When I meet someone, I usually share that I write about PRO-aging. It’s a perfect conversation starter. When I share that I’m also a master meditation instructor, that takes the conversation to another level.
What I love is that my new friends ALWAYS have an enthusiastic barrage of questions and comments about meditation:
- “Oh, I really need that.”
- “I’ve been THINKING about trying meditation.”
- “My friends keep telling me that I should be meditating.”
- “WOW, it sounds SO wonderful.”
Then we are off to the races with rapid-fire commentary something like this:
- “It’s hard finding the time or a quiet place. I can’t shut off my mind. I can’t relax. It’s too hard. I don’t have the energy. My house is too busy. I don’t know what to do. I can’t keep a practice going. I keep having thoughts. My mind is running amok. I’m uncomfortable. My legs keep falling asleep. I keep falling asleep. I’m afraid that my family will make fun of me. I feel stupid.” (The last one really hurts me to hear.)
In response, I typically ask: “So is that ALL that’s holding you back?” (I do my best not to be glib, but, yikes, those are a lot of reasons for NOT meditating.) Hopefully, that gets a laugh.
By this time, I KNOW meditation would help. This is why I started meditating and why I teach meditation. I needed it, too. Badly needed it, like a lot of people I meet.
The conversation usually continues with more questions:
- “How DO you meditate?’’
- “Is it really as hard as it sounds?”
- “What if I can’t find the time?”
- “Why should I bother if I can’t do it all the time?”
- “BUT can I REALLY get any benefits if I only do it occasionally?”
- “Isn’t my mind supposed to be silent when I meditate?”
- “Do I have to sit a certain way?”
- “Aren’t I supposed to put my hands in different positions?”
- “What if I can’t do it?”
All of these questions have simple answers, so read on!
To me, meditation is the cornerstone of positive and enthusiastic aging.
No matter what your circumstances, challenges, or limitations, you CAN meditate. Meditation is a breath away.
It’s said that once an ancient meditation master was asked, “What if I don’t have the time to meditate for five minutes?” He said, “Then meditate for an hour.”
It’s not just spiritual leaders who appear to benefit from meditation. It’s also business professionals, entertainers, athletes, educators, musicians, veterans, members of the LGBTQI community, children, teens, the disabled, new moms, and seniors.
Meditation proves itself time and time again.
The best news is that meditation is available to ANYONE at any time. Like I always say, “If you are breathing, you can meditate.”
We know we can benefit from what meditation has to offer us, BUT how do we get started?
Because there are so many schools of thought on meditation, it can be overwhelming. More importantly, we want to get it right. In wanting to get it “right,” we get caught up in the techniques. We are given mixed messages about what exercises are a must, and exactly how to perform them. Because of all the information available to us, many end up abandoning meditation overall. It just seems too daunting.
I’m here to tell you that meditation is as close as your breath.
It’s not as hard or complex or rigid as we may have been lead to believe.
First and foremost, you are reading this article and breathing naturally as you read. That is a form of meditation. Simple focus.
That’s it? Yep, that’s it.
After 28 years of study and “trying on” so many types of meditation to see what fits, I finally realized that, for me, simple is best.
After 25 years of teaching and seeing what is most effective in the classroom, I’ve distilled meditation down to what I feel is its essence.
What is more simple than breathing?
And now for the answers to all of those questions…
“How DO you meditate?’’
That is up to you. Meditation is very personal. It depends on what you need. My best advice is to start with some simple breath meditation exercises, as I have mentioned. Simpler is better in the long run. You don’t have to remember much at all, and you don’t need any special equipment other than a place to sit.
“Is it really as hard as it sounds?”
No, it isn’t. It needn’t be complicated. Do some research. See who resonates with you and what techniques feel good to you. Again, start with some simple breathing exercises and see where that takes you. Here’s a link to one simple breath meditation video on YouTube.
“What if I can’t find the time?”
Do you watch television or surf on the internet? Take one of those activities and replace it with some meditation. Try it a few times. You’ll be bitten by the meditation bug and want to make the time for more, I promise.
“Why should I bother, if I can’t do it all the time?”
Some time is better than no time at all. You’ll receive benefits even if you only meditate a couple of times a week.
“BUT can I REALLY get any benefits if I only do it occasionally?”
Of course you can! Meditation can look like many different things. I have a friend who quietly rides her horse through the fields and forests. While she is riding, she does some easy breathing and focuses on where the journey is taking her. She says the warmth of the horse, the sound of its breathing, and the rhythm of the riding are very relaxing and calming for her. She usually rides alone, but if she is with someone else, they don’t talk; they just ride. Take a walk by a lake or at the seaside. Take a path through the woods. Put on some peaceful music and just stand there and sway back and forth. That is actually a big part of Qigong. Qigong is the mother of Tai Chi and is referred to as moving meditation.
“Isn’t my mind supposed to be silent when I meditate?”
This is the question every single student asks me. My answer may not be popular in some circles. We are thinking beings. Most of us don’t have the luxury to go to a secluded retreat. Unlike a monk or ascetic, we can’t leave the world behind for an indefinite period of time and sequester ourselves in a cave. Here’s my input: don’t fight the thoughts. Let them come and then LET THEM GO! Be non-attached to them. Most likely they will be there when you have finished meditating, and if they aren’t perhaps they weren’t that important. Allow your thoughts to float by. Visualize them being placed on a log in a stream flowing in front of you. Allow them to pass in and out of your consciousness without paying them any mind. The challenge is participating in active thinking—the process of thinking. That’s when we start fighting with ourselves about “no mind.” Thoughts are just thoughts. It’s what we attach to them that is the struggle.
“Do I have to sit in a certain way?”
Sit in a way that you find comfortable. You can sit in a chair, on a cushion, or on a bed. I don’t recommend lying down because that signals the brain that it’s time to go to sleep. You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed in full lotus or crossed at all. I sit in half lotus because I’ve been doing it for eons and it’s comfortable for me. I don’t advocate that if you aren’t used to it. If you are in a chair, you can just let your legs hang down over the edge with your feet resting on the floor. Find a comfortable position where you can sit for a few minutes or more. You WILL get restless. Your nose will itch, your back will ache, you will sneeze, cough, burp or pass gas. It’s all normal and natural. Just readjust and carry on.
“Aren’t I supposed to put my hands in certain positions?”
Specific hand positions are called mudras. In certain types of meditation, precise hand positions are said to help achieve particular results. I find that placing your hands on top of your legs, face up or face down, does the trick and can be maintained for the duration of your meditation session. I hold my hands in my lap with the tips of the thumbs touching and the fingers of one hand cradling the fingers of the other. That works for me. Experiment with what works for you.
“What if I can’t do it?”
YOU CAN! You really, really can. Just set your mind to it. Do this for yourself. You WILL see the changes it makes in your life. Things will roll off of your back more easily. You will have more peace of mind.
Meditation recharges, regenerates, rejuvenates and restores. If you think about it, you may have been practicing meditation all along and just didn’t know it. If you have gazed at a lake or sat quietly enjoying a cup of tea while taking easy, effortless, organic breaths…
YOU HAVE MEDITATED!