I sat down to meditate the other morning and quickly realized the next 10 minutes would be an epic battle. My mind was distracted, jumping from what I had to accomplish that day, to wondering what Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots were doing, to why my lower back hurt so much to… I imagine it similar to a dog and a squirrel.
I’m just getting back into the habit of meditating after a three-month hiatus. This has helped me to recognize a pattern – when life gets hectic or stressful, my daily meditation tends to take a backseat to other activities. Going forward, I’ve committed to treat this practice like gold. After all, like my clients, I require a stress management system to create balance in my life.
It’s important to note that, while we should all strive for it, balance is not something that must occur daily. In fact, it won’t. Life throws us curve balls, requiring a diversion of focus to specific issues or projects. The problem comes when these issues are resolved and we jump right into the next project without giving our body and minds the rest they need.
It helps to think of balance as something accomplished over the course of your life rather than every single day. If you visualized it, it would look like a roller coaster, the ups and downs of your life represented in the balanced peaks and valleys of the ride.
As I resumed my practice, after about a minute of sitting quietly, I was incredibly tempted to pack it in for the day. I rationalized the idea, chalking it up to not having ‘it’ today – whatever ‘it’ is. Then my brain provided a quick check, and the awareness of my resistance convinced me to stick it out for just a little while longer. If I was unable to clear my thoughts for the next minute, I would just open my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax. After all, meditation shouldn’t be stressful.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”
The minute passed, followed by another and another. After a while, I realized my stream of thoughts, though they hadn’t ebbed completely, moved much slower, passing me by without stealing my attention. I was making progress.
I wish I could tell you I felt instantly Zen-like or that the rest of my day was full of clarity – but I can’t. I can tell you that when I sat down to meditate the next day and recalled how challenging the day before was, I was reminded that with a little effort, I was able to move forward. And I could do the same again.
Many of my clients still balk at the idea of meditation. Some think it requires sitting on a mountainside somewhere in Tibet. Others have tried it once or twice before and felt discouraged by how difficult it can be to sit in silence.
If you have met with such resistance, the best way around it is simply to do whatever you can at that moment and be okay with it. If it is only for a minute, that’s okay. Once you conquer a minute, try to sit for two. Gradually increase sitting time until you can comfortably sit for 10 minutes. Personally, this is where I feel the maximum effect, but if you feel you benefit from a longer session, go for it!
“The benefits of training in meditation arrive long before mastery ever does”
– Sam Harris
I share this story not because I want everyone to meditate (though, I do), but to offer the lesson that no matter what it is we are trying to accomplish, we need to spend more time allowing ourselves to make progress, embracing any and all setbacks along the way. We need to spend less time trying to be perfect. Sooner or later, the progress adds up and you find yourself winning.
Interested in meditation? Headspace is a great app that helped when I first started meditating – 10 days of 10 minute meditations for free.
Those of you who want to get started right away here are the main points I concern myself with.
- Sit comfortably, with a tall spine, either in chair or cross-legged on the floor. It’s okay to use a cushion for comfort.
- Place your hands either palms up or down on your knees or place your palms in your lap over top of one another.
- Take a few deep breaths into the belly to start. Close your eyes, and scan from head to toe how your body feels. Notice where you make contact with the floor and become aware of any discomfort in the body.
- Pay attention to your breathing. Notice how your breath feels when you inhale filling your belly and how it feels as you exhale on your lips or in your belly. Breathe normally, there is no need to control your breath.
- Every time your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.
- When you are ready to come out of meditation, wiggle your fingers and toes to bring your awareness back to your body. Open your eyes and sit quietly for a minute allowing your body to readjust.
Have you picked up my Foundations Program yet? It covers my four pillars of health and offers the most low hanging fruit tips for you to stat taking action. Plus, it’s free! ?