Do you have trouble trying to get your brain to shut off ? I’ve been meditating for a few years and can quiet my mind now, but it isn’t always easy. (There is a song link at the bottom of this page, play it to hear what my brain used to sound like, all the time.) For many people, the thought of getting quiet is not even a remote possibility, or so they think. If you are interested in meditation, I’d like to give you a few tips to help you begin and address some of the trouble you might encounter. I would like to suggest that NO ONE has a busier or more noisy brain than I do and if I can get quiet, anyone can.
For me, meditation, at its best, becomes a wonderful and timeless space where I become grounded and in control of my life. Often, my best creative work comes after a meditation although sometimes I just find it to be a relaxing, prayerful time of peace and gratitude. Here are 8 tips for beginning meditators, it turns out that all of these tips work in “real life” too:
1. Patience: Your brain has been like a puppy all of its life, running anywhere and everywhere it wants with no training. Training a puppy takes time and patience. You put it down on the paper and tell it to stay. And it runs away. The next time, you put it down and tell it to stay, it runs away. And so on until eventually she stays. Don’t expect to go into a deep meditation the first time you try. Remember: Your thoughts are not you, behind your thoughts is the real you, the person who chooses them. Chant this the first few times you meditate, “I am not my thoughts, I am not my thoughts, I choose my thoughts, I am my soul.” After a while, you will learn to think of your thoughts as boats that are floating past you on a river. You can watch them without getting onboard.
2. Comfort: Meditation is a part of almost all religious traditions, and, in the East the entire practice of Yoga was developed to help participants meditate in more comfort for longer periods of time. Yes, sitting still might make our legs cramp, your back hurt or your butt itch. No one says you have to sit cross legged to meditate, you can find a comfortable chair or even lay flat on the floor, meditation is not something to be endured. A suggestion: before you adjust to relieve pain, take a minute to observe it. “This is me noticing I have a little knot in my thigh. It feels warm, I’m going to focus on it for a minute and experience it.” You’ll be surprised how often that little ache goes away when you allow and don’t resist it.
3. There is no wrong: You can’t meditate wrong. The only way to fail at meditation is to not meditate. If you fall asleep, you probably needed to. If your mind drifts and you are suddenly making a grocery list, bring it back. Paying attention to you, getting quiet, is a personal pursuit, some of us have more things to filter through than others.
4. Guided Meditations: I really like guided meditations where a voice, either in person or recorded, helps you to relax. A very popular type is called a “body scan”. You can do this alone, with a partner or in a group. You begin by imagining a white light entering your body through the top of your head and slowly inching its way down one side of your body all the way to your toes and back up to the point it entered via the other side. As you visualize this light, it “lights up” your sensations and helps you to relax and focus on something other than your thoughts. If you look on the web, you can find all kinds of guided meditations, the Chopra center has some by “David Ji” that are among my favorites.
5. Breathe: Most of the time, we take our breath for granted. A basic principal of meditation is to appreciate the gift your breath is and focus on it. By slowing your breathing down and paying attention to it, you can enter a meditative state almost anywhere. Remember how they used to tell you to “Hold your breath and count to ten” to prevent an angry outburst? Well, it works. A great way to meditate is to simply count. Breath in and count, 1-10. Then, breath out at the same pace counting 10-1. Deep slow breathing is not only good for your brain, it is proven to lower blood pressure. The yogis call this type of meditation “Pranayama” and I have some excellent guided meditations that focus on the breath, you can find them on the web too.
6. Welcome difficulties. What we resist persists, there is a reason that troubles, physical and mental come up when we meditate. Now is a good time to have the courage to sit still in meditation and face them. You are impervious to harm now, you are breathing, relaxed, and powerful. Observe your issues dispassionately with a quiet, inquisitive and loving mind and then release them, let the thoughts go. Invite your soul, rather, be one with your soul and see that there is nothing you can’t handle. This my friend, is the reason we meditate.
7. Routine: Like any training, your brain will learn to meditate if you have an optimal time and place to train. If you are falling asleep in meditation, for example, try to do so before you eat. If you aren’t a morning person, try it at night. Set up a comfortable space in an environment that is suited for meditation. You’ll know what works best for you and you really only need 10 minutes a day. (It is better to do short periods of meditation every day than trying to do long periods less often.)
8. Discouragement: “This is boring” “Ooops, I’m thinking again” “This is such a waste of time!” Remember that puppy? Your brain doesn’t want to sit still, it has been running off the leash all of your life. View discouragement as any emotion, as a dispassionate observer and it too will pass.
I hope this helps. Listen to the song I linked to below. It is what my brain used to sound like all the time (Especially about 4 minutes in). Now that I meditate, I use it as a ringtone. Each time my phone rings it helps me to remember that I am in control of my thoughts, they don’t control me, and meditation is the best way to stay in control.