As a mental health counselor and a yoga instructor, I receive so many questions about meditation. Meditation has this reputation of being this luxurious, exotic prayer that is only assessable if you become a Buddhist monk. Even if you google meditation, the images are these lovely physically fit individuals, sitting in the sunset or by the water.
By this standard, I suppose I need to find a babysitter, a day off work and some mystical body of water so I can better my mental health.
The truth of the matter is:
No one can achieve this idillic vision of mediation, not even your super crunchy, crystal wearing yoga instructor.
Let’s get real, honest, and realistic.
Here are 3 ways to begin incorporating the benefits of meditation into your un-perfect, busy, chaotic, beautiful life.
- Pay Attention to your Commute— What do you mean? Of course you pay attention when you drive! We all have had those auto-pilot moments where you end up at work but really have no actual memory of driving there. We spend so much time in the car so find a way to turn it into something beneficial. When was the last time you really looked around as you drove? The goal to meditation is to simply give your mind a break from life’s stresses. Look at the people waiting for the bus. Check out the architecture of that building. I dare you to discover something new. If you are lucky enough to drive near any sort of nature, even better! Look at the trees, wildlife, sunrise or sunset. Studies have proven time and time again how nature is beneficial to our mental health, so take advantage! So give this concept a try, maybe you will show up to work slightly more refreshed. If not refreshed, at least you didn’t spend your commute ruminating about that presentation you have to give today. Let’s count it as a win.
- Do the Dishes, the Zen Way– The goal of mediation is to give your mind a break from the hustle and bustle right? The dishes need to be done anyways. Turn this into your meditation. Many people think mediation is the act of turning off the brain, but this is such a lie. When was the last time you were actually able to turn off your brain? Exactly, it is impossible! Okay, so maybe it is not impossible, but this is where the Buddhist monks come into play, and they have had hundreds of years of practice. You are just looking for a way to better your life and manage anxiety. If your goal is to completely shut off your mind, you are setting yourself up for failure. Think of meditation as a distraction for your brain. Let’s get back to those dishes. Activating the senses are a great way to ease into mediation. Turn on the water, grab a sponge and get to work. Notice the sound of the running water. After all, running water is a common “white noise” option on those fancy sound machines. Notice the warmth of the water on your hands. Notice your soapy sponge as your circle the smooth ceramic dish. I dare you to even really notice the details of the dish, get it super clean! You fully have permission to tune everyone and everything out while you do this. You are meditating after all. The best part of this one? You have one less thing to do on your to do list.
- Turn off your phone– Don’t cringe, I know you did. We have become so accustomed to being constantly engaged with our phones and social media that we miss all of the “little things” life has to offer us. If you don’t think you can do it, here is the compromise, leave it on but walk away from it. This way you have to consciously return to it and only if you actually need it. Maybe now try to really listen to your significant other when they speak. Perhaps your mind will wonder off to a memory you had when you first met and you will be reminded of how far you have grown as a couple. Creep on your kids. Yes, watch them as they play. Notice their mannerisms and facial expressions, all the details you may miss during the chaos of carpool. Perhaps you will be reminded of how awesome they are. Heck, you raised them to be awesome. Nice Job. Even if you are home alone, listen for the heat to kick on, notice the details on your crown molding. Wow, you are really lucky to have heat, it is really cold outside. I wonder what these crown moldings have seen in their many years, all the memories this house holds. The littlest detail in life can trigger that warm fuzzy feeling and you miss the details when you are on Facebook.
Mediation is just a tool to give you a break, even if just for a moment.
If you are lucky, maybe you begin to use those breaks to absorb the things in your life you are most grateful for. You may never be the super spiritual guru sitting cross legged waiting for divine inspiration, but perhaps you find inspiration from the sunrise on your commute in the morning or in watching the light in your daughter’s eyes as she explains her science project.
Just take some time to notice the little things and maybe the big picture will become just a little clearer.