What makes a simple practice such as meditation, so challenging? Since it can be so different than how we spend the rest of our waking hours, its takes practice to learn how to make the shift. It also takes first connecting with a meditation type that can meet you where you are at—which might be wound up, overwhelmed with thoughts or just plain distracted.
Have a hard time sitting still?
Try a walking meditation. This can be done by simply walking in a circle or straight line with your eyes wide open. The key here is to place your attention on the sensation of the act of walking itself, such as noticing the way the floor feels against the skin on the bottom of your foot. To better cultivate that awareness, it often helps to slow your walking down, to the point where you can separate out the experiences of first bending the knee, then the feeling of placing your foot onto the ground, to then noticing what parts of the foot push off into the next step. The idea is that you stay present with each step—coming back to your step as you catch your mind wandering.
Can’t get your mind off your “To Do” List?
If we took a poll, it would probably be safe to say that most have experienced meditation by paying attention to the breath. As the breath is always available and so instrumental in calming the nervous system down, it serves well as a primary focus. But, if you struggle and struggle, how likely are you to return to that type of practice? A meditation type that is concerned less with the breath and more with funneling your thoughts to create peace within is the LovingKindness practice (no space intended). In this meditation, which is usually done in 5 parts, you are essentially becoming aware of and then listing your positive and genuine intentions for what you wish for yourself, then for a loved one, thirdly for someone who is neutral in your life, then for someone with which you are having some discomfort or discord and then lastly the world. Your inner dialogue might sound something like this: “ May I be peaceful, may I be loving, may I be protected and safe when driving home, may I feel my creativity flowing, may I sleep well tonight…” Whether doing all 5 parts or just a couple is one of the best ways to set the tone for your day, or night.
Is your environment too noisy to meditate in without feeling distracted?
An amazingly perfect aspect of a mindful meditation practice is that it leads you to work with what is happening, right in the moment that is the here and now. If your space is full of sounds, let them be the focus of your meditation. It is often not the sounds themselves that are the problem but that we have labeled them as disruptive. To try this out, close your eyes, and let that distracting noise come right into the center of your meditation. The way you shift into the calm instead of irritation, is to listen to the qualities of the sound. Hear the tones, pitches and even rhythms while letting your likes or dislikes of what you hear fall away. You can start by just noticing the sounds that are immediately around you, taking one at a time. Then allow your awareness to move out to the sounds within your dwelling and then to the sounds outside. That includes the jets flying over, motorcycle engines and sirens along with the birds chirping and the leaves rustling in the breeze.
Debra LeClair Psy.D is a doctoral level psychologist and certified life coach, who has been teaching meditative methods for the last two decades all over the North Eastern U.S. While facilitating her clients and students connecting into their own inner calm and focus, Debra helps people to find greater freedom from the negative effects of stress. She is also the author of the forthcoming audio book, How Soon is Now? due out this Fall. To contact, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org