Have you ever watched an old silent film? Maybe some film-buff friend recommend one of the classics to you. So you sit down, turn it on, and even though you know this thing passed for entertainment back in the day, and is the pinnacle of the art form… Good Lord!! Sooo hard to get into. You’re suffering through it, totally bored.
Sometimes, that’s what it feels like when you try to meditate—you’re doing your best to quiet your mind, but, wow, is it hard. Feels more like siting down and thinking than sitting down and meditating. Where’s the peace, the bliss? You worry that your brain is just not made for meditation…
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Meditation is a general term, like “sports.” All it means is “one pointed focus.” There are literally thousands of types meditations out there (i.e. thousands of things that your mind can practice focusing on). Not all meditation is “be still, be thoughtless, & focus on your breath.” That’s high level, silent film connoisseur-type meditation.
Lots meditations have Mantra (sound or chanting), or Mudra (body position or movement), or both in combination as their focus. When you meditate with mudra and mantra it’s like taking a black and white silent film and exchanging it for a movie with dialog, color and music. All of a sudden, all of your senses are engaged and it’s way easier to pay attention. You may even be having fun.
You can set yourself up for success
If you’ve had trouble meditating, be easy on yourself. Really anyone can meditate, but that misconception that meditation is all bliss and thoughtlessness is pretty darn inaccurate—especially for beginners. If a beginning meditator comes to me for help, my first strategy is teaching them a meditation with some moving parts, like mudra or mantra, just so they have more to focus ON. Remember, learning to focus is your first goal as a beginner.
If you’re already meditating with mudra and mantra and still feel stymied, there are a few more tricks of the trade to help you focus.
Try just one of these and see if it helps:
1. Practice as part of a group.
Just being around the calm energy of other people meditating will help you focus.
2. Do yoga first.
This is what yoga is for, preparing the body and mind for meditation. It’s totally wacky that this got lost when yoga was translated into our culture. But here’s the secret: yoga was designed by the ancients to release tension from the body, heal it, and get you relaxed and energized so you can meditate deeply.
3. Cover your head.
It is easier to focus on meditation (or prayer for that matter) when your head is covered. It is not a coincidence that many religions recommend covering the head during spiritual practice.
4. Meditate before dawn.
The hours before dawn are know as the Amrit Vela, or ambrosial hours. It is easier to meditate during this time because you mind is more quiet, and the hussle-bussle of the day hasn’t yet started. So, if you are an early riser, Score! Do you mediation practice when you first wake.
If not… Well, it is something to shoot for. Even though I personally have trouble getting up pre-dawn, I still find that mediation first thing in the morning is the best way.
If you want to learn to meditate, don’t let a wondering mind dissuade you. Random thoughts in meditation are like rain the Amazon. 100% normal and expected. But you can learn to focus more deeply and relax if you meditate with mudra or mantra, practice as part of a group, cover your head, wake up early, or do a little yoga beforehand.
Do you want support learning to Meditate?
August is the next time I will open my Small Group Yoga and Meditation Classes to new students. This class provides all the help and individual instruction you’ll need to really learn. Plus, the small group format offers a supportive community of fellow students. More information is here.