|The things we notice when we pay attention. Julie Saint-Mleux, 2015|
"You don't learn to sail in stormy seas. You go to a secluded place, not to avoid the world, but to avoid distractions until you build your strength and you can deal with anything. You don't box Muhammad Ali on day one." - Matthieu Ricard
If you're anything like me (and the average meditator), you will encounter obstacles on the path to making meditation a habit in your life. Meditation is not complicated in itself, but its simplicity can be precisely what makes it so difficult. Meditation implies being here and now, without giving in to external or internal distractions. It's hard. Especially in our fast-paced, hyper-stimulating world.
I have been
Luckily, there are many strategies to help your mind focus or to prevent it from drifting away (including to sleep). I've listed them below:
1) Tire yourself out before you start meditating. Ending a demanding yoga session with meditation can work wonders. I also find that I meditate ''better'' after working out and stretching;
2) Create a rhythmic movement such as walking, running, cycling, rowing, or even sitting in a rocking chair;
3) Engage your sense of sight: look at a flower, at a lit candle, at a campfire;
4) Engage your sense of hearing: sit by the ocean (in a quiet spot as crowds can be distracting) and let the waves rock you into meditation, or sit in the woods listening to the birds. You can also listen to soothing music, or even try chanting mantras;
5) Engage your sense of smell: aromatherapy can help as long as you don't have any adverse reaction to the scent;
6) Engage your sense of taste: eating very slowly, paying all attention to the sensation in your mouth, can be a meditative experience;
7) Last but not least, and probably the most accessible technique, focus on the breath.
Learning to meditate can be quite a steep learning curve, but I remind myself that ''bad'' meditation is still meditation. Sometimes it's only once it's done that you realize the actual realm of its benefits.
Eventually, meditation will sneak up on you: more and more, I find myself in a meditative state when it wasn't even planned. At random moments, I seem to land into a state of combined calm and alertness that improves my interactions with people, my work, my respect for my own physical and emotional needs.
Sometimes, what I notice isn't pleasant in itself: For example, I realize that being around certain individuals is draining. I realize that I have muscular tension or other types of discomforts. I realize that I am tired. Sad. Anxious. Noticing those things isn't particularly positive, but it does help me take the necessary steps to well-being.
Sometimes I notice neutral things, such as my heartbeat. It is neither negative nor positive, but it is strangely comforting.
Sometimes, I notice positive things, such as peacefulness, warmth, lightness, joy, all those things that were probably there all along but only became perceptible once I paid attention.
Mindfulness this Week
What specific challenges and strategies have you experienced in your meditation?
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