Have you ever tried meditating and your head was so full of thoughts and chaos that it had a reverse effect?
Instead of relaxation, it made you even more stressed out and more annoyed, almost angry?
And as much as you tried (because you wanted to be successful), it was more trouble than it was worth, for you, causing you more anxiety?
So here is the thing… there is absolutely nothing wrong with you!!!
Your mind is doing everything it is supposed to do, its job. Because you try so hard to go against what is meant to happen, having 80 000 thoughts a day, you aren’t benefitting at all from a meditation practice. Maybe you are trying too hard. Is it even possible that it deters you and makes you walk away cursing and hating on the one thing that can help you and better your life?
Well, I’m here to help inspire you to try again, but this time with the knowledge and the tools, for success. The ultimate goal of meditation is to build mind power and to get to a place of inner joy, where we aren’t affected by exterior people, places and things. It has been scientifically proven that our frontal cortex grows when meditating. It’s like building a muscle. You see we are a society that looks to find happiness, from exterior sources. When is the last time you mentioned being happy when you accomplish something or when you win the lottery? It’s not to say that these events aren’t joyful, but they aren’t the cause of your inner joy. You are…
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a tool that can help us calm our minds and has many benefits. These are some of the benefits to give us an idea of the enormous effect it can have on our lives. Reduces stress, promotes sound sleep, increases wisdom and intuition, builds compassion, promotes extraordinary happiness, positive attitude, and helps with health and wellbeing, helps us act rather than react, joyfulness, generosity, kindness, and letting go.
Learning how to meditate is straightforward, and the benefits can come quickly if one is open to it. Often meditation is mistaken for a practice to stop thoughts. It is in fact, not that at all! The purpose is to find the path toward greater equanimity, acceptance, calm, peace and inner joy. Meditation is a simple practice available to all, so take a deep breath, and get ready to relax…
Is Meditation the same as Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is constant awareness, being present in all that you do, whereas meditation is an inner reflection. Both bring peace and contentment, but it is believed that meditation allows for permanent joy.
How does one begin?
The truth is that sitting down and quieting the mind can be an immense challenge for some of us and isn’t always as easy as it sounds. For those of you who have tried it, you know that the mind is continually racing with thought, that’s its job… Most of the thoughts are of the past or live in the future. We are rarely living or thinking in the present moment.
The goal is to train the mind to be aware of the thought and embrace it and then return to a focal point. There are different types of focal points, it could be something outside of us a candle, a crystal, but my personal preference is using the body as your focal point. My recommendation is the breath or one of the Chakras preferably the third eye (the area between the eyebrows), the heart (at the chest), or the solar plexus (the area below at the center just below the rib cage). As well as, a mantra (preferably Sanskrit) or syllable repeated over and over again. The idea of the “word” needs to be something we have no reference or attachment to. This way the “word” isn’t the distraction.
And between the focal point and the “word” one continues to draw the attention back from the thoughts to the “word” and focal point building a muscle in the frontal cortex of the brain. This with practice becomes easier and easier. In meditation, consistency over duration is the key to seeing results. Eventually, over time and practice, the thoughts become less and less and eventually one can say their word in a stressful situation, and the body calms right down.
It is always best to find a quiet location, especially if you are a beginner, and turn off your phone.
Sit in a comfortable seated position, either with your legs crossed on the floor, or feet planted on the ground in a high backed chair.
Create a space for yourself that feels special, a place that you’re excited to come to each day. An enjoyable place lends itself to an enjoyable experience, and enjoyable experience will be one that you will happily repeat!
It also helps to find a consistent time in your day that you can devote to silence. Setting aside 2-3 minutes at the same time and on a regular basis will help form your meditation practice as a habit.
Take as much time as you need to get settled. If you sit and realize you’re thirsty, quickly grab water. If you’re chilly, grab a sweater.
The more of these little things you can take care of in the beginning, the better. Your mind will have run through the mental checklist of small comforts to hopefully silence itself of physical needs. Once these have been attended to, the mind typically shifts to EVERYTHING else! It’s this everything else that meditation aims to quiet. These are called hindrances.
In meditation, the Five Hindrances can be seen as the major forces in the mind that hinder our ability to see clearly or become concentrated. They are universal, we all experience them.
The five hindrances are:
1) sensual desire or greed
2) ill-will or aversion
3) sloth and torpor
4) restlessness & anxiety or worry
The primary instruction in working with the Hindrances is to turn them into your Meditation Object. It doesn’t matter if a hindrance is present or not, but it does matter if you’re not aware of them. Any moment the hindrances are suspended, one feels happy and calm. It’s important to have a friendly relationship with the hindrances, not an adversarial one.
Investigating the Hindrances
The RAIN Formula: When a hindrance is present it helps to investigate it:
R: Recognize it.
A: Accept it.
