You say: “I can’t meditate”, but that’s not the whole story. You can meditate. How do I know? Because you are already. Herein follows a meditation hack (from my own experience) to help you (re)start your meditation practice:
- Don’t. Meditation wasn’t working, right? Or was it? By the way, is the person who decided if it was working the same one who is going to decide this time around? Are they the same person who tried before? How do you know? Please don’t REstart your meditation practice. It’s not going to be where you left it and you aren’t either. To practice meditation is to start again. Take a breath. Start fresh, every day.
- You Are Already. Meditation is the mind holding to something. That’s what the mind does. You may not be paying attention to the breath, but you are paying attention to something. Paying attention is meditation. Meditation is what we do. So it’s not a question of if you’re in meditation, it’s a question of how. Your mind is keeping itself company. It may be HBO, or the perils of privilege, but mindfulness only leads to insight when there’s a light touch, a willingness to let go. Without that, it becomes fixation.
- Cultural Roots. Meditation happens in a context. When you are looking for inspiration, read from a meditation teacher. Whether or not you remember what they said, you will be left with a feeling. We expect teachers to address ersatz students with an admonition, as in: “WTF, you haven’t practiced mindfulness in how many months? And you think of yourself as spiritual. What a joke!” But real teachers set a tone of warmth, inquisitiveness and humor, not critique or condemnation. Once you settle into practice, traditionally, the first obstacle is trying too hard. Without the heavy vibe, meditation is experienced as organic and natural—free range, even. This soft sense of curiosity is where meditation takes root.
- Start at the Beginning. Meditation is about a deepening relationship with yourself. Before you practice, take stock. Where are you? What is working well? Where is there struggle? What makes you smile? What makes your teeth grind and your heart rate jump? Where do you long to go? While mindfulness is training the mind, it is also a gesture of friendship. If you have lost touch with yourself, meditation will reflect this alienation. Before meditating, start with yourself and a cup of tea. Find a seat. Look out the window. Now breathe.
- Intention. You can read about a meditation hack, but to wake up is to change. Are you willing to do that? Or is your meditation more about being comfortable? Sitting practice requires engagement. Sakyong Mipham suggests that when you sit down, you could experiment with your intention and your focus. For example, one day, pay attention to your heartbeat and the rhythms of your body. Another day, if the mind is restless, let it wander and practice simply being in the room. Before you begin your meditation session, articulate a simple but precise intention. “Today, with a sense of friendliness, and without judgment, I will work with my mind.”
First a Meditation Hack, Now a Life Hack
It’s important to acknowledge that behind the Buddhist practice of Smriti there is a point of view: most notably, that our mind is workable, and in a fundamental way, free. You can have really reprehensible thoughts in your meditation session, but when a fly lands on your nose, just for a moment, they are gone. Our hang-ups aren’t forever. They are here one day, or one year, and then gone the next.
Life is a ritual. And even if this meditation hack doesn’t help you restart your practice, it’s important to treat yourself as fundamentally good. Take care of your body, mind and environment. Maintain a sense of balance. Leave time for rest. Let entertainment relax into spaciousness, conversation into silence. If you are sad, be sad. If you are cheerful, be cheerful. When you are inspired, make the aspiration to find time in the future for self-reflection, however it manifests.
The point is, don’t make your erstwhile meditation practice another way to feel bad about yourself. This is a familiar trap. Avoid it! Sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that sitting down and being quiet isn’t what we need to do, or isn’t possible just this moment. That’s OK! Meditation doesn’t make you a good person. Why? Because you already are. The question is one of confidence or even faith. But faith doesn’t have to be blind. It can arise out of experience and understanding. Let your life lead you down that path.
Another Meditation Hack: Blogs that have come Before
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