Most people tell me they are meditation failures. It seems that many people want to meditate, and many people try to meditate, but almost nobody feels like they have achieved meditation.
We are, after all, a world of do-ers, not be-ers. Sitting down and doing nothing is hard. Really hard. And clearing your mind just because you want to? Forgeddaboutit! Not even remotely possible.
Intention, as it turns out, is not everything, and most of us don't know how to just be. We want to besomething, but that is still do-ing. If that's the case, then why not make our do-ing nature work for us, instead of making it into one more thing that's supposedly wrong with us?
I've heard of long meditation retreats in far off places where participants sit cross-legged on a pillow with their eyes closed for up to 16 hours at a time, and for days on end. They are supposed to somehow face (and quiet) their mental and emotional chaos, and ignore their cramped and aching bodies entirely.
Some spend a lifetime meditating this way, hoping for an experience of nirvana, enlightenment, moksha, bliss, or spiritual ecstasy.
"How long do I need to sit here before I'm enlightened?"
The truth is, enlightenment is easy. We all have moments of enlightenment all the time. We get a great idea. Or sudden clarity around a situation. We experience a moment of pure joy in a baby's smile. Just look at all the inspiration on Facebook and Pinterest! We are enlightened all the time. It's everywhere.
So why is it so hard?
There are many different ways to meditate. One simple but powerful way is mindful, or focused, breathing.
If you can breathe, you can meditate.
If you can breathe, you can experience peace.
If you can breathe, you can quiet your mind and emotions.
If you can breathe, you can reduce your stress, and most likely your blood pressure as well.
Plant your tush any old place that's safe, get comfortable, and notice your breath.
Gently accept all the answers without judging any of them. It's all okay, whatever it is. It's not good, and it's not bad. It just is what it is.
Bring your focus back to your breathing. Begin to take slow, deep breaths down into your belly.
Relax your shoulders. Relax your chest. Relax your tongue. Relax your eyes. Relax your hips. And breathe.
As you breathe, begin to count. Inhale-2-3-4...pause...exhale-2-3-4...pause...inhale-2-3-4...pause...exhale-2-3-4...pause, and continue at your own pace, matching the number for the inhale to the number for the exhale. Nice, even breathing with a slight pause at the top of the inhale, and at the bottom of the exhale.
If your lungs are full at the count of 3, then use a 3-count. If you can breathe out to 20, then use a 20-count. The number isn't important. The focus and consistency is.
Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.
If you get distracted, simply bring your focus back to the breathing and counting. No judging. Just breath.
Do this for 3-5 minutes, and if you enjoy it, if it quiets your mind and brings some peace and relaxation, then continue. Work your way up to 20 minutes over time.
You will notice in a few days that the number you can breathe to will get a little bigger. If you start at 4 or 5 (pretty average for most people), you will soon notice that you can go for 7-8, then 9-10. This is your body responding. This is your body healing, and becoming more efficient.
The effects on your brain (and therefore your body, mind, emotions, and sense of connection) are instantaneous.
Check out this brain image below. It shows stress activity all over the brain of a non-meditator before breathing. After just a single 20 minute focused-breathing session, the brain is cool, calm, and clear: a blue pearl.
THAT is amazing.
Try it, and comment below on how you feel, or with any questions. Let me know what you think!
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North Kansas City, MO