Meditation and mindfulness are trendy buzzwords right now, so I’m sure that most of you have at least tried to meditate once or twice. Meditating is supposed to help you feel calm, cool and collected, but if you’re like most people, it’s probably leaving you frazzled and frustrated.
Everyone tells you that you should meditate more, but nobody tells you what to expect or how to get the most benefit from it. Meditation isn’t easy. It’s the kind of thing that you can spend a lifetime getting better at.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be hard! I’m here to share one small secret that can help you look forward to meditation practice instead of dreading it.
The Meditation Hack Nobody Mentions
My advice is simple: Don’t force it.
We often view meditation as this perfectly zen thing that requires total stillness and relaxation. If we fall short of that, we feel like we’ve failed. So naturally, we try to concentrate really hard on “emptying our minds” and actively willing ourselves to be more relaxed. In short, we’re trying to force ourselves into what we think meditation is supposed to be.
Maybe there are people in the world who can achieve an empty mind and total relaxation, but that’s an unreasonable expectation for most of us. The first step toward benefiting from meditation is to let go of the idea that you’re supposed to be clear-minded and totally at peace. You’re a human, not a pond.
Don’t try to force your mind to be still. That’s a recipe for turning up your anxious thoughts to 100! Don’t try to force yourself into relaxation. That’s the fastest way to becoming tense and restless.
How to Be Gentle With Yourself During Meditation
If it helps, think of your mind like a child or a puppy. You would never be harsh and critical to them for wandering about or being curious, so give yourself that same patience.
Thoughts will wander in throughout your practice. Instead of getting frustrated, simply acknowledge the thought and let it pass without examining it too closely. Then, do your best to come back to the present moment by focusing on your breathing, your heartbeat, or the feel of the surface you’re sitting on.
If you’re like me, you’ll have to do this what feels like a million times in a five-minute meditation. That’s okay! In our society, it’s not common to have much quiet time, so our minds aren’t used to active stillness. It might take weeks, months, or even years for your mind to be able to shift into “quiet mode” easily.
The point of meditation isn’t to “do it right.” The point is to give yourself some scheduled peace and stillness. If you can embrace this shift in perspective, you’ll be much less likely to try to “force it” during your practice.
Need Some Help? I’ve Got You Covered
I tend to do better with guided meditation. If you’re struggling with meditation, I encourage you to try as many different kinds of meditation as possible. Even if you don’t stick with any of them, you’ll better understand how to make meditation work for you.
One of my favorite tools is the Balance app. There are dozens of meditations available, and you can customize the guide voice and length of time for each session. I like the foundational meditation courses because they teach you several skills that make meditating easier and more enjoyable.
If you’d like a more irreverent approach to meditating, I highly recommend Yogi Bryan. He has a YouTube channel full of guided meditations and relaxation videos, but I especially love his podcast, It’s Just F*ckin Meditation. Yogi Bryan strikes a great balance between funny and informative, so if you’re ever taking yourself too seriously, try one of his short meditations to loosen up a little.
Do you struggle with meditation? Are you a meditating pro? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Image credit: Simon Rae on Unsplash