“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art
Meditation often elicits strong resistance. It can be boring and make us face things we’d rather ignore. But it’s the single most important practice we can undertake to feel more peaceful.
During cancer treatment, I had a spiritual experience where a voice told me to meditate. It was loud and scary, and of course I didn’t listen.
Meditate? Sit and do nothing but breathe? I tried a few times even before cancer, but my mind would race with unfriendly thoughts, and unable to stand it, I’d unwind my crossed legs as fast as possible, hurriedly walking away, somewhere. Anywhere but here.
And that was the story of my life. I’d lived in seven states in three years, planning my next move almost as quickly as I arrived. I told myself I wanted to explore and see the world, but I was running from something deep inside myself.
Then I got cancer and was forced to slow down. Six months of treatment followed by surgery, and then I married a man whose tendency toward stability was as strong as my predilection for change.
About six years later, I’m still in the same state despite my best efforts to move.
During the years of emotional adjustments that followed cancer, the feeling of being stuck in one place compounded the discomfort. All I wanted was a fresh start in a place I liked. Didn’t I deserve that after cancer? But life sometimes has other plans. Circumstances we need to go through in order to grow.
Those feelings of being stuck turned into an incredibly strong catalyst to look inward. Finally, I began to meditate.
The first few times weren’t pretty, but they were incredibly healing. I’d sit and breathe and begin to sweat from just sitting there. The emotions were seeping out from my wrought body, through my skin, purifying me from the inside out.
I’d sit with a cell phone timer set for five minutes, sweat and feel whatever there was to feel, and then get up and go on with my day.
Eventually, there were fewer emotions to feel and my mind began chattering. It still chatters and those moments of peace and quiet are few and far between. But that’s the practice.
Sometimes people say, “I’m bad at meditation.” But that’s kind of a misnomer. You can’t be bad at meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is actually a state of being, the state of being thoughtless and fully connected with life force energy.
Meditation practices like breathing or active techniques are just helpers to guide us into this thoughtless state. Your mind will chatter, and following those thoughts might make you crazy. But it’s ok, just keep coming back to your breath, return to the seat every day and over time you will fall into silence.
This silence will lead you to greater peace, encourage your life energy to consume more space and more fully inhabit your body, helping you to come into your own. Sometimes this silence is a welcome respite from the chaos of the day.
Other times, we may hear important messages from our intuition about which way to go. We may learn insights about life, or gain greater a understanding about our individual paths.
While the benefits of learning to meditate are numerous, I’ve been cautioned by my own intuition to avoid taking advantage of meditation. We don’t sit to abuse the insights, using them for our own gain or to build an even stronger ego. We’re not better people because we meditate. Just hopefully moving through life more peacefully.
How to meditate
Find a comfortable seat. Feel free to sit on a pillow to elevate the hips and make sitting more comfortable.
Set a cell phone timer, or download a meditation app. I like this free one from Maxwell Studios because it offers the ability to set interval timers, say every five minutes, which is helpful to know how much time has passed during longer meditations. Preparation time can also be programmed, which is helpful if you’d like to begin with pranayama, breath work, like alternate nostril breathing.
Sitting tall with a straight spine, rest the hands on the knees palms up to increase energy or palms down for grounding. Any hand position is fine, but I like taking gyan mudra, with the first finger and thumb tips touching in a circle.
This mudra activates the base chakra, helping to ground you. It’s calming and helps to release tension while encouraging feelings of openness, both helpful for entering meditation. This is the most common mudra of the many, many sacred hand positions.
Bringing awareness to the breath, watch it enter your body, filling your chest, feeling your heart expand, and then watching it leave. If a thought arises, don’t follow it. So, if you think, “Am I doing this right?” or, “What should I eat for dinner?” you wouldn’t follow those thoughts up with debates or analysis solving either of those mysteries.
Simply return to the breath, feeling any emotions that arise, and accepting any thoughts. Try not to resist thoughts because the things we try to fight off have the tendency to push back against us, making our work more difficult.
People often wonder how to stop their thoughts and the answer isn’t to stop them, but to allow them. If you let them flow over you and stop giving energy (aka your attention) to them, the flow will eventually slow.
If you have trouble with this, a guided meditation may help.
If an emotion does arise, hold it in your awareness, feeling it or investigating it. If you’d like to investigate it, ask yourself, “What is that?” and move your awareness deeper and deeper until the feeling dissipates or you receive a message about its nature. You may learn why you feel that way or gain an insight about a mental or emotional block in your life.
This is the practice I do during my signature Feeling Awareness meditation. Download a guided audio by entering your email below.
There is no goal in meditation; the practice is one of feeling, being, and allowing. Allow yourself to feel the peace that comes with no goal or expectation to work towards. It’s an opportunity to synchronize yourself with the universal energy and to find moments of peace.
Eventually those moments build on one another, expanding. And one day, when you’re driving home in traffic or engaging in a dispute over matters of opinion, you may find yourself remembering your breath. Finding your center.
And that’s the practice.
Occasionally, you may wish to ask yourself a question before beginning your meditation practice. You may ask yourself for insights on forgiveness or another issue making life problematic. Sit and breathe, wait for the answers to come without expectation. They’ll come when they’re ready.
Tips for beginning a regular meditation practice
Establishing a regular meditation practice takes a lot of effort, but it’s so worth it.
For me, it’s helpful to meditate every morning. That way, it’s out of the way for the day, and those moments of silence first thing in the morning set the tone for the entire rest of the day.
Try challenging yourself to meditate first thing in the morning for five minutes, for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, hopefully the habit will be established. You may even begin to miss it if you skip a morning.
I know that if I skip meditating too many days in a row, I start feeling anxious and depressed. This practice has profoundly changed my life and brought welcome clarity into my purpose and path. Once the benefits begin to outweigh the resistance, overcoming that resistance becomes easier and easier. One day, you may even look forward to your time spent sitting.
Would you like a free guided audio of the meditation technique that changed my life? Download it below!