“The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” ~Robert M. Pirsig
I know meditation is good for me. I know it can do wonders for my mind, body, and spirit. I deeply desire having a daily meditation practice. Yet I can go months without meditating. I’ll think randomly, “I should really meditate sometime,” but when it comes down to it, I don’t.
My thing is this: I know meditating is good for me, and yet I don’t do it. I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I’ve read countless books on how to meditate. I have gone to so many meditation retreats and classes it’s not funny.
I know the meditation routines. I know the old staring at a candle flame one. I know the stilling your mind thing. I know the nose-breathing-in-and-out thing. I know about making your own visualization.
I also know that they feel like work. They feel like something I have to work at. It feels hard.
I know I’m not lazy. If you’re like me, I know you’re not, either. It’s just that we haven’t found the right way of meditating for us yet.
Here are some ways to make meditation less of a chore and more like a fun, doable thing for you.
1. Try the 100 breaths technique.
This is a highly complex meditation technique!
I take 100 breaths. I count them. I try not to think about anything else.
Yup. It’s revolutionary. And it also really works for me. It gives my brain something to do (wee! counting!) while the rest of me is just hanging out, inadvertently meditating.
The lesson here is this: There are so many ways you can meditate. Explore them to find a way that’s really easy for you, and just do that.
2. Take a meditationap.
Be careful. This one is complex. Oh, yes—it’s the love child of a meditation and a nap.
Lie down on a bed, couch, or sun lounge, or pile your (empty) bath with pillows and blankets.
Close your eyes and do nothing. Maybe you’ll fall asleep. Maybe you’ll have Zen inspiration. Maybe you’ll just happily float along. Either way, it will be sublime.
My favorite meditationap consists of a sun lounge, a blanket, an afternoon, and my ipod filled with lovely music. If Zen master meditation retreats consisted of this kind of meditating, I could totally do them!
The lessons here is: Meditation should be enjoyable. We only consistently do things we actually like doing!
3. Use the alarm clock meditation.
If 100 breaths isn’t going to cut it for you, set a timer for five minutes. Then meditate until the timer goes off. This way, you don’t have to wonder about how long it’s been, or how much longer you should meditate for. It’s like meditation on cruise-drive.
The lesson here is: Make your meditation as cruise-drivey as possible.
4. Get comfortable.
I started looking at things that annoyed me about meditation, the stuff that held me back from doing it. And one of the annoying things was this: I don’t like being uncomfortable.
I don’t think anyone does. And sitting cross-legged in lotus with a straight back and poised mudra fingers doesn’t spell comfortable to me. It spells pins and needles, sore butt, and achy back.
Maybe when I’m a woo-woo yoga guru master it won’t, but for right now, I’m not, and it does. So for me, it’s an exercise in getting comfy without falling asleep.
What this looks like for me is sitting in a comfy armchair inside, lying on a sun lounge on the back deck, or leaning against a wall outside. What comfy looks like to you might be totally different.
The lesson here is: Meditating isn’t an exercise in feeling uncomfortable. It’s a place of rest, stillness, and comfort. So get comfy.
5. Start small.
When I really, really need to meditate and I don’t feel like I have time, I make a little pact with myself. I say to myself, “Okay, we so don’t have to meditate for any pain-in-the-butt time at all. Let’s just do ten breaths.”
And my logical brain says:
“Ten breaths? You think I have time for ten breaths of meditation? Are you kidding me! I have stuff to do lady! We’re not on retreat you hippy!”
And I say, “Oh. I know you’re really busy. I really feel like I need this. You and me. Besides, it’s only for ten breaths.”
Logical brain: “Fine. But only ten. And I’m counting.”
And then we do our ten breaths and it’s nice. And we either stop there because we feel like we’ve refreshed just enough, or we keep going for another ten or twenty because it just feels so good.
The lesson here is: Start small. Everyone has time for 10 breaths. See what happens. It’s a little way of moving around resistances.
6. Make it a reward.
Meditation should be fun and easy, and it should feel good for you, not excruciatingly boring or painful. Work out the thing about meditation that makes it really, really useful for you. Not “I should meditate because everyone says so.” Not even an “I should meditate.”
Find a way that makes you think, “I want to meditate.”
Here’s the meditation pay-off for me:
Whenever I take 100 breaths, it’s kind of boring for the first half. But after that, it feels like nirvana. I don’t know if it’s a rush of oxygen to the head or just because I finally relax then, but whatever it is, the second half is good.
And it makes the beginning so very, very worth it. My little reward is the second-half release.
The lesson here is: Find your personal treat from meditating. And keep remembering it. Use it as a reward for getting yourself there.
7. Use help when you need it.
When I need extra help in meditating, I use CDs. They’re like my own little personal guides into sweet-calm-space.
Try out different CDs, guides, and meditation techniques, and see what works for you. And what works for you, make that the golden wisdom in your life.
The lesson here is: Don’t think you have to go it alone. Everything’s easier with a little support.
8. And most of all…
Remember that the reason you aren’t meditating right now is not because you are lazy. It’s because you haven’t yet found a way to meditate for you that is fun, easy, and comfortable for you. Find the way that does, and then it’s much, much easier.
Remove the annoying parts from meditating. Try out all the different ways you can to make it as lovely an experience as possible.
And remember: you are the expert on you. Find the wonderful things that work for you, and ignore the rest.
There are six billion paths to bliss, and your path is your own. Make it a happy one.