The past year has been one of changes and ups and downs for a lot of us. It would seem living in a worldwide pandemic is something that our bodies and brains just weren’t quite prepared for and sometimes it has got a little too much. Who can blame them? This is something we have very little experience of.
When our bodies have little experience of something they need to learn and that takes time. It takes being slow, gentle and nourishing to the body and mind while we let it learn how to support us.
One of the ways that has been recommended to do this time and again through the pandemic has been meditation. I myself have recommended it. But this practice so often seemingly comes with it’s own set of rules, excuses for us to bypass it, which when the world has been turned upside down can seem too much to navigate. Those rules are only seemingly there though. They are our own preconceptions rather than the truth.
Truly there is no right or wrong way to meditate, just the way that works for you.
Let’s have a look at some of the common meditation misconceptions and explore them a little further
To meditate you need to be able to clear your mind of all thoughts
In a traditional yoga practice this would be the goal of dhyana or meditation, to be able to sit in complete absorption. But it is exactly that, a goal, not a prerequisite or expected outcome. The practice of meditation is more of a focus on the idea of becoming quiet and still. The mind will still throw up thoughts, the body will still fidget. The aim is to notice these as soon as they arrive and instead of being distracted and absorbed by them to come back to the practice, back to a breath focus and start again. Do not worry if your mind only clears for a millisecond, that is ok.
Meditation has to be done seated cross legged on the floor or in lotus position
Meditation can be done in any position that keeps the body alert and allows you to focus on the mind. That can seated, cross legged or otherwise, standing or even moving. You need to be comfortable.
There are schools of meditation with walking meditations, shaking meditations and more dynamic meditations also. You may find yourself in a meditative state while walking outside or dancing and moving to music even.
If you do decide to meditate in stillness while sat then make sure you are comfortable, use props and blankets to help support the body and really make sure that your body can rest. It’ll give your mind one less thing to try and distract you with.
The practice should be quiet and self guided
Not true at all and actually being in meditation alone with no guidance is very hard. Most of us will require at least some guidance into a practice and often a fully guided meditation. That’s ok and doesn’t make your experience of meditation any less.
Some great sources for guided meditations are:
- Calm https://www.calm.com/
- Headspace https://www.headspace.com/
- Just Breathe https://www.justbreatheproject.com/
- Movement for Modern Life https://movementformodernlife.com/ (use code YOGIPOD30 for a discount to join)
There are also some amazing teachers on Instagram who regularly offer guided meditations for free or as part of a class (if you can support financially please do):
- Kat Pither @whatsgoodkat
- Phoebe Greenacre @phoebegreenacre
- Lauren Barber @laurenbarber.co
- Jess Parkinson @fromtheheartwithjess
If guided meditation isn’t for you and neither is silence then it might be that gentle sound is something you need as a background to your meditation. This again could be anything, white noise, a gentle calming playlist or maybe even a sound experience or gong bath. You really can make your meditation what you need it to be.
You have to dedicate hours to your meditation practice
Like any habit the longer you spend doing it the more comfortable the practice will become but your individual meditation practice can be any length you like. I would suggest starting with 5 or 10 minutes to get used to the idea and then try a few different lengths to see what works for you. It’s also a good idea to try different times of day to see what suits you best. If you’re coming to your practice feeling rushed or stressed because “you have to meditate” you are going to have to spend a lot longer calming the mind or body than if you cam to your practice calm and with no expectations.
Your meditation is YOUR meditation
That’s the takeaway I would love to take away from this. Don’t let meditation be a scary thing, something that you can’t do. Let yourself be guided into the parts of the practice that work for you. There honestly is no right and wrong as long as you treat yourself and the practice with compassion and kindness
Meditate – v. 1. focus one’s mind for a period of time for spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. 2. (often meditate on/upon) think carefully about something.– The Oxford English Dictionary