(Photo credit: In Her Image)

 

You’re probably like I was: you’ve already heard about all the amazing benefits that a regular meditation practice can bring into your life.

This isn’t just New Age woo (and hey, I’m a fan of the woo)–there are actual, clinical, documented benefits to regular meditation.

So why don’t you meditate regularly? Probably for the same reasons as anyone else.

Perhaps…You’ve tried it, and feel…antsy, like you can’t sit still. Or perhaps you’ve tried to make it a regular habit, but the day just gets so crammed and crowded. Perhaps you feel like you’re not doing it right, or like meditation has to belong to a religion.

How can something so seemingly simple seem so…hard?

 

Why It Doesn’t Work For You.

Meditation is a lot of things. Most people have heard a set of rules for how you’re “supposed to” meditate.

Confession? I’ve now spent more than a decade learning about this, and–I don’t think that there is one set presence practice that works for all people, all of the time. Astonishingly, this is a controversial opinion among some people who practice meditation–they see this alternative forms of meditation as a resistance against their “true” meditation.

The first time I ever tried to meditate was with a meditation group, in college. They showed me the way I was supposed to sit, to hold my hands, and told me what I was supposed to focus on (my breath, of course–and to keep focusing on the breath to avoid thinking).

That was the longest twenty minutes of my life.

I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin.

Years later, I knew that I needed the benefits of calm and ease that everyone swore meditation would provide, yet I also knew–for absolute certain!–that I didn’t want to EVER feel the crazy, itchy, “crawl out of your skin” feelings that I felt on that meditation cushion.

So I tried something different–it started with music and a candle flickering. It became my nightly habit.

Many years later, when I was actually practicing a form of meditation from the Soto Zen tradition on my weekly visits to the local monastery, I would come to understand a few radical concepts.

 

RADICAL CONCEPT #1: There is not just “one” way to meditate that works for all people. Some people need to find their way.

Anyone who tries to make you feel like you’re doing it “wrong” probably needs to concentrate more on their own practice, instead of directing their attention on judging others.

 

RADICAL CONCEPT #2: Most people can’t go from our modern-day 100mph lifestyle to 0mph on the meditation cushion (and most people, by the way, don’t have a meditation cushion, and you don’t need one in order to meditate!).

It’s OKAY to practice interim styles of meditation that aren’t as fixed as formal meditation, and you can even get many of the same benefits.

 

RADICAL CONCEPT #3: Meditation is meant to be a communal act. This doesn’t mean it has to happen in groups, but it does mean that your meditation practice will flourish the most when you’re interacting with others who are also meditating. There’s a level of support and interconnectedness that arises that truly seems to be one of the most important keys for making a regular practice of meditation successful.

 

RADICAL CONCEPT #4: Meditation doesn’t need to happen for hours every day. Meditation in even small increments actually does provide benefits.

Click here to be one of the first people to learn about how you can establish a regular, 5 to 15-minute meditation practice.

 

I’ll finish this up by sharing that a few years ago, I had an experience where I was trying to share my love of meditation with all the best of intentions, and I was publicly criticized for doing so. It was an experience that, at first, embarrassed (okay, humiliated!) me, and later ended up being one I learned a lot from–particularly, I learned to clarify for myself what this practice means to me.

At the end of the day, presence practices are designed for us to come into more love, connection, and community with ourselves, at our core.

If you truly want to know who you are, try getting quiet with yourself, sometime. I promise, you’ll learn everything that is important to know.