Posted By Maeve Hendrix, LPCA, RYT
So many of my yoga students and therapy clients share with me that "They can't meditate, they've already tried and discovered that it is simply not in their skill set because they can't get their thoughts to stop."
My response, "Perfect, you are exactly on the right track."
To which they respond, "What!!!?? How is that possible. I just told you, it's not working, I don't want to do it, it's frustrating and boring - I give up."
I remember exclaiming those very same words to one of my meditation teachers eight years ago and receiving these exquisite words of wisdom - "You are exactly where you need to be, learn to be with yourself as you are - whether you are anxious, bored, self-loathing, doubtful, intrigued, calm, angry, or anywhere in between. The aim of the practice is to learn to be with yourself, watch your thoughts and and experience your breath, rather than 'stop thinking'."
When I heard, "Learn to be with yourself just as you are" - something clicked. I realized that even the thought of 'learning to be with myself' made me want to jump out of my skin and go find something to soothe my restless discomfort. I decided that this practice of learning to be with myself WAS the meditation practice and that life was continuously giving me opportunities to practice, if only I would pause long enough to notice and listen.
After practicing this approach to meditation for the last eight years, I have learned over and over again in small and profound moments - that accepting myself as I am in the moment (rather than trying to be something or someone else), softens the self-aversion in my heart and allows me to inhabit the present moment more fully; in all of its rawness, restlessness, confusion, anger, and joy. Offering myself flexibility within the practice has been helpful as well. Giving myself the option of seated, standing, walking or moving meditation.
“Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already.” Pema Chodron
Pema Chodron's teachings have played a huge role in my process of "Learning to be with myself". I now call my meditation practice, "Learning to Stay". I practice seated meditation in the mornings and weave mindfulness into the rest of the day.
There are five encouraging reminders that I have found helpful for my lifelong Mindfulness Based Meditation practice of "Learning to Stay". I keep these reminders somewhere I can see them on a daily basis - To help me REMEMBER the essentials of the practice. If these resonate with you, feel free to print them out and keep them where you will see them daily.
1) Slowwww Down.
Practicing the art of slowing down is a meditation practice in itself. If you notice yourself rushing around, lurching forward into the future. See if you can commit to physically slowing down your movements for 5 minutes and then reassess your energetic state.
2) Come Home to Yourself. Come Home to your Body.
Remember to actually INHABIT this highly intelligent body that you travel around in. One direct route back into the body is noticing what sensations you feel in the moment and open to all of your senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch.
3) Gentleness towards yourself is your greatest strength.
Check in: How would I describe my relationship with myself in this moment? How strong is the inner critic right now? Can I be gentle towards whatever feelings, thoughts and sensations are present? If not, aspiring towards gentleness is worthwhile.
4) Befriend the antics of your mind.
Cultivating awareness of the Inner Witness (benevolent watchful energy). This is the first step in befriending the antics of the mind. Watching the antics of the mind (craving, aversion, jealousy, boredom, etc) with curiosity and humor allows our relationship towards ourselves and the meditation practice to become considerably more approachable.
5) The Sacred Pause is waiting for you. 1-5 Conscious Breaths.
Try weaving a Sacred Pause practice into your daily life. Perhaps setting a reminder bell on your phone 3-5 times during the day to initiate the sacred pause. The sacred pause simply involves pausing what you are doing and checking in as you notice your breath. You can ask yourself these three questions and commit to 1 minute of pausing with the breath.
1. Can I make contact with this moment? This Breath? 2. Can I feel my feet on the ground? 3. What do I see, hear, smell and taste?