Last year, my New Year’s resolution was simply: to meditate. I didn’t set any parameters on which type, how long, or how often. I just left it open, and I didn’t start immediately on January first. I knew I wanted this to be a habit and a way of life, not just a fad that I would do for a month and toss out when I got bored or when things got difficult. I had been introduced to meditation in high school, and throughtout my life in different arenas, but I had never made it a priority. I really wanted to dig in and make it a lasting practice.
I began to research the possibilities. I talked with people who I knew meditated. Got real feedback. Did some more research. I took a Transcendental Meditation training. I learned meditation techniques from my yoga teachers. I researched Vipassana courses, which are 10-day silent meditation retreats at a meditation center. (I even went so far as to schedule a retreat, but I backed out at the last minute with cold feet!)
I bought incense. I made my first mala (and made one for Katie!) I lit candles. I smudged my home with burning dried sage. I meditated outdoors, indoors, on meditation cushions, in chairs, on couches, and while walking. I meditated alone and I meditated in groups. I used a mantra, I didn’t use a mantra, I followed my breath, I sat in silence, I played music, I watched my thoughts.
What I have found this year through testing and research and exploring is to make meditation simple, and to make it something you enjoy doing. There is no one way, or best way, to meditate. No special tools, props, or physical items are necessary. (Through your own testing you may find some of the items or practices outlined above may help you out.)
A beloved Iyengar yoga teacher once taught me that in order to increase happiness I must first lower my expectations. At first this seemed like a cop-out, something for the lazy and unmotivated. But, it is also in line with advice I have received on goal setting. Make your goals attainable. You want happiness to be attainable on a daily basis.
This is how I viewed my goal to meditate more. Keep it simple. Keep it attainable. I knew that if my expectations were high, I would undoubtedly fail. I kept expectations low: I did not expect immeidate results, I did not even identify the results I wanted to see, I did not set a bar for how long each day I needed to meditate, I did not view a day without meditating as a failure.
Some days I meditated for 40 minutes. Some days I was lucky to get one minute of silence. I didn’t beat myself up over the short days, and I didn’t get excited or proud on the days where my long meditations seemed like a breeze.
It’s hard to sit in silence. But, I have found that it is worth it to go through that hard work. This has been an incredible year of change, growth, highs and lows, injury, and challenge. And yet, I have never felt so at ease, so balanced, or calm. I also feel rejuvenated, energized, and motivated. I am ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead in 2015.
I will admit to being a multi-tasker. When you try to do two (or more!) things at once, you cannot give each task your full attention. This results in mediocre work, or work that needs editing and even redoing. What appears to be a time saver, ends up costing more time and energy in the long run. Meditation has helped me focus. To treat each task as worthy of it’s own time and space.
Learning to live mindfully has been the greatest gift I could give myself. Chopping vegetables and brushing my teeth have turned into moving meditations for me. When I have a consistent meditation practice, I remember more of what I read and experience. I feel more confident giving presentations and making sales calls. I am better able to transmit lessons to my yoga students and communicate clearly when I teach.
All of this is said with the caveat that it has not been a perfect process. At times my mind wanders, I falter, I retreat to my old ways. But I now have the tools to steer myself back on track when I feel anxious or distracted.
After reading about all the benefits of meditation, I could not NOT do it. If you feel the same way, I encourage you to start small and do some research. Make it your own, and make it enjoyable.
So, this year I resolve to keep meditating. And, to finally make it to that Vipassana retreat that I was so scared to make time for in 2014!