(Video at the end of the page)
First of all, let me just say that the only way you can “suck at meditation” is to not try at all (or to give it a few half-hearted attempts and then give up)! You DO NOT have to turn your thoughts off to meditate.
Yes, meditation is a time to reset, listen and be quiet and still, but worrying about quieting your mind is counterproductive. Your brain is meant to be working and thinking all the time.
In some ways the brain is like a rambunctious 3 year old. The key is to give your brain a toy that is interesting enough that it can entertain itself while the rest of you gets quiet and still. This is one of the reasons why chanting, or counting the breath are so common place in meditation practices, doing these things gives your conscious mind something to do so it doesn’t just get bored and run around like a toddler who found the sugar bowl while you weren’t looking (or a monkey in a tree, which is where the phrase monkey mind comes from)!
So here are 5 things you can try out when starting a meditation practice, but once again, making it a practice is the most important thing!
1. Allow your brain to do its’ thing!
Really, it’s okay. Allow your brain to think and go crazy, especially when you are first starting. Just set a timer for 5 minutes and watch your monkey mind go crazy. Committing to that 5 minutes of silence is a great start.
The key is to accept where you are in this moment. “Right now my brain is racing and that is okay, I accept and love my mind. My brain is amazing, look at it go!”
Eventually, begin to notice and repeat back to yourself some of the thoughts you are thinking or begin to interject mantras or intentions at random points, “It is my intention to think good feeling thoughts”.
Again, just notice how your brain responds. At the beginning, your meditation practice is to be mindful of the mind. To notice your thoughts and sit with them without judging them. Once you are able to do this, the next natural step is to….
2. Follow the good feeling thoughts…
and swipe left on (or delete or say “NEXT!”to) the not so good feeling thoughts. When you begin to notice what thoughts are actually coming up, ask yourself “Does this thought feel good?”. If the answer is yes, then ask, “What thought would feel even better?”.
If the thought didn’t feel good, swipe left or say, “NEXT” in your mind and keep doing that until a better feeling thought shows up. This kind of focused attention is a wonderful meditation practice and you don’t need to stop thinking, just focus on thinking things that make you feel good!
This is one of my favorite things to do in the car. I don’t have to close my eyes or sit perfectly still, but eventually, following the next good feeling thought, leads me to a state of blissful connection. When I found that state of connection for the first time I was so excited and so amazed at how easy it was to get there. Once you find that place of feeling full of love and bliss, things shift inside of you and you can never go back and you will never be the same.
(I realize that sounds kind of ominous, but really, when I began to be able to access that place on a regular basis is when my self-growth really sky rocketed, because I realized the “truth” of my nature and was able to compare the rest of my life to that.)
3. Focus on your breathing.
Yup, this one has to be in there sorry! But there are lots of ways to focus on breath and again, it gives your brain something to do while the rest of you gets quiet and listens. Here are just a few ways to focus on your breathing.
Focus on how the air feels cold as it enters your nose and how it feels warm when it exits.
Count your breaths. I like to start by counting to three on the inhale, 3 for the pause and 3 for the exhale and then work my way up to 7 counts for each part. Counting gives your brain something to do while you breathe.
Place one hand on your belly and one on your heart and focus on the feeling of your hands moving up and down. OR focus on the feeling of energy that build between your hands and your body, imagining it as golden light.
4. Visualize, darling, Visualize!
There are an infinite number of things to visualize while meditating. I have my 5 favorite visualizations for free on my website (HERE), but I will give you an example here as well. You might be surprised how easy this becomes, especially once you have practiced a favorite visualization for a while and performing it becomes second nature.
Growing Tree Visualization
Picture a seed in the center of your heart. It is made of light and energy and can be any color you like. As you breathe, the seed begins to grow, sending out tiny roots down your spine and little baby leaves up into your chest and throat. As you continue to breathe, imagine the roots getting bigger and stronger exiting out of your body through the base of your spine and into the ground, eventually connecting with the center of the earth (I like to picture the center of the earth as a giant crystal). Similarly, the leaves and stem of the plant begin to extend all the way out of your head and into the sky, the branches growing and spreading. Eventually, the trunk of the tree begins to thicken and strengthen and your whole body is surrounded by the light of the trunk. Lastly, imagine that the roots pull up grounding nurturing energy from the earth into your body as the leaves gather starlight and moonlight (or sunlight) and pull that energy into your body as well. Soak up as much energy as you would like (or set a timer) before ending the meditation.
You can also find a guided meditation on YouTube. I like the binaural beat ones and I like to listen with headphones on. My only problem with these is that I tend to want to fall asleep, so I have to sit up.
5. Try different times of day!
I like to meditate first thing in the morning or right after a workout. Other people like the middle of the day or right before bed, it is worth experimenting with different times of day to see which works best for you.
My mornings normally look like this…
First thing in the morning, I get up, make a cup of tea and find a comfy spot to meditate (normally sitting up in bed, but I understand that bed might be too tempting of a place for some). The process of getting up and making tea (and sometimes journaling) before I meditate helps me break away from the sleep cycle just enough that I don’t fall asleep while meditating, but I also haven’t gotten to the constant mental “To Do List” portion of my day.
Meditating right after a workout is really great too, especially if you have a hard time sitting still or getting comfortable in meditation. For me, I like to work out, stretch out, then meditate so that my muscles don’t just cramp up and lock into place. The slight fatigue does help me to calm down and I am usually happy to just sit still for a while after a hard workout.
Let me know what your story around meditation is. What is your favorite way to meditate OR maybe, What do you perceive to be your biggest obstacles to meditation? Put your answers in the comments below.
Sending my love to you as always!