The mind is crafty. It will find a way out of anything that makes it uncomfortable.
Meditation is no exception.
After almost 5 years of regular meditation practice, I still have days when I think to myself: I suck at this. I don't know how to meditate. I'm better off not even trying.
A simple play-by-play of how to actually meditate has helped me get my butt on the cushion daily, even when I'm at my most distracted, convinced I've forgotten how to calm my mind altogether.
Lots of people have asked me how I meditate, so maybe these steps will help you too.
HOW TO ACTUALLY MEDITATE
1. Stop thinking so hard and just sit down.
Don't even give your mind a chance to talk you out of it-step one, the most important step, is to sit on a pillow, cushion, or chair in a quiet place.
2. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes.
I use the Insight Timer App, but there are plenty of options out there. Short meditations are better than none at all, so I always shoot for at least 5 minutes in the morning and the evening. This creates a habit, and habits are fundamental to growth. Maybe today you've only got 5 minutes in you, but next Wednesday you're up for 15.
3. Close your eyes.
Turn off the lights, take off your glasses, and shut 'em. Try not to open your eyes again until the bell goes off. I promise, it's not broken. 5 minutes can sometimes feel like 20 when the mind is racing. Stick with it.
Then breathe some more. Be there for them. It doesn’t matter if they’re not the deepest, or if you only half notice them even happening, as long as you are sitting and breathing and trying. As the mind wanders, patiently walk it back to the breath. It's the best tool for meditation if you ask me, because it's the only thing that's always with us, and yet always changing.
It is seriously that simple.
Notice I didn't say easy. Some of the simplest things are also the most challenging.
As you create the habit of meditation, you'll notice that some sittings are harder than others. Some feel like "failures," while some bring you to a deep state of calm. That's ok.
You see, meditation is like putting together an outfit.
Sometimes you pass the full length mirror and think, “Damn, I nailed it!” But sometimes you realize you are just as fashion-confused as you were in 8th grade. (Tie dye and red Dickies? No, girl.)
So sometimes your outfits are great, sometimes they miss the mark. But you probably never decide to give up on clothes altogether.
You do the best you can and let it be good enough, because you have to get to work. You just choose some pants.
And with meditation, you learn to just sit down, breathe, and use the tools you have.
It can be scary to pay attention to nothing but the breath. Even though it's always with us, breathing is also something we ignore in our day to day. Your mind will thus fight it more often than it agrees to sit still in observation. But learning to sit anyway, just learning to try, changes everything.