I’ve talked a lot about meditating on this blog over the years.
It’s something that appealed to me even back when I was a Christian and thought doing it might be spiritually dangerous. My mind has always been so full of thoughts that there was something wonderful about taking occasional breaks from them. It’s not that my thoughts were frightening or annoying. They were just always there.
My first attempts at meditation failed. The instructions were so simple, yet I just couldn’t sit and do nothing for more than a minute or two. The whirr of the air condition would suddenly become annoyingly loud. My left knee would itch. I’d wonder if I’d turned off the stove after making breakfast.
If my body couldn’t move, my mind would be sure find a way to make up for it. No sooner would one thought be pushed away than another one would take its place.
I tried again and again. The books I’d read about it said this was common, but I never discovered the benefits in it that everyone else seemed to find.
All I did was sit and notice things I’d never thought about before. Occasionally I’d complete a short session and actually clear my mind for a little while. Usually this didn’t happen though.
Two things shifted in my life that made meditation work better:
1) I downloaded a guided mediation app on my iPhone.
Yes, some of the guides say cheesy things. There are other programs that only focus on relaxation and calming your mind, though, and I’ve found a lot of benefit in paying attention to them. They work especially well when I’m sick or when it’s too hot (or cold) outside to do a lot of walking.
If I’m left to my own devices, my mind will wander all over the place. That’s just what minds do.
2) I started noticing what I wasn’t thinking when I took walks.
In a word, nothing at all.
Walking doesn’t require any thinking unless you’re checking to see if a street is safe to cross. Even then, the flow of other pedestrians can often guide me across busy roads.
My body is happier when it has something to do, even if that something is walking down a flat, even street where nothing exciting is taking place. Just the act of moving is enough to give me the motivation to clear my mind.
I used to think that the only proper way to meditate was by sitting cross-legged in silence. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but I’m happy to say that I’ve found better alternatives for myself.