Thursday, April 15, 2021
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Lifestyle Uncategorised

Tips for Getting Good at Meditation, so you Actually Keep Doing It

We know by now that meditation is beyond helpful for our mental and physical health – so how can we get good at meditating?

Every time you settle in for a meditation, your thoughts wander. You lose focus of your breath, and in turn lose your motivation to even meditate in the first place. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is an essential part of the process behind meditation.

Meditation isn’t easy. A simple concept – sitting with your eyes closed and focusing on your breathing – yet increasingly hard to stick with. 

To get good at meditating, first we need to understand why it’s so difficult in the first place. We have to find ways to make it fit our life instead of changing our life to fit it, and we have to pay attention to our progress.

Why Is It So Hard To Get Good at Meditation?

Our brains hate meditation, but that’s our advantage.

If you are anything like me, your life operates at a cruising speed well over the posted limit. Rushing from to-dos to projects, and back again. Rarely taking the time to appreciate the moments that these events reside in. 

This fast paced life has strapped me in the back seat, letting my ego and brain take the wheel. This hectic ride has scared me so much that when I sit in silence to meditate – my brain panics and my ego puffs its chest.

Suddenly topics, subjects, emotions, to-dos, and much more are all bouncing around my head. All of them desperately trying to muster enough kinetic force to get me moving again.

‘Meditation is Pointless’ – A Quote from Your Brain

This fast paced mind we are talking about is often the biggest factor in giving up meditation. The mind works hard to stay so busy during these moments of mindfulness so it can convince us that the entire process is pointless. 

Our brains naturally hate meditation, but that is a good thing. It means it is working.

Each burst of thought or distraction is a window into our state of being. We simply need to find a way to work with these thoughts – instead of trying to avoid and shun them away.

Working With Our Brain During Meditation

Immediately after beginning meditation, your brain will tell you a myriad of things you need to be doing. It will nitpick your breathing. Your mind will trick you into thinking your suddenly unsafe and need to open your eyes to check your surroundings.

The brain makes itself known during meditation, because meditation is the practice of getting to know your mind, while your mind gets to know you.

Like a family member on a surprise visit, your brain really wants to just go to the kitchen and say hello. Us, the unruly family member, is trotting down the hallway to reveal the messy bedroom our brain is hiding.

In order to work with this upset mind, we have to give it the freedom to make itself safe. When you take your place for meditation, begin by thanking yourself for taking the next few moments of mindfulness.

When you’re mid session and see that your mind has wandered – no matter how far and how long – bring your awareness back and thank yourself for letting the thought be indulged before being let go.

Meditation is not a place to sit with a blank mind. It is a place to sit with a full mind, but being able to be at peace with it.

Try not to call yourself down when you get lost in a distraction. It is common for me to end my sessions and mumble something along the lines of “What a waste of time. I was off in a thought the entire session.”

A sentiment like that will immediately unravel the work you put into the cushion. Even diminishing the valid feelings on whatever thought you were lost in.

Meditation is not a tool to change our minds. It is simply a tool to observe it.

The Goal of Meditation for a Busy Mind

Meditation for me and my busy air traffic controlled thoughts cannot be about ‘fixing’ anything. I’ve altered my approach to change how I handle the distracting thoughts that spring up during meditation.

At first, it is easy to get frustrated and deflated by these thoughts. But if we change our approach to simply observing them as they happen, we may just see something important. 

For me, it has become increasingly important to observe and admire the way my thoughts can connect dots – often leaps that make sense to myself alone – instead of trying to stop myself from having those thoughts. 

The beauty of this comes in the multi-utility. If a negative thought or frustration throws an uprising against my mood, it can quickly be disarmed by knowing its origin and pain point. 

For example, by being mindful of the string of frustrations I’ve met through a day can make me keenly aware of why the jar that won’t open at dinner time is making me so upset. Or why the kids volume, same full blast approach as always, is suddenly so bothersome. 

Being aware of how these frustrations compound with each other can take all the weight off of the snowball we’re left with at the bottom of the hill. 

Same Mindful Time, Same Mindful Place

The quickest way to guarantee you’ll give up on meditation, is to make it a ‘when I have time’ task. 

This has been my biggest pitfall with meditation thus far. Instead of designating specified time for a meditation practice, I tell myself that I’ll squeeze it in during my lunch break. If I wake up early enough in the morning, I force it through sleepy eyes then but have struggled to make that daily. 

I function in my daily life thanks to checklists and calendars. If I don’t enter meditation into my calendar, I am actively setting it up to fail. If I don’t schedule my practice, I’m not treating it with the same respect as my other tasks and todos.

Make the Time Instead of Finding the Time

To rectify my meditation neglect, I slotted it into my calendar in two repetitive slots. Instead of ‘if I wake up early enough.’ It became a 5:30 alarm. Instead of ‘If I get time at lunch.’ It became a reminder in my phone to simply put work away for at least 5 minutes.

They certainly do not happen every day. I still have days where I put meditation off for the sake emails during my lunch. I still sleep in often – that is still okay. 

Just having them in my calendars and on my to do lists, means that meditation and reflections become a priority item in my life. It becomes part of my daily structure, and with enough time and practice the benefits can stretch farther than the time blocks in Outlook. 

fashion woman notebook pen - reflecting on meditations
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Track, Track, Reflect

When building any skill or practice, the number one rule should be to track and note your progress. I have been digging into productivity, happiness, and mindfulness a lot over the last 2 years and one of the biggest themes in all 3 has been to write everything – or at least a lot of things – down.

Tracking the growth can be as loose as a journaling practice. I try this approach with my morning meditations. Upon opening my eyes, I flow right into my paper journal or an empty page in Notion. 

Tracking the growth can be as loose as a journaling practice. I try this approach with my morning meditations. Upon opening my eyes, I flow right into my paper journal or an empty page in Notion. 

Meditation in Writing

My progress throughout school did better when I took clearer notes. My work through the week is done quicker and better because I’ve started taking more detailed notes in my process. I remember certain books more than others because I have them filled with notes. 

Writing things down let’s information intake finish the loop of understanding. 

When I take in information, process it and regurgitate it, I complete a loop of understanding that passes the information through more parts of my thinking. It changes my relationship to understanding.

My tracking my meditation in writing, or on paper, I am granting it the space in my thinking and understanding. Just like allowing it room on my Outlook calendar, I have to allow it space in my information encumbered brain. 

The Easiest Way to Start, Is Just To Start.

The easiest way to guide yourself to an empowering meditation experience – is to start meditating. As soon as you can, as many different ways as you’re interested in. Hitch meditation to your curiosity, and follow it. It could lead somewhere spectacular.

When you start, don’t focus on being good at meditating. Simply focus on understanding what meditation is to you. Be gentle and appropriately rigid in your practice. Track your progress, and follow what works for your mind and life.

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