Do you suck at meditating? Do you give up on mindfulness techniques in less than a minute because your mind is too, um, full? Does failing to ‘clear your mind’ leave you feeling more frustrated than before you tried to chill out?
Well, the good news is IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FAIL AT MEDITATION (yes, yelling). Just one, deep conscious breath is meditative. And a crappy attempt at stillness is far better than no attempt at all. You don’t need to achieve zero thoughts and nirvana-esque heights to reap the multitude of benefits on offer, you just need to let go of your definition of doing it ‘well’.
Repeat after me: I don’t suck at meditating. I just do it.
I used to suck at meditating too – at least I thought I did
And let me tell you right upfront: I am still no meditation expert. I don’t have a ‘sacred space’ in my house (unless you count the laundry toilet when the lock is working), I can’t seem to shake the urge to drink wine at 5pm dinner time, and my adjectives are nothing without my vast array of expletives.
I am a meditative work in progress.
But that progress definitely got dialled up this year. I have done courses, practiced dozens of different styles, and spent around 100 precious hours in one form of meditation or another. Why? Because life ramped up and got several different kinds of real, y’all. As did my baseline levels of stress. But, instead of just talking it out, I felt an unfamiliar urge to go inward; to let go, to lighten up and to create some space for all the ‘reality’ yet to come. So, I made a commitment to meditation (to, um, me).
And it has changed the whole freaking game, people…to one I actually want to watch.
The benefits of meditation
You’ve no doubt heard all the benefits of meditation; it helps you to relax, yes, but it also changes the makeup of your brain to improve your cognitive abilities. ‘Recent studies have shown that practicing meditation increases gray matter in the brain. And that can lead to improved focus, enhanced memory and reduced stress among other benefits.’ Forbes
But, there’s more! ‘Meditation can help to relieve a multitude of typical human problems lack anxiety, lack of motivation, lack of confidence, depression, brain fog and inability to make decisions.’
There’s virtually nothing negative meditation cannot alleviate—or positive that it cannot deepen—and yet, oddly, it’s still not a part of mainstream daily life. Probably because it can be freaking challenging to go from zero to hero. But what if there were little meditation babies you could nuzzle anywhere and everywhere to inspire you to keep going, even if you think you can’t meditate to save yourself?
My own meditation babies were born of necessity. Nothing beats a dedicated daily practice of sitting peacefully uninterrupted, of course (#goals) but, well…my human babies. So, I started taking tiny morsels of my meditation out into the world with me, and soon my hectic days became speckled with blissful moments of sweetness and calm. The more I practiced these ‘micro-meditations’ when prompted—with coffee, at traffic lights, before emails, between episodes—the lighter I felt. Yes, instant weight-loss.
How to meditate properly?
There is no ‘proper’ way to meditate, my lovely perfectionist friends. There are plenty of tried and tested techniques you can draw on to find one that works best for you, but you have to erase any expectations you have about what you ‘should achieve’.
Try these mini-meditations and practice your favourites at designated moments throughout the rest of your day.
If you still think you suck at meditating tomorrow, I’ll eat my…incense sticks.
5 micro-meditation secrets to do on the go (or in bed)
Block out everything but your breath
Focus your full attention on air entering your nose, filling your lungs and flowing out again. Relish each sensation. You will be rewarded with time to think fewer thoughts (i.e. the ultimate goal).
Freaked out by the thought of having fewer thoughts? [cough/irony/cough]
Don’t be. Watch yours for long enough and you’ll realise the vast majority of them are just repetitions of stale, old thoughts in a different t-shirt and a bit of deodorant. I promise you won’t miss them (they clear a path for the fancy, fresh ones!).
Let space inspire you
And I’m not talking about the awesome, deep variety. I’m talking about the humble, so-called ‘empty’ space that’s everywhere. The no-thing-ness needed for all things.
Now, take a quiet, conscious moment to shift your focus from the tangible things around you to the space existing peacefully between them. Inhale it with your full attention and surrender your out-breaths to it. Do you sense a subtle shift in yourself?
This is my instant stress circuit-breaker; as though a long-forgotten part of me recognises that sense of spaciousness and merges with it somehow. Like a thousand tiny shut things folding gently open. (Peace, bro.)
Realign your internal axis
Metaphorically speaking. Most of us generally live in a linear, time-led trajectory, pinging backwards and forwards between the past (that email five minutes ago; the confrontation last week; ooh, last night’s jalapeño binge…ew) and future (what needs to be done before I need to get there; must remember to call her by then; dinner tonight, nothing spicy). You get the picture.
As much as possible, it pays to mentally rearrange your body awareness so that, rather than being fixed horizontally (on ‘then’ and ‘when’), you can enjoy the feeling of it being vertical (right here, right now). Imagine your axis moving now. Feel that? Everything shifts. In a good way. (Not in a jalapeño-binge way.)
Take control and unclench
When you next feel stressed or anxious, take a moment to identify where you are feeling the tension most keenly in your body. Visit it fully. What does it feel like? A twisting of rope down your spine? A rock tugging at your tummy? A shower of sparks over your chest? Try to visualise a clear picture of it, whatever it may be.
Now, slowly soften your feelings towards it. Send it a little kindness if you can. It’s actually trying to bring you back to your own good self. Imagine it softening in response; imagine it releasing its grip on you in whatever way feels most liberating. The fist that clenches at the middle of my insides gently unfurls, finger by finger, until its palm is resting open in surrender.
Find the hum
The first time you try to place your awareness on the vibration of energy in your body it can be tricky, not gonna lie. But with a bit of practice, it becomes an instant anchor to the present moment (which, in turn, lifts the burden of all the others).
Try it now. Can you locate a subtle humming sensation deep in your body? Often, people can feel it in their feet or hands most easily at first; a pleasant buzz of ‘aliveness’ that actually fills your whole being. Focus on that feeling and savour the deliciousness as it spreads. (In case it helps, it can be easier to identify the ‘hum’ in the quiet hours of night…and if you have a joke about finding a pleasant buzz in bed, please submit freely.)
You cannot suck at meditating
In all seriousness though, if you want to learn more about meditation (from actual experts), I can highly recommend Giovanni Dienstmann at Live and Dare; and the Insight Timer app (with headphones) is great for a choose-your-own-adventure approach (just download to your smartphone, switch that sucker to do-not-disturb and GO. NUTS.)
Print this puppy out, stick it to the back of the loo door and you’ll be chilling’ your bean in no time.
Do you fall into a frustrated heap when you try to meditate? Have you given up as a result? Head over to The Squad to chat with me about how to turn it around.
You don’t suck at meditating.