Just checking in on you … how is your practice of meditation going so far?
If you are anything like me, it’s probably not really going well at all. It is hard to sit in the distraction of the mind and find peace. Not to mention sitting and feeling the dull ache in the back and the slowly growing tingling in the left toe that eventually overtakes the whole foot in a sea of ever moving pin pricks growing in intensity.
No, it’s not hard to meditate. It can be near impossible. So, how did you get through it?
I added a focal point.
The build–up: It had been a particularly long day at work where a meeting ended with me, a natural klutz, making a turn to leave the room too quickly and spilling half-day–old, cold cream and coffee all over a pile of documents ready to be priority shipped to a marketing conference. To say there was a less than a pleased look on the face of my boss and the immediate knowledge that the intern, who had been excited about and looking forward to a date for weeks, would miss that date to help me reprint and reorganize everything, caused me to feel less like a human and more like the slog at the bottom of slog is an understatement.
It was a bad day. (Not my worst day, but a bad day nonetheless.)
Knowing we had no option other than to make it work, the intern and I got the job done. The intern even had time to make it to her date. (In the spirit of full disclosure, she was late, but she did make it.) I, on the other hand, went to a quiet apartment with no one home but two aging cats more interested in their evening meal than comforting me. No friends were available to vent to so I left messages asking for return calls. Then I made a dinner for one, which I barely ate, as I was generally feeling nothing but self-pity.
Now, here is where the real story starts: I made my way to the sink where I started to wash dishes as I contemplated how to start my letter of resignation … you know, beat them to the firing me punch. And, then, without thinking about it, after 6-weeks of trying to meditate without even the slightest bit of success, the feel of the warm water washing over my hands, the bubbles of dish detergent soothing my air conditioned-dried fingers, the sound of the water, a steady stream, left me feeling focused. As I focused on the water and how it felt on my skin I became aware of my shoulders relaxing. Then just as I believe I was about to feel my breath the phone rang and instantly the moment was gone.
I didn’t answer the phone. Instead, I rolled out my yoga mat and laid down on it – work suit and all. I knew no matter what happened at work the next day I would know I found a moment of peace and I was confident I would find that peace again.
The takeaway: Now, I’m pretty sure that while none of you has actually had this day, you can relate to days like this. And, it is often in these moments where we are not sure what to do, how to move forward, or how those things we don’t have control over will affect and even change our lives, that we seek outside advice. In my case, that evening, I wanted a friend to help me sort through how to “fix” the idea that I knew everyone had of me being incompetent.
But, in that moment of mindful meditation I experienced and realized the issue was much deeper; I move too quickly and I needed to slow down.
The focal point: The next time I decided to meditate I pulled up a picture of a river on my laptop. This picture was from a favorite hiking spot and I just looked at the picture. I recalled the smells, the sounds, everything I could about that spot. And, though it would take several more meditation sessions before I found my breath, I left that session with a clearer head and a general sense of calm (and, the personal realization that I have a tendency to over-react to less-than-perfect-deliveries at work).
Here are a few tips on how to start meditating with a focal point:
- Go to that place you have decided is your meditation spot.
- Take a moment and a few breaths and think about a place or an object that brings you joy. Then find the picture of the place or the object.
- Take this picture or object and go back to your meditation spot.
- Then, once comfortable, take a cleansing inhale and exhale.
- Finally, look at your picture or object and notice every detail the texture, the shadings of color, the lightness, the density, the movement, the scent, and the feelings that those observations bring.
- Sit here for as long as you are able to focus on the picture or object and the observations.
- If your mind wonders bring your attention back to the picture or object until you have completely experienced this moment.
- When you are ready to exit your meditation do so with a deep and complete inhale followed by a complete exhale.
- Return your picture or object to its place or carry it with you as a reminder to take a moment to sit and settle.
Be kind to yourself and keep trying! Finding even a few moments each day for your meditation practice can help you find calm in the moment of mental chaos and live more mindfully.