Choosing how and when to meditate is a true gift. I beat myself up for a long time if I couldn’t do it just like everyone else. Or how I thought everyone else was doing it.
I hear from students and even from people I meet who find out that I teach yoga, that they just can’t get quiet or they just can’t sit still. And I tell them, that’s ok. They don’t have to sit still. You can practice mindful movement. You can just bring mindfulness to your everyday activities or you can chant with many of the same benefits and to get right down to it, you can sing or dance or whatever you do that gets you into that state of quiet, reflective peace, the place where you wake up and are present with what is.
That brings me to the other thing that I have to remind myself all the time -it is what it is.
Sometimes it isn’t all blissed out and peaceful. Sometimes painful, uncomfortable things come up when I meditate and I have to be grateful and thankful for that experience as well.
But here’s why meditation is part of Gratitude Wednesday. I’m really grateful that we’re starting to accept that doing what works for the individual is most important. There’s no one size fits all in meditation. Or in life.
Now, I personally think that at least half the people who claim they can’t get quiet or be still really haven’t tried and most don’t understand the concept. Cause it’s not about getting to a peaceful, blissful place. Not at first, at least.
For most of us it’s hard. Meditation is work. But we stick to it and that’s the difference between the people who say they can’t and the people who do it. You have to be willing to have a day when your mind keeps wandering or you’re fidgety and still come back the next time. Everyone, absolutely everyone, struggles with their minds wandering. Buddhist Monks struggle. Thich Nhat Hanh struggles. Maybe not as often as I do, but he does.
It’s not about getting quiet and peaceful, it’s about waking up. It’s about being present and being real. It’s about the process. The peaceful quiet is an added benefit.
So, really there’s no difference between a 30 minute meditation where you’re empty and a 30 minute meditation where your mind is busy. There’s value in both. They both teach us. And if you can accept that, you’re halfway there. There’s no bad meditation or failure in meditation. If you sit for the time you’ve decided you’ll sit, then you win. If you decide to sit for five minutes and you get through that five minutes without turning on the tv or refilling your coffee, you get a gold crown. Cause that’s all it’s about. And it may not seem like much, but it is. The peace, the gratitude for the quiet, the wakefulness….that will all come later. In the beginning we all just learn to sit and do nothing for five minutes.
Last July San Francisco State University published research that emphasizes how important it is for each of us to find the method of mindfulness that works for us best. So, if you hate sitting, don’t. If you hate the idea of Qi Gong, practice yoga or mow your lawn mindfully. According to Dr. Adam Burke, this ensures that you will at least have a practice and that you’re more likely to stick to it.
Wow! Now, I’ve been doing this awhile, but when I first started meditating there was a lot of discussion about what was the ‘best’ form of meditation and which was more beneficial. Now, we’re saying it doesn’t matter just do something mindfully. That’s a load of pressure off the average practitioner.
Out of 247 people who were taught different forms of meditation 31% preferred the two simplest-mindfulness and mantra, 22% chose Zen and almost 15% favored Qi Gong. So there are lots of options out there and you’re not alone in choosing something different.
Ok, I have a secret. I really really prefer group meditation. I love the energy of a group. It helps me settle right down. . I love hearing others’ breathing and moving. Cause even when we think we’re being perfectly still, we’re using swaying or shifting or fidgeting. I don’t find it distracting, I find it comforting. But I’ve beat myself up about this for a long time. I’ve told myself I really need to start meditating by myself. I’ve often just been quiet when other people talk about their solo meditation practices, hoping they’ll believe I have one too. And I do get quiet and I do sit, but it never feels as “real” to me as when I meditate in a group so I tend to discount it
What this study has done for me is confirmed what I already knew, what I already teach to my students, but what I was having trouble accepting for myself. And for that I am incredibly grateful. Phew!