Meditation is hard. Just like asana in yoga, it requires practice. Here are a few meditation tips for those who, like me, are not so good at mind silencing.
If the goings-on of brain could be summarised into a photo, it would look a lot like the one above (taken at the Namsan tower in Seoul, South Korea). There is a LOT going on - most of which is just repetition of the same old thoughts, worries and ideas (locks on locks on locks). Trying to silence this thought explosion is very difficult - to the point that I had for many years (until about yesterday, to be honest) given up.
Since I learned how to read, I've used books as a means of keeping my mind away from itself in order to fall asleep. I read until I can no longer focus on the text or have completely lost track of the plot and then allow myself to drift off. After a really insightful conversation yesterday with one of Yoga Quota's amazing trustees, however, I realised that a lot of this probably has to do with my lack of a meditation/mindfulness practice. I decided ages ago that meditation is just not for me, and have allowed my brain to just chug away in savasana/other meditative postures ceaselessly, keeping my mind full rather than practicing being mindful.
Mindfulness is just that: a practice. It's not easy to silence something that's programmed to think - especially when it's been given full freedom to do so without any real previous attempts at restraint. I've decided that mindfulness should become a daily part of life for me, and have thus begun my practice of meditation (better late than never, right?). Although it's not going so well, I have faith that it'll get better over time and with practice. So, without further adieu, here are my tips for practicing meditation for those who are not so good at meditation:
1. Start small
Like, really small. I'll meditate successfully for maybe one whole second before my brain starts going on a monologue about what a good job I'm doing meditating. Once you've mastered 1 second of being fully present, try for one and a half.
The same goes for the amount of time you dedicate to practicing meditation. At this point, five minutes is a stretch for me - but I know other people who are able to sit back and do nothing for 30+ minutes at a time. Start small and - should you want to - begin to work your way up from there. Perhaps you'll sit down for five minutes one day and discover you've actually been seated for much longer than that by the end.
2. Focus on your senses
Your senses are happening RIGHT NOW. They are indicators of what's going on in the present moment - so use them to help bring your mind to present as well. I like to focus on touch and sound - although smell can be really nice too if you've got some essential oils diffusing or are somewhere clean and outdoors. Notice how each part of your body feels - where there is pressure, sensation. Notice the temperature of your skin, of the air, of any breeze. Notice what's making contact with what, and try to get heavier in those areas. Notice each and every subtle sound being made both near and far from you - you'll realise that silencing isn't much of a thing even if you're home alone.
3. Choose a posture that works for you
Sitting straight spined in a full lotus pose isn't going to work for everyone. Find a posture that's comfortable and works for you. Sitting on a block, bolster, or rolled up blanket can be nice. Savasana (laying on the floor) or legs up the wall can be nice too. Find a comfortable posture that works for you and go with that.
4. Know that it's normal to feel anxious after meditation
The first (and to be honest, last) time I went to a meditation workshop, instead of floating out of it smelling of patchouli and inner peace I left an anxious mess. I immediately called up my friend who recommended I start a meditation practiced and asked him what was going on. He told me it's very normal to step out of meditation feeling anxious - and this anxiety only gets amplified when you start worrying about why you're not feeling peaceful (anxiety over anxiety - classic). My advice here to reduce these types of post-meditation feelings would be again to take it slow - work at your own space and honour where you're at.
5. Yoga nidra is an excellent practice for when your mind just cannot be asked to meditate
The toughest part about yoga nidra? Trying to stay awake! Give a 20 to 30 minute yoga nidra sequence a go sometime - there are likely many recordings you can use freely on YouTube, etc. Get yourself in a comfortable, supported savasana, close your eyes, and really listen. And try not to fall asleep, of course!