Meditation is hard. There’s no doubt about it. And most of the time we go into thinking that we’re going to come out calm and centred (and a little less bat shit crazy). But, that’s not always the case. In fact, there’s times we come out of it more stressed. Why can’t I meditate? Why can’t I stop thinking? Being our human selves, we are always trying to find the answer – how do we mediate effectively. We are all searching for the ultimate meditation tips to solve this problem. So, while these may not be ultimate, here are 4 meditation tips that have helped me during my meditation struggles.
Are you meditating for longer than you should?
When I first started meditating it was a competition. Every day I wanted to meditate for longer. But I spent more time focusing on the time than the quality of it.
I was mediating for nearly 45 minutes at one point (a guided meditation) but in a few weeks I had exhausted myself. I stopped and I didn’t meditate for almost a year after that.
So that’s why I ask, are you meditating longer than you should? Sure you can meditate for 20 minutes but are you forcing yourself. And if you are, cut it down.
This excerpt from Meng meditation tips in Tim Ferris’ book Tools of Titans hits the nail on the head
“I learned this from Mingyur Rinpoche, whose book, The Joy of Living, I most highly recommend. The idea is to do less formal practice than you are capable of. For example, if you can sit in mindfulness for 5 minutes before it feels like a chore, then don’t sit for 5 minutes, just do 3 or 4 minutes, perhaps a few times a day. The reason is to keep the practice from becoming a burden. If mindfulness practice feels like a chore, it’s not sustainable.
My friend Yvonne Ginsberg likes to say, “Meditation is an indulgence.” I think her insight beautifully captures the core of Rinpoche’s idea. Don’t sit for so long that it becomes burdensome. Sit often, for short periods, and your mindfulness practice may soon feel like an indulgence.” 1
So how long are you meditating for? Is it becoming a chore for you like it was for me? Then cut it! There’s no one here to say how long you should and shouldn’t meditate for. It’s up to you!
Chunk it – Focus on only one breath a day
Tony Robbins talks a lot about chunking. It’s all about breaking up tasks into smaller pieces. Turning big goals into bite sized things you need to do.
I.e. If your goal is to lose weight, you might chunk it into the following:
- Find a mentor
- Read a book on diet
- Make a shopping list
- Choose 1 gym class to go to
That’s half the reason why so many of our goals get quietly pushed aside. They’re so big we think we’ll never get there. But chunking them makes it smaller and more of a routine.
So when I read Mengs second point I realised this was another way of chunking meditation.
The next part of Meng’s amazing meditation tips – instead of thinking “I need to meditate for 10 minutes”, focus on just one conscious breath a day.
“I may be the laziest mindfulness instructor in the world because I tell my students that all they need to commit to is one mindful breath a day. Just one. Breathe in and breathe out mindfully, and your commitment for the day is fulfilled. Everything else is a bonus.” 2
His two reasons for this are:
With one breathe you are still committing to practicing. You’re building momentum because you’ve taken one small step forward. This encourages us to keep going. 3 And when we’re ready, to increase our practice time.
The second is because
“having the intention to meditate is itself a meditation. This practice encourages you to arise an intention to do something kind and beneficial for yourself daily, and over time, that self-directed kindness becomes a valuable mental habit.” 4
Being aware that you’re stopping to take a break is part of meditation too.
Practice self compassion
One of best lessons I could have learnt while practicing is self compassion. Pema Chodron is hands down the writer for this.
There’s lots of fancy ways to explain this practice. It’s referred to as “Maitri”. But I like to think about it as treating yourself as you would a loved one.
For example, when your best friend or your partner says “I can’t stop thinking about (situation)” you’re natural response would be something like “It’s okay. It happens”, or “Don’t be so hard to yourself”.
So the next time your meditating and if you lose yourself in so many thoughts, come back from it with compassion. Tell yourself “it happens” or “that it’s okay and it’s all part of the journey”.
By doing that your giving yourself space. You’ll be surprised at the results! I found this really helpful because as they say – we are our toughest critic. It’s also a great way for internal encouragement.
Do what suits you
I get a bit tired of sitting in a chair. I don’t want to sit in a chair and meditate. I meditate best lying down before bed because it calms me and preps me for a better sleep. Like I’m leaving all of my day behind instead of endless worrying about it on my pillow.
Some people say not to meditate lying down because you might fall asleep. But I don’t.
So the main message here is do what suits you.
Whether it’s guided meditation, candles, music or incense.
Find what works for you and do that. Try not to fall into the meditation tips hole of “you need a cushion” and “try not to move”.
Meditation is for your benefit. So you should do it as you want.
In saying that – keep in mind it’s also about discipline. So make sure it’s about making the practice better for you – not finding a way to avoid it.
My biggest learning from all these meditation tips
At the end of the day meditation will always be perfectly imperfectly. If there’s anything I’ve learnt from starting, stopping and struggling with meditation is that it is, and will always be, a process.
And while I might still be bat shit crazy.. as mediation does to you… I’m more aware of it 😂
But that’s the thing about meditation – it’s about accepting who you are, right now. Not about becoming someone new.
I wish you all the best in your practice 😊