When I talk to people about meditation or how to be “mindful,” I often hear “I can’t do it”, “its too difficult” or “I can’t focus long enough to do it right.” It is called a “practice” for a reason! You can’t expect to try it once and feel like it won’t work for you. It is something that involves lifelong practice and just like anything new, it gets easier the more you do it. The key is not to judge yourself when thoughts begin to filter in your mind. Recognize them and let them go. Gradually you will find that fewer and fewer thoughts enter your mind during meditation. The great part of meditation is there is a number of ways to engage with it. This increases your chances of finding a way that works for you.
Guided visualization is the easiest way for beginners to start because you can put on your headphones, close your eyes and follow the imaginary journey given to you. Another way is to count your breaths, in your head say “1” for each breath in, and say “2” for each breath out. Keep going for as long as you can. You can also count your inhales and exhales to 10, breathe in that’s 1, breathe out that’s 2, breathe in that’s 3 – you get the picture. Once you get to 10 start all over again.
Using visual imagery is another prime example of how you can keep your mind focused and prevent it from wandering so much. Imagine an object of interest for yourself and keep it in the forefront of your mind as you sit upright and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, breathe in through your nose, out through mouth. I like to picture the moon, maybe with different sizes and different colored skies. You can experiment and try different objects to find one that most appeals to you.
One new way I’ve tried is to stop what I am doing and really settle into what is happening around me. If you really pay attention, you will find mindful moments everywhere. I was watching my cat sleep and I wondered how cats most likely don’t overthink things like humans do. They can just “be” and stay in the moment. I watch the trees outside blowing in the wind. I imagine myself as the tree, staying grounded with the earth. Feeling the cool wind on my face, the sunbeams warming up my body, I am here and I am one with the tree. I’m allowing myself to just “be.”
Another way to find mindful moments is to look for nature in motion and keep your focus on it. As you watch the waves at the beach, note what you are seeing in your mind. “The waves move in and then out.” Use all of your senses as you feel the sand beneath you, the warmth of the sun and the smell of the salty air to keep you in the moment. Nature in motion could involve watching a fire, seeing the rain falling down, watching fish swim or leaves blow in the breeze. See how many ways you can find nature in motion around you.
Too often we stay in our thinking mind and never give ourselves a break. This can be exhausting, unhealthy and lead to stress related illnesses. Stop throughout the day, take a mindful break for your own health and well-being. When you stop, really take in what you see around you and just “be.” It doesn’t have to take 45 minutes, just a few minutes here and there can really add up and make a positive difference in your life.