One recent Sunday evening, our son and his husband invited us over to dinner in their new apartment. It was a real treat for me to complete my day of teaching a virtual meditation retreat with a nurturing dinner prepared by someone else! (I’m usually the one who cooks for everybody.) But what really moved me was the look on my son’s face as soon as we entered the apartment. He said, “Did you teach or participate? You look lit up and filled up.”
My wonderful cohost for the retreat, Dawn, and I were awed by how well the day went. We spent the morning leading walking and movement meditation and sharing spiritual teachings. There was no sharing or interaction among the participants. Going inward and being in silence allowed them to deeply immerse themselves in the experience. After lunch, Dawn guided us through a resting meditation while each of us lay down in our rooms, listening to her voice through the screen. Yes, I went through the practices myself, which was different from my usual routine when I teach. The ability to meditate while holding the space for others to meditate was a gift. No wonder my son recognized how grounded, centered, and relaxed I felt.
The more you try to chase your thoughts away, the stronger they become.
When I asked the participants why they were there, Nancy said, “Because I suck at meditation.” In Nancy’s eyes and the eyes of many people, meditation is sitting still with your eyes closed and making your thoughts go away. That used to be me. I remember getting very frustrated when the voices in my head refused my requests to shut up and my thoughts ignored my commands to disappear.
Years of studying and practicing meditation have taught me that the more you try to chase your thoughts away, the stronger they become.
One of the key words I use when I teach meditation is “return.” One of my meditation teachers said that whether a practice calls for visualization, questions, prayer, sacred words, or simple attention to feelings or breath, it always involves a steadying and conscious return, again and again, to some focus.
The word “return” is my true friend whenever I meditate. I invite you to make it your friend as well. Stop fighting! (Write down those two words on a sticky note and have it with you when you meditate.) Instead of fighting the thoughts, accept them. As soon as you catch your mind, wonder and return to the present moment or to your anchor.
Don’t try to get rid of the thoughts. Get rid of your frustration with the thoughts.
Become a curious witness instead of a victim of your thoughts.
Resting on an anchor is an excellent way to start.
“Anchors are so helpful in staying present in the meditation,” wrote Belinda in the chat at the end of the day. I remember having an “AHA!” moment when I learned to choose anchors before meditating. During the retreat, I invited the participants to use their breath as their anchor for the first sitting practice and to add more anchors for the second sitting practice.
Becoming one with your breath is not the only anchor that works for meditation. The sense of the body sitting with touchpoints is an effective anchor. For example, be aware of your feet touching the floor and your butt in the seat. Repeated background noise, such as a ticking clock or the whirr of the AC, can serve as your anchors as well. You can also use a mantra as your anchor. “Here and now, all is well” is a fun mantra to use.
Spice up your practice by resting on different anchors and gently returning to the anchors when your mind wanders or you get distracted.
What makes meditation easier and much more enjoyable?
The meditation retreat was open to all, and it was interesting to realize that all the women who joined the retreat have gone through our Reiki training and actively practice Reiki. A few of the women came to Reiki because they were frustrated from years of trying to meditate with no success.
I remember years ago, when meditation was still a struggle for me, being so surprised how easy it became once I learned Reiki and integrated it with my meditation practice. When you practice Reiki, you move your hands through specific positions, touching specific chakra points (or energy centers) in your body. The universal energy that is flowing through you (what we call “Reiki”) has its own intelligence, and it knows where to go. It makes the practice effortless and guided. Many people from our Reiki community report that Reiki is much easier than meditation, and the two techniques blend so well together.
Learning to treat yourself with Reiki can become the # 1 thing that makes you fall in love with meditation. I promise. If you can trust me on that, come learn Reiki with me.
Why is meditation more than sitting quietly and trying to make your mind still?
Meditation is a practice that teaches us mindfulness. Mindfulness means being present at the moment, with no judgment. There are many ways, not only sitting quietly, that allow us to deliberately shift our focus away from the external stimuli and content within.
Years ago, when living in Germany, I learned and practiced Kundalini meditation. Kundalini meditation is moving energy through the body through movement itself, usually with energetic music. There are other types of movement meditations with different techniques and different speeds. Dawn is a yoga instructor and led a very gentle moving meditation during the retreat which we all enjoyed a lot.
Walking meditation is another form of meditation that can make you very successful in your practice. In walking meditation, mindfulness is cultivated by resting the attention on sensations of the body as one walks. We become aware of the present moment in the midst of activity. My favorite mantra for walking meditation is “lift, move, place,” where you are breaking down the movement, lifting your foot, moving it forward, and placing it back on the ground. During the retreat, I asked each participant to find a path in her room, no matter how small, and to walk the path back and forth with my guidance. I also invited the participants to try walking mindfully outdoors.
After the retreat, Donna wrote, “The variety in the format was just what I needed. My takeaway is you don’t always have to be sitting still with your eyes closed to be in a state of awareness. I think variety is exactly what I was looking for.”
At the end of the retreat, all the women said that they needed the reminder that meditation can take different forms and doesn’t have to look the same every day.
If you are a beginner, I invite you to start by listening to one of my free guided meditations. You can access my guided meditations on the free resources page on my website.
And if you love what you read and would like to join me for the next at-home meditation retreat, check out the date and register here. I would love to spend the day meditating together. Questions? Post them in the comments area. I’ll reply. I promise.