Never chop onions before you meditate.
I learned this lesson the hard way. Not once, but twice.
You’d think once would have been enough or that it would be an obvious concept, but not for me.
I learn most lessons the hard way.
It’s one of my more charming personality traits.
Meditation has always been a challenge for me.
The first time I tried to meditate, I was maybe 8 years old. I’d watch my dad sit in meditation and I wanted to do everything that my dad did, so one day I decided to sit just like my dad.
I sat with my legs criss-cross-applesauced in our pink velvet chair and closed my eyes. An hour later I woke up with gum in my hair.
Very inauspicious beginnings.
Many years after the great gum disaster, when I was a brand new yoga teacher at the ripe old age of 25, I remember telling my students in the yoga class I taught at the YMCA about my struggles with meditation.
My intention was to explain that meditation isn’t easy and takes lots of practice and isn’t worth giving up if at first you struggle.
After class, one student came up to me and said, “you know, meditation is supposed to be challenging.”
Sigh…yes, I know. I guess my message didn’t get through.
Oddly, meditation was one of the only things I’d ever done that I didn’t want to be hard.
Every other yogi I knew seemed to relish meditation and slip into a quieter stream of consciousness easily.
Every time I tried to meditate, I’d get fidgety within a few seconds.
I’d wiggle and stretch forward to rest my head on my hands.
My back would start aching, high up in between my shoulders.
I’d peek an eye open to see what was happening.
Sometimes, I’d get dizzy.
Often, I’d feel myself nodding off only to be jolted awake with such force, I was certain I’d startled everyone else out of meditation.
I wanted so badly to be able to meditate but instead of finding peace and clarity on my meditation cushion, all I found myself feeling was boredom.
For years, I gave up on the idea of a regular meditation practice.
I joked that I was the only yogi alive who was meditation-resistant. My brain was like Teflon for the focus and reflection of meditation.
If meditation was featured in a workshop, I wouldn’t sign-up for it.
If meditation was snuck in to a class or workshop I was attending, I’d get grouchy and feel like it was a waste of time – time that could be spent moving my body. Usually I’d come out of the meditation and go into child’s pose instead, actively resisting what was being taught.
Yes, I did this as a grown, yoga-teaching adult.
For the record, I felt the same way about savasana for years and years. Basically, I hated savasana until I had kids and then I wanted all of the savasanas.
Stillness doesn’t come naturally to me.
When seated meditation didn’t work, I took solace in the idea that movement could be its own meditation. Going for a walk, doing a vinyasa, chopping vegetables all became opportunities for meditation.
When the movement was repetitive enough I could drop into “the zone” I still didn’t feel the benefits of meditation that I’d heard so much about.
And I wanted those benefits.
I wanted to feel more clear and calm.
I wanted to react less and respond more.
I wanted to sleep more deeply.
I wanted to be able to harness the power of my mind and increase my focus.
I wanted to feel less stressed and more in charge of my emotions.
Basically, I wanted to be a nicer person and yell at my daughter less and I was sure that if I could just figure out how to meditate every day, this would happen.
The truth is not so simple.
Meditation isn’t a one-size-fits-all bandaid for my occasional outbursts of white-hot mom rage or for little daily stresses that create cracks in the foundation of my relationships or for the growing pile of frustrations in the overflowing laundry basket of my life.
It won’t be a giant bandaid for your stuff, either.
Sorry to be the bearer of disappointing news.
For the past year, I have had a consistent daily meditation practice. Some days I sit for 5 minutes, awkwardly and uncomfortably, hearing every sound and feeling too aware of what’s happening around me. Other days I sit for 15-20 minutes, unaware that so much time has passed. Most days I have at least one child, but sometimes two, standing on me or lying in my lap or climbing on me.
Here’s what I have learned in the past year of having a consistent daily meditation practice after nearly 30 years of trying to meditate:
- You can’t force meditation.
You can change your attitude, though. I’ve stopped thinking of meditation as “meditation” and more as “sitting with my eyes closed” or creating “conscious quiet time.”
- Sometimes 2 minutes is all you need.
One of the biggest roadblocks to meditation is thinking your goal is a 30-minute meditation and that you need to star there. You don’t. That’s a recipe for failure. Start with 2 minutes. If you’ve never meditated or struggle with meditation, it will feel like an eternity.
- Stillness is not the objective.
Not for your body and not for your thoughts. At least not every time. Eventually, your body will become a little more still and your mind, slightly less like white water rapids and more like a lazy stream. Maybe. Or maybe not.
The only real objective of meditation is to increase your consciousness and to connect more to yourself. Stillness is not a requirement for this.
- If a child is climbing on you, it is still meditation.
In fact, if you have to remove said child from your lap for any reason and you do it with your eyes closed and once they’re removed you return to focusing on your breath, it is still meditation.
This applies to dogs, cats, and any other animal that might take up residence in your lap or on your person during meditation.
- There is no wrong way to meditate.
There just isn’t. There are so many different ways to meditate. All of them are equally valid and equally beneficial. I share 7 different ways to meditate in my Transform Chaos to Calm program. It’s totally FREE and I share my 7 favorite meditations – the ones I employ most frequently in my morning meditation practice. Sign-up here.
- If you fall asleep while meditating, that’s ok. You probably needed the sleep more. Just go with it.
- You cannot fail at meditation.
You can struggle. You can feel frustrated. You cannot fail.
If what you’re trying isn’t working, take a break for a day or 2, and then try a different method. Or use no method at all. Just don’t write it off simply because it’s hard and you feel unsuccessful in your meditations.
- Don’t chew gum while meditating.
It’s more of a pain to try and get gum out of your hair than it is to try and meditate.
- And never cut onions before you meditate. You won’t be able to keep your eyes closed because of the burning.
Was this helpful?
Let me know in the comments below or tell me about your experience with meditation. Why do you want to meditate? What do you struggle with? And what meditation has taught you!