The practice of meditation can often be an intimidating prospect for some people, often associated with sitting for long periods of time in a full lotus position keeping thoughts from entering the mind while trying to reach some Zen-like state of peace and enlightenment!
When in reality, meditation is essentially a very simple practice, which can be easily integrated into your everyday life, resulting in amazing benefits for your overall health and wellbeing – in both the mind and the body.
Taking the time to quieten the mind is difficult for everyone. Whether you’re a first time student in a meditation class, or an experienced teacher. So let’s dispel that myth for a start! Obviously the teacher has worked extensively on techniques to help improve their meditation practice but don’t think that as you are sitting there as new student you’re going to be the only one in the room having a stream of random thoughts pop into your head!
In Zen Buddhism the mind is often referred to as the monkey-mind. It’s like a cheeky monkey, jumping from branch to branch and tree to tree, as the mind seemingly jumps from thought to thought – often at a frenetic pace! We often are completely unaware of this until we begin some meditative practice.
One of the most important things for a new meditation student to realise is that we’re not trying to stop these thoughts from entering our mind. That would ultimately be a rather painful process and very unsuccessful for practically everyone!
Instead, simply let the thoughts come….. and then go again…
It’s the latching on to the thoughts and letting them carry us off from our mindful state that is a key point here. Notice the thought and let it pass – like a speech bubble floating on by, or a wave drifting through an ocean.
Let the thoughts enter one by one…. and leave and leave again, trying to refocus on the meditation practice – whether that be a mindful breathing exercise, focusing on a particular object or following the guided meditation of a teacher.
As I wrote previously, meditation is simple….. although I never said it was easy!
The key thing is: be nice to yourself!
Don’t beat yourself up if you realise that 5 or 10 minutes into a practice, you’ve done nothing but mentally write a shopping list, think about a meeting you had at work that morning or plan your kid’s birthday party!
Essentially it’s all part of the practice and the meditation journey. A lot of people do get frustrated with this and often give up, thinking they just can’t quieten their minds for 2 seconds, let alone the duration of a class!
However, if you were to join a gym, you wouldn’t walk up to the weights, load up plates onto the bar and perform heavy squats straight away! You’d start light, or with no weight, and build it up over months and years, (hopefully) enjoying the process and getting stronger and stronger in the meantime.
Same with meditation. It’s weight training for the mind!
Start light and easy, you’ll be reaping the rewards even after one class, enjoy the process and you’ll slowly and gradually improve over time, calming that monkey mind and reaping all of the amazing benefits that meditation has to offer!