Ever sit down to meditate and feel like you’ve failed? Me too. Luckily, then I get this nice little voice in my head that comes from a great big source. It says, “There is no try. Only do.” Ha. But in all seriousness, Yoda was onto something. Meditation isn’t about trying. It’s about being. And when we try, we’re not being. We don’t need to beat ourselves up for not getting a good meditation connection happening every time, and every minute that we meditate. That voice sounds a bit like Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron—she says a lot of things along the lines of “Just accept yourself completely.”
So what’s the practical point? Let’s combine these two gurus’ teachings into one: let go of trying to make yourself meditate, and accept your self-perceived limitations.
Here are 5 things I practice while meditating: 1. Use sound.Jivamukti Yoga founders David Life and Sharon Gannon teach that we cannot make ourselves meditate. We can make ourselves concentrate. Dharana, or fixation of attention within the mind, is the sixth limb of yoga outlined by yogic philosophy powerhouse Patanjali. Sound works. When my friend and mentor Swami Maheshananda Saraswati is getting us settled for a deep Prana Vidya practice (working with the flow of Prana/energy within the body) he often starts with having us focus on sound. We let our ears lead us into a sweet state where we are aware of the sounds near us, away from us, in the room, and outside the room—without ever focusing on one sound in particular. It’s a simple but powerful way to help the mind settle.
2. Use sight. Sight works much the same way—but with the added bonus that when we still our gaze we still our mind. Where our gaze goes, our mind goes, too. This is why yogis like to use an image of a diety, or their guru, or a candle flame to help them meditate. The fun part about using an image of a diety or your guru is that by bringing them into your mind, you also bring in their qualities, and meditating on these helps us bring them into ourselves.
3. Use your third eye. This is the sixth chakra in our scientifically-proven-to-exist chakra system within our body. It’s where we tap into our intuition, our deeper knowing, our ability to do and act without needing to know “why, why, why?” It’s right in the middle of your head, between the centre of your eyebrows. You can direct your gaze there, or just bring your attention there. Once you get used to it, tapping into this space is uber bliss-inducing.
4. Make it 5 minutes. Don’t have 30? Make it 5. Don’t beat yourself up for being a busy yogi in this modern era of nusto scheduling. BUT if you’re skipping your meditation to watch TV…
5. Stay warm. Your body’s calming systems, including lots of the ones activated by your parasympathetic nervous system, are decreased when you’re cold. So bundle up to get your bliss on.