“I can’t meditate.”
“But what if you could?”
“I can’t. I just can’t quiet my mind.”
I said this for years when people suggested that meditation would help me reduce my anxiety. Now, I hear it from clients in my own coaching practice.
For many people, the word meditation is a trigger word. As soon as they hear it, negative feelings like failure or frustration arise accompanied by the thought: “My mind is too cluttered, I can’t quiet my monkey-mind like that.” Or was that just me?
I wonder if anyone tried to help me understand the benefits of meditation? Probably. It’s likely that a) I couldn’t translate the words they were saying to me-as if it was another language, and b) I was too anxious to actually hear what they were trying to tell me.
[Note: At the end of this post, I’ve included two articles. If you’re reading this post because it’s a topic of interest, then I want to say clearly: READ THE ARTICLES!]
I was suffering.
For years, I was on fire with ambition and resulting work pile-on, life’s path-marriage/career/house/dog/child by age 28, constant ‘have-tos’ and ‘shoulds,’ and even then a passion for wanting to make a difference in the world. Daily, I raced up and down our local highway, with my mind always going, and seeing nothing. I railed at my husband when he tried to speak with me about this. Even now, I can feel the memory of shallow breathing and sense of urgency to get ‘there.’
My ability to find my inner calm came from a deep desire to not feel anxious, to not feel constantly behind, to not feel in chaos.
My true success came when I learned the benefit of focusing on what I wanted, instead of what I didn’t want.
The combination of 1) being in such an unsatisfied personal space, 2) learning about the power of thought, 3) using Affirmations and 4) focusing on what I wanted led me to seek out tools that I could use effectively to get into the place I really WANTED TO BE. Creating Meditative Space was one of the tools.
Ok, so it took me a decade or more. That’s why I’m writing this blog post. To help you find it today. Literally, now. In my ‘all or nothing’ right or wrong, concrete mindset, I wore the comfortable warm cloak of Type A. Through a growing desire to feel better [now I know it’s called finding my center!], that cloak became suffocating. Gingerly, I took it off one shoulder, then the other, but still held it around me! Along the way, I gave myself permission to do what I could-even if it wasn’t perfect-finding snippets of meditative space was good enough if I couldn’t do full-blown Meditation. It was with this breakthrough that I was finally able to disrobe completely [don’t get excited, the analogy stops there].
Meditative Space is a small clearing; a bit of empty space that offers you a clear breath, a moment of ease, an ounce of well-being. When you feel it, you naturally want more.
Creating a Meditative Space
First, come to consciousness when you find yourself with a few minutes of quiet. Is that now while you’re reading this? Do you have a few minutes? In the shower? Standing in a bank line? When going to bed? Upon waking? Look for those few minutes! I couldn’t believe how easily I could find them. Just being aware of them served to give me a more positive attitude of having space in my life.
Then, find your breath. Learning about breathing--and then actually breathing--changed a lot for me. To come to consciousness on your own breath, see if you’re using it as a tool where it’s deep and productive or if you’re in shallow breathing where you’re breathing just through your head, instead of through your whole body. Release your shoulders now, stretch your neck and breathe. Practice this breathing! I promise you just this activity alone will serve you.
Close your eyes and breathe, get quiet and visualize your mind. Even if there’s noise around you, you can get quiet yourself; you do not have to interact with that noise around you. Just let it be there, and you be here! What do you see in your mind? If it’s filled with the clutter of your day or your life, literally take your hand and slice through the air in front of you as if you’re slicing through the clutter. Then, imagine pulling apart the two separate pieces you just created and clipping them off with binder clips so that what’s left is an open clear space. It will probably appear dark and will be empty. ……This opening can serve as your Meditative Space if you allow it.
Meditation takes time and practice. It can be hard to do if you have a lot of clutter. Slicing through the clutter in your mind allows you to begin to create a Meditative Space which you can focus on with commitment while at the same time using your deep breathing. When you find this quiet space, then you can listen to the quiet. Just sit there in silence and listen to the quiet, see what comes up for you, see what you hear. Focus on that with curiosity. Over time see what you hear, how it changes as you get more easily able to find your quiet inside.
For some, it is useful to imagine that you are in a peaceful quiet space. I suggest the visual of a still boat, floating silently in the water. You can feel the calm, feel the breeze, feel the silence. This visual is actually an acronym: Breathe. Open. Allow. Think. This is the process!
Here’s your simple Action Plan:
1. Learn about and understand the benefits of getting quiet inside.
2. If you find those benefits truly useful to you, work to integrate them into your mind. You will actively and eagerly pursue these benefits if you have a deep feeling about why this will be helpful.
3. Consider my suggested method for finding a Meditative Space rather than trying to accomplish full-blown ‘Meditation.’ Find your breath. Release your shoulders. Clear the clutter.
4. Get quiet inside and see what you hear.
5. Repeat. Repeatedly.
THIS BLOG POST WAS ORIGINALLY A GUEST POST FOR KEVIN MONROE AT WWW.KEVINDMONROE.COM.
Article in Scientific American: “What does mindfulness meditation do to your brain?”
Article in Forbes.com: “7 ways meditation can actually change the brain.”