I Investigate it, be curious. What is it like?
- Physically (How does it feel in the body? Is it pleasant? Unpleasant? Does it change?)
- Energetically (such as feelings of rushing, sinking or lifting)
- Cognitively (What beliefs or stories do we tell ourselves?)
- Motivationally (is there an urge to act or cling?)
This is just a passing process that comes and goes, not who we are. It’s helpful to first explore the hindrance and investigate it. Often just recognizing a hindrance is enough for it to fall away. But at other times, it’s helpful to use “remedies” to counterbalance the hindrance.
Desire or Greed
Desire becomes a hindrance when we want something and grasp for it, cling to it. It could be either harmful to us or inappropriate or not useful at this time. Wanting to eat is a healthy desire, but not useful while meditating. Whereas a desire for a cigarette might be a desire for something harmful, no matter how weak or strong Desire is. Mindful attention is always appropriate. You can work with it using the RAIN formula above (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Non-identification).
Aversion and Ill-Will
Aversion is wanting things not to be the way they are and pushing them away. Ill-will is an escalation of that into wishing harm to someone or something that is in the way of us getting what we want. It can range from a very subtle pushing something away to intense hatred and anger or ill-will. No matter how weak or strong an aversion is, mindful attention is always appropriate. You can work with it using the RAIN formula (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-identification). With the less intense forms of aversion, just noticing them is often enough to dispel them.
Sloth & Torpor
Sloth and torpor refer to the heaviness of body and dullness of mind respectively. This includes drowsiness, sluggishness, low energy, sleepiness, lethargy. Nothing is clear. The mind feels heavy and dull or dreamy. Sloth refers to the physical aspects: it feels difficult holding oneself up. Torpor is more mental; it feels difficult to pay attention. Sloth & Torpor can be either pleasant or unpleasant. When it’s pleasant (dreamy comfy…) it’s more seductive. When it’s comfortable and pleasant…it’s sometimes called “sinking mind.” It can be a form of “procrastination” – we know we’re not mindful, but it’s nice here…kind of like staying in bed in the morning and sleeping in…we can be mindful later… It’s relaxing, but it is not conducive to awareness, to mindfulness. We want to develop a mind that is both Tranquil and Alert. Too much tranquillity without alertness and we’re in dreamland.
Restlessness and Anxiety or Worry
Restlessness is a feeling of agitation or over-excitement; it agitates the mind, so it doesn’t have the time to see fully. Restlessness is unpleasant, so there is a tendency of the mind to push it away, to not want it there. The mind is restless, and restlessness is further enhanced by struggling against it.
Worry is fear of what may happen in the future.
Anxiety is a non-specific fear of what will happen in the future.
The restlessness of the mind tends to show itself in restlessness in the body; in meditation, by wanting to shift positions, by tightness and tension. Restlessness can take different forms: worry, planning, physical restlessness, self-judgment, the regret of the past, nervousness, remorse, anxiety. But what these different forms have in common is that we are either regretting or judging the past or worrying about the future. Peace and happiness can only occur in the present moment. We can get lost in regret of the past and self-judgment. Regretting the past comes from actions we’ve either committed or omitted and is a major source of restlessness in meditation and daily life.
When we pay attention to how much of the disquiet of the mind comes as a result of past actions, the imperative to live a life of integrity becomes more and more compelling.
It is said that Doubt, as one of the hindrances, is the most dangerous of the hindrances, as it is the one that can cause a person to give up their practice. We can doubt our ability to practice or doubt the practice or the teachings. It’s a state of indecision, of vacillation, that doesn’t allow us to fully apply ourselves, causes us to hold back, to get lost in discursive thinking.
Doubt interrupts the gathering of data with premature questions; it interferes with the process of seeing. Doubt can question one’s own ability “Can I do this?”, or question the method “Is this the right way?” Even, “How am I doing?” Such questions are obstacles to meditation because they are asked at the wrong time and thus become an obstacle, obscuring one’s clarity.
Doubt is not productive or useful; it drains us or disconnects us. It keeps us unwilling to apply ourselves.
I believe as deep as my heart and soul that everyone needs to meditate, some form of meditation. Whether you choose my suggested way, qigong, yoga, Tai chi, whichever your preference, it comes down to self-care and helping us guide us thru this hectic, stressful, chaotic world we live in and knowing and practicing tools such as these can change your life drastically! I speak from experience. I am a Mom of 2 teens I have a part-time job working in the schools and I own and operate my own business. I’ve recently finished my YTT 200 hours, and I will be getting my RCYT this summer. I couldn’t be doing all of this without my practice. And if you feel you do not have the time, you gain time from practicing because one becomes more focused and clear-headed allowing for more time to do more things. Remember the hindrances, use your rain technique to investigate, and then, let it go! It takes time, but believe me when I say it does become easier.