Meditation is really, really good for us. In fact, meditation has been proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, while keeping our brains sharp. And because it’s so good for us, people are taking notice. Meditation is part of the mainstream vocabulary now, free downloads are at your fingertips and it has even found its way into the corporate landscape, which is pretty cool, considering that just 5 or 10 years ago, this was not the case.
And while it’s really cool that meditation is being embraced by so many, it’s not always easy to incorporate into a busy lifestyle. When I was still working a 9-5 and facilitating corporate meditation sessions, I wasn’t consistent about my own practice because, well, life happens. And just like following any healthy self-care program, when we fall off the wagon, we tend to beat ourselves up and, of course, it feels even harder when we try to get back on. What to do?
Start With Self-Compassion
Let the urge to judge and berate yourself for skipping your practice pass. Recognize the emotions you’re feeling and the words you’re saying to yourself and acknowledge that’s what’s up. There’s no need in that moment to change what’s coming up and beating yourself up for having the feelings just adds to the cycle. So, just as you might hug an upset child and gently reassure her that things will be OK, hug yourself (literally!) and reassure yourself that things will be OK and you will get back into your meditation practice (or your self-care plan).
Meditation is Everywhere You Are
One of the most interesting ways I’ve learned to meditate was a “walking meditation”. A walking meditation is a super slow motion walk with no devices, no talking, no distractions. The slow pace of the walk, and the lack of distractions, allows us to really slow down and notice, to be present in the moment. When we walk at a brisk pace and have our earbuds in, or engage in conversation, our minds often wander and race, plan and analyze, and we fail to notice the sensation of our heels and toes pressing into and pushing away from the earth. We are oblivious to the tiny details, textures, colors and forms of life surrounding us. So next time you’re out and about—whether in the grocery store, at work or in your neighborhood, slow down your pace to a crawl and notice what you feel with all of your senses. Practice walking meditation for as long as you can stand it; when your mind starts to chatter away, anchor your awareness in the sensation of your feet on the ground, the smell in the air or the pattern of your breath. Yep, people might look at you, but so what? You’re increasing your resilience and lowering your stress levels; they’re not!
Still Not Enough Time in the Day?
These days, everything is changing so fast and schedules are so full, it’s hard to keep up. Especially if you’re busy taking care of your family! I have heard from countless parents who’ve described the frustrating challenges of trying to find a few minutes to just catch their breath. I even know of some moms who say their bathtubs are sacred spaces, because it’s the only place they can have a few minutes all to themselves. Next time you take a shower, stand under the water and connect with the present moment by observing the sensation of water as it flows over your skin; notice the temperature of the water and the sounds it makes as it splashes on the shower floor. Our minds are wired to wander and that’s OK. If you get lost in thought, call your awareness back to the present by noticing the scent of your soap, observing the intricate texture of your scrubbie, or the sensation of your shampoo as you lather your hair. Meditation isn’t easy, so start with a few second here, a few minutes there. In time, it’s possible that your entire show session becomes a peaceful meditation session.
Keep. Showing. Up.
So many people have shared with me that they thought they were meditating “wrong” or “didn’t have what it took”, or couldn’t sit still in the first 30 seconds. And because of that, they gave up on meditation. We are built for survival and we’re constantly on the look-out for real or perceived threats (beware of the lion stalking you!). Sitting still and going inward isn’t that natural for our human nature. And that’s OK! So, as with anything, action becomes easier with practice, and our skills and endurance grow. Build upon every attempt to meditate—whether it’s 60 seconds or 5 minutes. Every moment of meditation is good for you and there’s no wrong way. I believe everyone has the capacity to meditate. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Be kind to yourself and keep showing up for yourself.