After a few conversations with friends and students recently, it seems that a lot of us, myself included, struggle to find some consistency with the practice of meditation. We feel there's this massive pressure to create the perfect setting - candles, incense, fluffy cushions, whale music, you know the drill - to meditate for at least 30 minutes to an hour at a time, and to clear the mind completely of any thoughts full stop, for it to actually be effective. What happens when we can't recreate this? 9 times out of 10, we decide the environment isn't quite good enough and we sack off even trying altogether. But the reality is, ANY meditation practice is better than no meditation practice, and it can be done anywhere, at any time. Really. Even on the tube! And it's not necessarily about emptying the mind completely either - just to find a little bit more s p a c e between our thoughts is good enough.
While the ideal scenario would be the one mentioned above, the majority of us won't always be able to access that, nor will we always have a spare hour in the day to dedicate to it. Speaking from personal experience, I find that if I commit to too big a goal - say, I promise to meditate for 2 hours each day for the next 12 months, for instance - it's unlikely I'll stick to it.
Start with a small, realistic, and non-negotiable commitment to yourself, just for the next 7 days. Set aside 10 minutes, ideally either first thing in the morning, maybe once you've poured yourself a herbal tea, or last thing at night before you get into bed (or even once you're in it for maximum comfort!). Take this time to just sit with yourself, to tune in to how you're feeling; what's going on in the body? What kind of narrative is playing out in your mind? No analysing, no attaching, no complicating things - just observing yourself, breathing deeply into any physical sensations that you're feeling, and allowing those thoughts to come and go. If you find your mind wandering, wander it back to the breath.
If by the end of those 10 minutes, you've managed to quieten the mind a little and instil a greater sense of calm within you, then you've meditated successfully!
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