There’s always a reason not to do the one thing you should
If the Spiritual Path is the path of transformation of the soul, then meditation is the light needed to see the path clearly. I know many people struggle with meditation, believe me, I’ve heard and experienced myself numerous reasons why it’s difficult to develop a regular meditation practice;
I don’t have time.
I can’t shut my mind off.
I can’t sit still for that long.
I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work for me.
I don’t have a place to meditate.
I don’t know how.
I wish I could say that it is not necessary to have a regular meditation practice to actively walk the spiritual path, but in my experience that simply isn’t the case. We are actually all walking our spiritual paths, some with much more difficulty than others. What meditation does is help us clarify and understand our path better so we can walk it in the light, with our eyes open – rather than stumbling over rocks in the dark. I consider this ‘actively’ walking the path. In addition, the peripheral benefits of meditation are numerous and profound. Meditation can alleviate stress, help with sleep, reduce aggression, and help you ‘be in the moment’ enabling you to make better decisions in the moment. I have seen the best results in my life when I was meditating three times a day; shorter sessions in the morning and evening with a longer meditation at lunch. You don’t have to start there; it’s your choice how to introduce this into your life. Take heart, developing a meditation practice is a lot like developing a fitness routine. It may be difficult to start, but once you build momentum it’s relatively simple to keep it going.
I don’t have time…
The good news, of course, is that you can start small. An aspirant to spiritual development doesn’t need to start with an hour or more of meditation, daily. Five decent minutes of meditation a day is better than no minutes and/or fifteen solid minutes 3-4 times a week is as good a place to start as any. The key is to develop a routine. Even if that routine is about setting aside five minutes for breath meditation first thing in the morning or doing a Shavasana relaxation to help you sleep at night, benefits will accrue when you make time for meditation in your life. You may need to wake up earlier or go to bed later than the rest of the household in order to find a place or time. If you have a partner or family (such as young children) you may need to ’negotiate’ some time. Making time for meditation may require giving something up in return. We all have 24 hour days we fill up with activity. If you really can’t find time right now, it might be beneficial to take a look at what you are filling up your time with. Examine your priorities and determine whether or not actively walking the spiritual path is one of them. This practice does not have to consume your life (it certainly hasn’t consumed mine) but it does have to be a priority – and in order for that to be the case, you have to make it one. It’s okay if walking the spiritual path is not a priority for you right now, but it’s important to recognize that that is a choice you are making by putting other activities and priorities ahead of this work.
Meditation just doesn’t work for me (or I just can’t meditate)…
Even more good news, the multitude of meditation traditions and options mean that there is something out there for everyone. For people who “can’t shut their minds off” start with a highly guided meditation like a metta or chakra balancing meditation to give your mind something to do during the session. If you’ve tried breath meditation and it hasn’t worked for you, ditch it for now and try a grounding meditation instead. Trouble with visualization? Try a mantra meditation where you can focus on sound or a relaxation meditation shifting the focus to feeling your muscles. Often you just need to find one or two things that work for you to get your meditation practice off the ground. If your motivation flags with self-study, try a class. If you’re ready and interested, check out local park district, school district, wellness center, and community / continuing education classes. Resources are always available for those who look. Once you have established a regular practice for a few months, you will notice the incredibly positive effects in your life and you will yearn for your meditation time; consequently, if you stop meditating for a period of time, the effects of that, too, will be evident.
I don’t have a place…
Finding a place to meditate can be difficult. I’ve written a whole blog post about this called “ohm away from home.” However, if you’re a beginning meditator, you don’t really need to find or create a special place to spend hours of your day in quiet reflection. Finding a place to be alone for 5-10 minutes a few times a week should be plenty as a start and that is not impossible for most of us. I often meditate in one of the side bedrooms, If noise is a concern, use music or a guided meditation or even noise canceling headphones to compensate. If you have a backyard and it’s warm – this can be the perfect place to meditate. My favorite meditation sessions have been outside in full sun. If you aren’t comfortable in a traditional cross-legged position, it’s perfectly acceptable to meditate in a chair. I have found the Ikea Poang chairs to be particularly conducive to meditation. If all else fails, you can also meditate lying down- but I would only recommend this during the day when there is lots of light in the room and you are feeling very awake (and therefore unlikely to fall asleep). I have had some very successful supine meditations, but if you have a tendency to fall asleep easily in such a position it’s best to avoid it in the beginning.
I don’t know how…
Even considering the above advice, starting a meditation practice can be daunting if you haven’t had any exposure to this kind of thing before. Below I offer some resources that I have found helpful. These might be a good starting point and lead you to things that will work for you.
– Ask your Angels -by Daniel, Alma, Wyllie, Timothy and Ramer, Andrew (grounding meditation & releasing meditations)
– Messages from the masters by Brian Weiss (relaxation & regression meditations in the back)
– Living from the Heart by Puran Khan Bair (many breath meditation type exercises & swinging the breath)
– Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin (non-religious technique that could be practiced during meditation to get at the root of a problem that’s been bothering you. note – the first 4-5 chapters of the book read like an infomercial, but once you get past that, the practice is worthwhile exploring)
– there are lots and lots and lots of meditation books out there with lots of ideas for meditation exercises. If you have a good local library (and if you live in the Chicagoland area you probably do) I recommend starting there first so your exploratory costs are lower.
– Insight Meditation series by Salzburg & Goldstein (this comes with a companion book, order on Amazon or the like, this is a Vipassana / Buddhist type of meditation, although it doesn’t hit you over the head with the Buddhism aspect which I appreciate)
– Shavasana series by Sarah Bates (available on iTunes and others)
– Grounding & Golden Rod meditations by Sapkniona Whitefeather (available on iTunes, a bit Native American themed)
– Music for the Mindful Brain – Jeffrey Thompson (this is not guided)
– unfortunately good recordings are a little bit more challenging than working off a meditation script from a book. Although you have to remember less / do less work, you may not like the person’s voice, they may talk too much, you may find the background music discordant or distracting. Unfortunately, listening for one minute on iTunes may not always tell you whether you’re going to like something or not.