Pillow Talk: Five Lessons Learned in Six Mindful Weeks

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Photo: Don’t Worry, Be Happy by MaticesLA CC BY 2.0

I’m six weeks into starting a meditation practice, and besides struggling to find the time to quiet the mind as we approach holiday mayhem, it’s going well.  I’ve not gotten to the point of practice every day at the same time, but I’m now able to sustain 30 minutes with a relaxed focused attention. I’m excited about getting deeper into the experience in the new year.

In the interim, here are five lessons learned so far that I hope will help others starting along a similar path:

Start Small

I usually jump into new tasks with ambition and enthusiasm, always thinking about the end result and wanting to skip steps along the way. In taking on a meditation practice, it was important to temper my nature and approach the task incrementally. By gradually increasing the length of sessions from a short five minutes to half-hour sittings, I’m slowly building capacity for concentration.  When I avoid rushing, I observe more subtle details of the mind’s activities.

Prepare Before You Practice

One of the biggest challenges was taking a break at midday on particularly busy days, and then having any success concentrating.  One trick I discovered was to take a short interim break before starting a lunchtime session, such as a quick walk around the block to clear the mind.

If posture is a challenge, there are ways you can prep the body during your daily routine that can make sitting more comfortable over time. See this Yoga Journal video for some guidance on preparatory stretches.

Don’t Push

Meditation is more about letting go than about making an effort. Paradoxically, the more you try, the less you will succeed. It’s that simple.

Strength in Numbers

While there may be some disadvantages to having tried out meditation in so many different cultural and spiritual settings in this early phase, I have to say that the power of the group was helpful in every session. A room full of individuals engaged in focused attention is truly energizing.

Find Your Own Way In

It’s easier to engage when you find a tradition that speaks to you. I’m most comfortable in a secular setting, and that’s where I’ll continue to sit. But I’ll continue to learn as much as I can about the philosophies behind the practices, because they fascinate me and I’m not sure the two can be separated.

 

 

 

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