Here is the scenario (let me know if this sounds familiar): You read an article or book about mindfulness, or listen to yet another podcast about someone who is winning at life and attributes it to his or her meditation practice.
You tell yourself, “I’ve GOT to start meditating!”
And maybe you do. You wake up five or ten minutes early each morning to sit and breathe. It goes well for a few days, maybe even a week or so. And then you snooze through your alarm one day and skip it. Then again. Then the next few weeks (or months) it’s an on-again, off-again practice.
And then one day you just stop.
Before you know it, a month has gone by with no meditation. Then a few months. Then a year.
And then you read an article about mindfulness or hear a friend talk about it, and you start the whole thing again.
Why do we DO that?
Before you beat yourself up for being a “bad” meditator, please know that, simply because you are contemplating meditation and have given it a go, you are already ahead of most people.
You are not a bad meditator.
It is not possible to fail at meditating. Just like when we continue to bring our attention back to the breath when our mind wanders DURING meditation, you can also bring yourSELF back to your practice when you wander away from it. The magic is in those moments when you come back.
Now that we’ve gotten the guilt part out the way, let’s talk about how meditation is one of the easiest and most difficult things you will ever do. It’s easy because all you have to do is sit and breathe. And it’s difficult because all you have to do is pay attention while you sit and breathe every day.
You have to stick to it until it sticks to you.
So if you’ve wandered from your mindfulness practice, I invite you back. It’s okay if you’ve been away for a while. Here are a few simple tips to help you get (re)started.
1) Start Small
Start with three or five minutes a day. Do a week or two, or even a month, like that. No pressure. But do try to show up every day. It’s better to show up every day for just a few minutes than to sit for an hour occasionally. Consistency matters, so start small.
2) Get Comfortable
You do not have to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate. If you are more comfortable sitting in a chair, great. Wherever you sit, just make sure that you sit up tall, relax your shoulders, and let your hands be somewhere comfortable, maybe resting on your legs or folded in your lap. If you want to lay in bed meditate instead of hitting the snooze button one more time, that works too (as long as you don’t fall back to sleep). In fact, if you typically hit the snooze button once or twice prior to getting up, those are precious moments in your day that could be used for a meditation practice.
3) Let Go of Expectations
Your mind may wander the entire time. You may feel agitated. You might mentally scroll through your to-do list most of the time (especially in the beginning). That’s OKAY. There will be endless moments when you catch yourself distracted—just notice those moments and bring your attention back to the breath. I promise, you’re still getting value from these sessions. By letting go of expectations, you take the pressure off.
and the Mindful Life team
P.S. The next round of our Mindfulness and the Workplace and our Foundations of Mindful Parenting start very soon. In both of these courses, I teach you how to weave mindful breathing into your everyday life. If you’d like to be more mindful at work – and at home – check out our work course and/or parenting course.