A few minutes ago, inexplicably, tears start streaming down my face. Yesterday, I noticed that I was more reactive than usual. There was a subtle shift in my psyche; I seemed to be trying to find offence in places where it didn't exist. So I checked the calendar and sure enough: Lady's Holiday is coming up on Sunday.
I'm pretty sure I would have noticed some of this stuff before I started taking meditation seriously, but more and more I've noticed that I'm becoming an observer of my own reactions. It's difficult to describe. It's almost as if I'm sitting outside of myself, nodding sagely and thinking: “Yup, she's at it again. She's getting agitated over nothing.”
I'm well into my second month of daily meditation. Near the beginning of October, I gradually moved to 20 minute sessions. These were working really well for me. I didn't want to move on because 30 minutes kind of scares me. After the 30 minute session last week in the meditation group, I realised that my fear was completely irrational. I expanded my meditation to 30 minutes the next day. It was fine.
This week, I shifted my 30 minute meditation to the early morning to make space for a second, shorter evening meditation before bed. I never thought I could be an early morning meditator, but again, I surprised myself.
The amazing thing is that I'm finding that I really, really enjoy meditation. I didn't add the evening session because I was trying to build up minutes. I added it to give myself something to look forward to after work. It's a nice end to the day.
So, why was I so resistant to meditation in the first place? Why was 30 minutes such a scary thing for me? I think I have some bad associations from my first experiences with meditation 10 years ago. All the books said: “Sit for at least 30 minutes” So I sat. And it drove me nuts. It made me feel defective. I couldn't do it. I hated it. I couldn't stop my brain. So I gave up.
The other day Michelle asked if I had any advice to begin a meditation practice. In fact, I do! And allow me start with this: You don't need to sit for 30 minutes to benefit from meditation. When learning to run distances, people don't step out the first day and run for 30 minutes. It's easier and more effective to ease into it, bit by bit.
Meditation Tip #1: Start with 5 minutes, consistently
Make a commitment to do it daily. Consistency is more important than length. Consistency allows you to build a habit. Start with 5 minutes. This isn't a huge block of time to schedule into your day. Let go of any expectations about the experience. Just sit. When the timer goes off, you're done. Let it go.
What method should you use? It's up to you. I've found that Passage Meditation is the best method for me. I like the fact that it trains my brain to maintain one-pointed attention. I like that it's non-denominational (even Athiests can use this method). I absolutely adore the idea that some of the goodness and wisdom of the passages I use may sink deep into my consciousness.
But it may not be the best method for *you*. Explore your options (the Internet is a great resource). Your daily 5 minutes is the best laboratory for sorting through these options and finding out which one resonates with you.
Meditation Tip #2: Shop around and experiment!
There are many different methods of meditation. Use your 5 minute sessions to explore them. Find a method that works for you and stick to it.
Just as you might build your endurance for running distances by run/walking and gradually increasing the distance (think: 'Couch to 5K'), meditation is best expanded in increments. When 5 minutes starts to feel comfortable, try 10 minutes, then 15.
My timer allows me to set intervals in my session. The tone sounds once every five minutes. Early on, this helped me feel less panicky (”Are we there yet!!?”) and allowed for short 'stretch breaks'. In my 30 minute session, I set intervals for 10 minutes. This gives me two opportunities to mentally 'reset' and carry on.
Meditation Tip #3: Build it up!
Increase your session 5 minutes at a time. You can use intervals to help divide the session into manageable 'chunks' (if your timer doesn't have intervals, just set it for 5 minutes and keep restarting it during the session).
Other things that helped me maintain a daily practice:
- Keeping a journal or statistics: It's been very satisfying to see my progress in meditation through my simple meditation blog and a Google Spreadsheet that I created (Since early September, I've accumulated over 12 hours of meditation!)
- Create a special space for meditation: Have a yoga room? Great! Live in a bachelor apartment? Find a small corner to create a altar. Be creative. Make it your own.
- Maintain comfort: This isn't about torturing your body. Experiment with pillows to elevate your hips. Use a blanket to create cushioning on the floor. If you're more comfortable in a chair, use one! There are zafus/zafutons, meditation benches, special chairs, ect. available for purchase, but you don't need these to start. The whole point of the exercise is to sit comfortably for a long period.
Today's notes on my yoga practice: I felt drawn towards a Yin style yoga practice this morning. I haven't used my Sarah Power's DVD in awhile, so I chose the Yin Liver sequence. I was surprised to find that I could come deeper into some of the poses and also found that my ability to quietly hold the poses had increased. The fruits of meditation? Perhaps...
Mainly, it was just nice to bliss out doing something slow and restorative. It was a tough week for my physically. After about 40 minutes of Yin, I rolled over on my back and used my Acuball to massage my spinal erector muscles, which have been twitchy. I followed this up with an epsom salt bath.
I'm feeling so much better!