and take in every piece of the present moment REALLY IS a necessary practice to implement in our lives if we want to enjoy them more and get more out of them.
We just need to rethink the way we're approaching meditation. If you've tried sitting still and being quiet with your legs crossed and your eyes closed just once, a couple of times (or never because it sounds so awful to you) and you haven't been able to return to this practice regularly, then it's probably not the right meditation practice for you. At least not at this point in your journey.
First things first:
If you're really uncomfortable physically then the odds of you returning to this practice will be slim to none. If you're new to the meditation thing, then don't worry about looking like a sage sitting atop the Himalayas in a deep state of Samadhi (enlightenment).
Instead you could:
Lay down on your back or your belly or take a side lying position
Sit on a comfy chair or couch
Prop yourself up on pillows in bed
Or go for a walk (yes you can move your body while meditating!). We'll get to that in a sec...
Once you've gotten yourself physically comfortable, you can then proceed to the next steps and begin your meditation practice. Just the fact that you're comfortable will make it far more likely that you'll be willing (and perhaps even wanting) to try it more than once and even make it a regular practice...
2. BECOME AWARE OF YOUR BREATH
There are a million different techniques to get yourself grounded and present in your physical body, but one of the easiest methods that you can drop into at anytime and anyplace is simply practicing mindful breathing.
Notice where your breath lands naturally in your body...do you breath up in your chest or down in your lower belly?
Notice how the breath is cool as you inhale, and slightly warmer as you exhale.
Do you breath through your nose or through your mouth? Either is fine...just simply notice.
3. OBSERVE ANY SIGHTS, SOUNDS AND/OR PHYSICAL SENSATIONS
Take in your surroundings...observe your environment.
Notice the feel of the air on your skin.
Feel the beat of your heart.
Take note of any places where your body is making contact with the ground below you. Observe that sensation.
Take in any sights or sounds without getting fixated on them. If you do start to fixate that's OK! Just return to observing your breath. NOTE: It's very easy to get fixated on things to look at which is why people often meditate with their eyes closed, but closing the eyes is not necessary if it doesn't feel right to you in that moment. Do what feels most comfortable to support you in your practice.
4. DON'T TRY TO CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS...LET THEM FLOW
There's a stigma around meditation that it's all about having no thoughts at all. Trouble is...our brains are hardwired to think. Weird huh? Thoughts will flow in and out whether you want them to or not. Let them. When a thought enters your head, notice it and then come back to observing your breath. Don't beat yourself up over thinking too much...if you notice yourself thinking just come back to your breath. It's easy...and yes! You're doing it right! Just return to your breath time and time again. That's the practice.
Some days your mind will be jam packed with thoughts, and other days it will be much less so. There are days when I meditate and am convinced I've experienced absolute Samadhi...and other days I can't get that damn commercial jingle out of my head! Try not to attach to or label a meditation session as being either good or bad...it just is...whatever it is. Observe, be present with whatever comes up for you mentally or physically. Don't label it as good or bad, just simply notice it.
5. MAKE EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES A MEDITATION PRACTICE
There are days we don't set aside time for stillness or quiet, but that doesn't mean we can't get our meditation practice in! Whatever you're doing, give it your full attention. Implement all the above steps. Fully allow yourself to take in the experience. When you notice yourself getting lost in your thoughts and no longer paying attention to the activity or task at hand, simply notice it and come back to giving your full attention to what it is you're doing. Here are some of my favorite day to day activities that I like to substitute sitting still for:
LAUNDRY - I'm not a big fan of doing laundry (just ask my husband lol 😂) but one the ways I've managed to make it more enjoyable is to turn it into a mindfulness practice.
Feel and observe the texture of the fabric through your fingers and with the palms of your hands as you fold each piece of clothing.
Notice the smell of the freshly washed and dried clothes.
Observe the warmth coming off each piece of fabric.
Fill yourself with gratitude for these clothes you are beyond blessed to own that keep you warm and comfortable.
If you notice your mind wondering, bring it back to the task at hand.
Take your time carefully measuring out each ingredient with a sense of presence and purpose.
Take in every delicious smell.
Savor each taste, each flavor and all the textures of the food you're preparing.
Fill yourself with gratitude for the meal you are blessed to be preparing for yourself and/or your loved ones.
If you notice your mind wondering, bring it back to the task at hand.
PLAYING WITH YOUR KIDS
Give your full attention to whatever it is you're doing with them... be it playing, reading a bedtime story, eating a meal with them, singing, going for a walk...
Take in every face they make, every little sound that comes out of their little mouth, every sweet hug and holding of their tiny hands.
Don't rush a thing...these moments are precious and you can never get them back. No matter how stressed or tired you are, see if you can simply sit with whatever discomfort you're dealing with and immerse yourself in this time with them. They learn by observing you, and if you are stressed a lot and don't take time to savor the small day to day moments in life with them, then they too will learn that this world is a stressful and frustrating place rather then something to be loved, enjoyed and fully experienced. Remember the techniques outlined above, come back to your breath, tune into the moment at hand, get grounded in your physical body.
Children are excellent teachers and guides on how to be fully present and live mindfully. Notice how they take their time with everything...we're conditioned to rush from thing to thing and can take their going slow as an annoyance if we're not in the right space. There is so much beauty in going slow and taking it all in. There's no rush...so stop rushing though things! Take a cue from them and SLOW DOWN! Savor that walk, that book, that meal or that game...why are you always in such a hurry??
As you can see, you can apply this to any activity. A talk with a friend or your spouse, working on a project for your home, checking emails for work, going for a walk...anything can be turned into a practice of mindfulness.
Start by trying this practice every other day for 5 minutes. Once you've done that for a few weeks, try it every day and maybe up the time to 10 or even 20 minutes. If that's too much then stick with 5. If you skip a few days or even a week or two, you can get right back to it. Any practice is better than none! Don't aim for perfection (because there is none!), just simply show up for yourself and do the practice. You can't fail so don't give up!
And what exactly are the benefits of doing this? Why is being present so important? Why do all these yogis talk about it constantly in class making me feel like at any moment they're going to bust out in a campfire version of Kumbaya?
Because it works. It works REALLY freaking well to get you fully immersed in the beauty of your life that is happening RIGHT NOW. You can actually savor it and enjoy it rather than constantly going off on those crazy thought tangents and missing the life that's happening right in front of you.
Don't let your life pass you by.
Don't miss another precious moment! Learn to pay attention. Take it all in. In the end you won't remember or care about what "so and so"thought of you or whether you sounded lame when you told that one story to your coworkers. But you'll remember the laughs with your loved ones, the touch of your lover, the aromas in the kitchen when cookies are baking and the ear to ear smile of your little one when they take a bite from one fresh out of the oven. These are the moments that color your life. Savor them fully.
That's why this practice is so important. And now you have the tools to implement meditation in your life in a way that works for you! As always please feel free to ask my any and all questions you may have. Comment on your experience trying it out and let me know how it goes. This practice will truly change your life!
From my heart to yours...