I have always been interested in Self-Actualization and improving my life through health, wellness, mindfulness and such. I’ve read all the books and blogs about how learning to meditate can change your life. I’ve done a Deepak Chopra 21-day meditation challenge. I even have the book Meditation For Dummies. Though I don’t consider myself ‘Dummie’ when it comes to this type of work, I could never quite grasp the art of meditating. I would sit for the allotted 20 or so minutes, I’d repeat the mantra, I’d focus on my breathing, but nothing miraculous happened and more often than not I would find that I was thinking about what I wanted for dinner than my balancing my chakras. I’d often forget how to pronounce the mantra and was worried I’d end up manifesting some evil energy. I was completely defeated and thoroughly bummed. After the 21 days all I had to show for my efforts were legs that would cramp and fall asleep about the 10-minute mark every single time. I really thought there was something wrong with me. Was I so ADD that meditating was a skill that I just didn’t have? Like understanding Chemistry? Or Algebra? Or my remote control?
So I put it on the shelf both figuratively and literally and with a palms up to the sky said ‘oh well, not for me’, on the subject of mediation. Then I came across an article about meditation that completely changed my outlook. I forget the title but it was about how taking just five minutes to sit with the question ‘Who Am I or I am’ can really help you dig deep beneath the surface of your ego and get to the heart of things. Who doesn’t have five minutes?! This kind of practice certainly appeals to my impatient nature and takes the pressure off of having to get something miraculous out of meditating.
The first thing you want is relative silence. I live on a busy street, so I cannot do anything about traffic noise, but I shut off any television or music that might distract me.
Then get in a comfortable seated position. Initially I thought to myself ‘why is seated so important?’ Then I tried meditating lying down and promptly fell asleep. So…If cross-legged isn’t comfortable for you, I don’t see anything wrong with sitting in a chair or with your legs extended and back against the wall.
Sit tall and softly close your eyes and start deeply inhaling and exhaling through the nose. I like to visualize that with my eyes closed I am actually looking at a dark movie screen on which my life movie will be played. If that’s a little too ‘woo woo’ for you, simply closing your eyes will suffice, but try not to squeeze-hold the eyes shut. Check in with your jaw to make sure it is relaxed.
Then say silently to yourself either ‘I am’ or ‘Who Am I?’ and that’s it. Continue to focus on the sounds the inhale and exhale make and wherever your mind goes, it goes. If it goes to a cool idea, continue to focus on that idea, not developing it-remember it’s only five minutes, but the idea itself and then write it down as soon as the five minutes end. If nothing but what you want to eat for dinner comes into your mind, then focus on that. Clearly your inner wisdom is urging you to cook up something delicious.
Overall, don’t get too hung up on finding some miraculous discovery or having some profound insight. Too often, I think people get discouraged with meditation because they are looking for that big moment when all of life’s mysteries get solved. The more pressure you put on yourself to ‘get something’ from meditation, the more stressful it becomes.
If five minutes doesn’t seem like enough, think of adding a minute the next time, but don’t think you have to go big or go home. Small increments are better. Pretty soon you will likely find your most interesting ideas and thoughts start to happen during these small bits of time and with the breathing being so focused you will gain a sense of calm and who couldn’t use that?
Jessica Kuiken is a Los Angeles based Certified Pilates Instructor. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter