That’s the exact opposite feeling you’re trying to achieve!
However, it’s a very common sentiment. I come across this all the time:
“I know I’m supposed to meditate but I don’t know how”or “…it’s too hard”or“…I don’t have time.”
So let’s start right here with some quick facts (cause I know you don’t have all day, waiting for me to get to the point!):
#1 There is no wrong way to meditate.
#2 Meditation is not hard.
#3 There is no set amount of time needed for meditation.
(#2 sounds presumptuous but as long as you take #1 seriously, #2 is a given)
Now for an assumption. We are all stressed. It may be mentally. It may be physically. It may be spiritually or energetically. It might be all three. It may be due to our relationships or our jobs or our finances . . .
The world is a faster and busier place than the one our ancestors lived in and evolved through. And humans don’t change as fast as technology, unfortunately. So our poor nervous systems are still programed to deal with the occasional threat of a lion or bear, not the perceived threat we experience with continuous flashing lights (for example). Chronic screen time, prolonged work time, less digestive time, and less relaxing time in general; each of these irritants alone is enough to create a sympathetic (stressful) nervous system response in every one of us (and these are pretty basic, run of the mill type stressors - they tend to get worse from here). Not many of us can escape all the potential pitfalls life throws our way. So, we’re all a little stressed. Meditation should not be something that adds to the load.
After saying all that, I don’t want you spending all day in front of a screen reading a book-length article on how to be less stressed! So I’m going to try to make this short and sweet.
On to assumption number two –we could all benefit from some meditation.
We have all heard that meditation is good, I don’t think I have to go into a list of benefits and explanations, right? (if you want more info, send me an email or book an appointment and we’ll talk for as long as you want – shameless plug).
(But quickly for fun: meditation certainly calms the nervous system – so it can benefit a host of conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia, and everything in between. Meditation improves breathing = increases oxygenation and circulation = more energy. Meditation can also assist numerous body functions such as immunity, brain power/concentration and focus, hormonal dysfunction, and abnormal inflammation. The list goes on from there).
Realizing now that I’ve skipped over one very important point. I guess it’s more of a question, nevertheless, an integral part of this discussion:
What is meditation?
Sounds simple and kind of silly, right? But can you answer that question . . . succinctly?
Because I think the answer is the first step toward making meditation less stressful.
For example, if you answered that meditation is what some bald dude in robes does at the tops of a mountain in an attempt to starve himself and become enlightened, I can understand why the prospect of meditation is a little daunting for you (no disrespect to the amazing people who can work at meditating in this way. But it may not be as accessible for the rest of us as we might want).
So here’s my answer:
Meditation is what you need it to be.
Meditation is no ‘one thing’. Just as no one person is the identical to another, no practice of meditation will be the same. I’d say it’s as different as our fingerprints. The way you meditate and the reasons for which you do it are entirely yours and unique. Some people want relaxation and some people want enlightenment. It’s all good, seriously.
The essence of meditation is connection. Now that’s a word with layers:
We often think of connecting with others (usually in a more physical and talking sort of way).
We think a little less about connecting to ourselves.
And we certainly think less about the importance of connecting to the world around us (or dare I say, to the grand universe we are a part of).
Meditation, however you do it, works on all these levels. In practice, it may be skewed toward the last two, the ones we focus on less in our day-to-day lives. But in emphasizing self and universal connection, you know, we often find ourselves understanding and feeling a stronger connection to others as well.
But I know that the whole connection bit can be confusing and stressful too. So I’ll try to clear some more things up.
This idea does not have to involve spiritual enlightenment or energetic flow or channeling messages from the universe (again, this too is awesome and if that’s what you’re going for, have at it).
Connection can be as simple as remembering that you have toes. Or that you breathe. Or that there is grass and trees and wind (or concrete and sirens and noisy birds).
The idea of connecting through meditation is as simple as remembering that you and the world around you exist. And then just taking a moment with that.
In the end connection is simply a fun word. Just as meditation is. Really what we want are the results. All the fancy labels aside, we want to experience some of the benefits I quickly mentioned earlier. Whether you’re searching for spiritual insights or you simply need more help with that feisty hypertension, taking some time out of your busy schedule to sit in relative peace can help. And often, that’s all it takes - go way back up to the start of this article and look at those numbered facts again. Remember, you can’t do this wrong.
So here are some of the tips I thought up to help make the idea and practice of meditation less stressful. I’m sure you can come up with more!
Make a routine (place and time/timing)
Or don’t – be spontaneous and take time to meditate when it works each day
Listen to your body; sit for as long as feels right to you – 30 seconds per meditation might be all you ever need!
Close your eyes and breath
Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath
Close your eyes and control your breath (make your belly move with your breath, that's fun and very helpful)
Stare at a blank wall
Light a candle
Be in a natural setting (like your front lawn or beside a tree or by water or in a blanket fort)
Use repetitive beat or music - shake a homemade rattle, beat a simple drum.
Focus awareness/consciousness and then move it around body (ie. remember you have toes)
Speak to yourself/parts of yourself. With gratitude. Ask for what you want (as in, thank your brain for all its hard work, ask if it’s cool for it to take a break and reassure it that you’ll fill it in on any details it misses later)
Ask to feel certain things - light, peace, ease, love, etc.
("Asking" can be another daunting aspect. Sounds a lot like praying. Well sure, can be. Lots of people will meditate with a specific god in mind. But if you're not inclined toward that way of thinking/believing, you could always just ask yourself. That's the great thing about the 'connectedness' of meditation, we start to recognize our personal power again. We can feel our connection to the creative forces in the universe, and where our part in the greater schemes lie. Alternately, you can ask the universe or whichever creative force to which you feel a connection, to provide inspiration or whatever feeling you're going for.)
Ask a guiding spirit, power animal, ancestor, etc. to be with you as you meditate
And that's just a few ideas off the top of my head!
However you choose to meditate - sitting, standing, lying down, floating in water, under the sun, dancing in the rain, hugging a tree . . . remember these two things:
Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself and let go of your expectations.
Don’t make this simple practice harder than it has to be.
Don’t let your brain trick you into making it into something it is not.
Don’t expect to feel anything right away.
Be patient and flexible.
Meditation is not a superpower. It is a practice that anyone can take part in and make their very own. And it will make a difference in your life. Relax and enjoy.