The word "meditate" often paints a picture of a yogi sitting cross-legged on a cushion in a quiet room with serene music. This is a lovely, calming image and certainly one way to meditate, but by no means the only way.
My first meditation class was in Seattle circa 2012. I had heard from a friend that it might be good for my chronic back pain and since I was desperate for relief, decided to give it a go. I found myself a cushion and followed the teacher's instructions on how to sit properly: legs crossed, shoulders down, back straight, and expected to maintain that position for the duration of the 45-minute class. Not more than a few minutes in, the pain was so intense that I wondered if part of the class involved someone coming along and setting fire to my spine. Breathing felt damn near impossible and holding back tears even more so.
I felt like a complete failure. Other people seemed to float out of the class on little clouds of somatic ecstasy and I was hobbling home in worse pain than when I started
It was a VERY long time before I tried again.
Here are some things I told myself:
"I can't meditate because I just can't shut my brain off."
"I can't sit for long periods of time."
"I don't have time."
"There are too many distractions around me."
"I'm too anxious."
The funny thing is all of these excuses were the exact reasons that I could have benefited from a mindfulness practice. What I was missing was understanding that there is no "right" way to do it
Here are some things I've learned over the years:
Distractions are part of the practice, whether they are internal (mental, emotional) or external (noise, interruptions)
When you're feeling overwhelmed and you can't demand that the world come to a screeching halt while you find a meditation cushion and a salt lamp, here are some things to try:
Focus on your breath. Even if there is a baby crying next to you in line at the grocery store, you're still going to be breathing so you may as well focus on it. It doesn't make the baby stop crying, but you can acknowledge it and take your focus back to the breath.
Exhale all the way. This is very simple but underrated breathing technique. We tend to focus on the inhale, but we can't fill a container that's already full, so exhaling is important, too - and it's the part of the breath cycle that is most relaxing for your nervous system.
Bonus tip: In order to exhale fully, you probably need to breathe out more than you think you do.
If you're interested in ways to build mindful resilience as well as your connection with your body, here are some ways I can help:
Morning Mediation is a virtual, 30-minute meditation class on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 9:00 a.m. PST. When you sign up, you recieve the link each week and if you are able to hop and join, we'd love to see you. ($10 suggested donation if you join. To sign up, click here.
Sign up to receive studio updates, new classes, and tips for movement and mindfulness. I'll send a video Q&A each week straight to your inbox and of course, I won't forget cute dog photos of Harlequin. To sign up, click here.