“We meditate to find, to recover, to come back to something of ourselves we once dimly and unknowingly had and have lost without knowing what it was or where or when we lost it,” writes Lawrence LeShan in How to Meditate.
Each morning, I wake up a little earlier than usual and listen to the guided instructions for the meditation of the day and then sit in meditation with the day's mantra. The actual meditation time isn't long, about 10 minutes or so, but getting through it is a challenge.
My brain doesn't shut up.
I'm constantly thinking, planning, worrying, calculating, dreaming, solving, imagining, desiring, wanting, stressing, fixing, fretting, unraveling, fantasizing, hoping…
One moment I'm breathing and focused on the day's mantra; the next I'm remembering all the things that I forgot to add to my to do list or beating myself up because I forgot to buy my rapidly growing 13-year-old a new pair of flip flops, again.
When I hear the chime that signifies the end of the meditation session I calculate how much time I spent actually meditating and how much time I spent doing mental acrobatics. It's discouraging.
Author Martha Beck compares the brain of a beginning meditator to a puppy.
By gently pulling your puppy mind back to focusing on your breath or a mantra, you can start to see the separation between what is you, the essential you, and what are simply thoughts, nipping at your heels, whining for your attention, creating messes on your mind's mental carpets.
There are a number of helpful mindfulness apps and programs that can help you begin your practice. I like the Calm app, which has guided meditations, nature sounds, breathing exercises, and many other ways to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day.
Deepak Chopra also has a number of guided meditation programs available on his website, many created with Oprah Winfrey.
But starting a meditation practice doesn’t require anything more than time and a willingness to begin. Simply detach from whatever is tugging at you, whether it’s a small child who is ready for a nap or your phone that’s begging for your attention. Find a comfortable spot to sit and bring your attention to your breath. When you notice that your mind is wandering, gently bring your awareness back to your breath, again and again and again and again.
“Somewhere in this process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy,” says Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, a 90-year-old Buddhist monk. “Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and helpless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way, and you just never noticed…. So don’t let this realization unsettle you. It is a milestone actually, a sign of real progress.”
Nice to know: I’m making progress.