One of my best friends, Sonya, and I were discussing recently the perceived perils of meditation. What do you think turns people off from it, I asked. She gave me a laundry list which brought back all the same reasons it took me almost my whole life to develop a regular practice: it's hard to focus, I don't have time, I don't know if I'm doing it right, etc. I can add to that list my memory of thinking it was just plain weird and boring.
So why meditate, anyway? Because it will change your life. There are ample studies substantiating the physiological benefits of meditation (including lower stress levels, decreased occurrences of heart disease and hypertension), and that's pretty cool and all, but what else?
Meditation gives perspective. It develops patience, honesty, intuition, foresight, courage, self-esteem, and eases suffering. Not enough? Well it makes you super cool, too. Seriously. I swear to God there's a correlation to charisma in its ways.
See the thing about meditation is that it shows you the truth. It shows you your path and then it's your choice to go forward. And if you don't, it'll keep showing you. Okay so there's no silver bullet in life, but meditation is hands down one of the most effective tools in stripping away all of the layers and layers of hurt, shame, anger, and fear that we walk around with unknowingly. It's these very things that paralyze us, keep us dating the same kind of person over and over again, keep us hating our bodies, keep us stuck as people pleasers, keep us from being successful, and keep us as road rage drivers. So WHY NOT shed that junk?
1. Because it's hard to focus.
People think that if your mind wanders then you're not doing it, or that it's a waste. But you are doing it. We're human. The mind is going to wander. That's what it does. Eventually, it wanders less, so keep going. The tendency is to throw the baby out w/ the bathwater and chalk the experience up as a failure if we can't stay focused. It doesn't matter! Be patient with it b/c the focus will come. I swear I'm thrilled if I get a minute of space out of ten minutes sitting. So your mind wanders... so what? Just keep coming back to center.
2. Because I don't have time.
I remember being scared when I heard that people went away and meditated for 10 days straight. 10 days?! I can't do anything for 10 days. Much less sit in silence. Then I read stories suggesting meditation for an hour a day and even that seemed unattainable. Meditation is just like exercise though. You don't start out running 26.2 miles your first time on the track when you're 30 lbs overweight and have been smokin' a pack a day for 10 years. One of the techniques that I learned from 40 Days to Personal Revolution was that it's totally cool to start out w/ 5 minutes in the morning, 5 minutes before you go to bed. So you're running late for work and you can't get 5 minutes in? Do it on your lunch break sitting in your car or in the office bathroom. (Is that sacrilege? I can't believe I'm suggesting meditation in a stall.) 5 minutes might seem like eternity your first few times, but stick w/ it for more than just a few days and you'll be amazed at how fast time flies when you're having fun.
3. Because I don't know if I'm doing it right.
Yes, there are hundreds of techniques for meditating. Various hand positions, seating positions, breathing options, open-your-eyes-no-close-your-eyes, etc. It's truly overwhelming if you let it be. I gotta tell ya, I don't even read that shit. *Maybe* I'd be enlightened/actualized/a super bad-ass faster if I employed some of those techniques. But I doubt it. It does help to be sitting up, and yes it helps to move your breath up and down your spine, AND you have to find what works for you. Practically speaking, I avoid reclining b/c I would probably fall asleep. It feels pretty good to me to sit on a pillow or two so that my hips are higher than my knees. What I'm trying to say however, is that no one can tell you how to do it "right". The hardest part is just starting, so don't worry about meditation etiquette -- just keep doing it, even when you don't want to, ESPECIALLY when you don't want to, and the right position, breath work, etc. for you will come.
4. Because it's weird.
It's weird? Whatever. You're weird.
So what do you have to lose except all those habits, traits, compulsions that aren't serving you anyway? As I said, the hardest part is just making it a habit. You will have days that you don't want to. Do it anyway. And those times where you force yourself to do it your thoughts might fight you the entire time and you won't feel like you did anything. Keep doing it anyway. I mean just give it three weeks okay? Just three weeks. You've watched reality TV in one sitting for longer stretches. I can promise you if you do, you'll be super cool.