“The fruit of meditation is not the absence of thoughts, but the fact that thoughts cease to harm us.” ~Bokar Rinpoche
My inspiration to start meditating came from one of the most unlikely sources—a Star Wars movie.
When I saw the wise Jedi Master Yoda meditating, I thought that there had to be something more to this than merely sitting silently with your eyes closed.
Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to find out for myself.
That was over six years ago. Since then, my life has changed for the better in both subtle and profound ways.
It has considerably improved my mental clarity and focus and made me feel grounded in my life. The number of unhelpful thoughts in my mind has significantly reduced, and it’s helped me to become more present in my daily life and less on autopilot.
The relationship with my family members has vastly improved, as I had the habit of being particularly reactive around them. Now that I’ve built the habit of recognizing thoughts and letting them pass, I’m better able to stop myself from unconsciously reacting. Which means I’m more likely to respond from a rational place and less likely to do and say things I regret.
It’s also made it easier for me to deal with cravings and urges, and I’ve developed a kind of will power and self-control that I have never had before.
However, it hasn’t always been easy. And in some ways, I made it harder on myself.
Here are some things I’ve learned over the years of practicing meditation that I wish I knew when I first started out.
1. Be easy on yourself.
When it came to meditation, this was something I had trouble with.
On far too many occasions, I would find myself lost in my thoughts or drifting in and out of sleep while meditating, and I’d then become frustrated.
It took me years of meditating before I finally realized that being frustrated or hard on yourself for not being able to meditate doesn’t make anything better.
One of the main reasons why we find meditation difficult is because we enter it with a goal-oriented mindset, expecting our minds to calm down within a very limited timeframe.
It’s the failure to meet our own expectations that can make meditation frustrating.
Instead, be willing to be extra patient and easy on yourself and let go of all expectations. This will not only make your meditation sessions a lot easier but also make them more effective.
Always remember to be kind to yourself. If you struggle, accept it and let it go. After all, there is always tomorrow or the next meditation session.
2. Take deep breaths.
Many of us meditate to find some peace from our thoughts, but our thoughts can be loud and overwhelming. Taking a few deep breaths can make it easier to calm the chatter in your head before you sit down to meditate.
Deep breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to promote a state of calm and relaxation in our body.
A simple breathing exercise you can use is the 4-7-8 technique.
- Inhale slowly through your nose, to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath, for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, to a count of eight.
- This completes one cycle. Repeat it for ten times or more according to your preference.
3. You have to put in the work.
If you want to progress in meditation and have a calmer mind, you have to put in the work.
Having a sense of discipline and routine goes a long way. If you decide to meditate for fifteen minutes each day, stick to it no matter how distracted your mind is when you sit down to meditate.
Many times I would cut my meditation short or sometimes skip it all together when it seemed difficult to sit down and be still. But skipping one or two days can make it much harder to meditate the next time around and can make you prone to skip many more.
Ever since I began exercising (physical workout) daily, I’ve understood some days you are not going to feel like doing it, but once you do it you will always feel better, and the same applies for meditation.
Make it a point to show up every day, no matter what mental state you are in, because you always feel better by the end of it.
4. Stop chasing experiences.
As you meditate daily, after a while, you may start to have different kinds of experiences such as seeing different colors and visuals, experiencing your whole body vibrating, and even feeling intense energy in your chakras (energy centres).
During some meditations I would feel so happy and at peace, and I would start craving these kinds of experiences.
The problem is that the more you meditate with that kind of mindset, the more distracted you will be during meditation, then the inner chatter gets even noisier.
While meditating, it’s always best not to chase any experiences, since you will most likely be disappointed if that’s what you are after.
5. You are not your thoughts.
The first time I read The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, I didn’t really understand what the book was all about.
However, after reading it for the second time a couple of years later, the main message hit me and has since had a life-changing impact on me—the fact that you are not your thoughts.
Here is how Eckhart Tolle puts it:
“The most decisive event in your life is when you discover you are not your thoughts or emotions. Instead, you can be present as the awareness behind the thoughts and emotions.”
Understanding that the thoughts that pop into my head during meditation are not mine, I realize that I’m under no obligation to follow them while meditating. I can simply observe them and let them pass. And that’s where I find peace.
Practicing meditation has allowed me to slow down and savor life without the urge to be always doing something or require constant stimulation.
If you’ve never meditated, you may find it hard to see yourself as someone who meditates and may feel that it’s not your thing.
Try it for yourself and find out. Who knows, you just might get hooked.