A few months ago, I hit a wall in my meditation practice. Techniques that were once effective no longer worked for me. I found myself withdrawing from meditations before I could reap any benefit. I grew frustrated and beat myself up for both trying too hard and not trying hard enough.
A few nights ago, I decided to try again. I sat on my meditation chair feeling totally uncomfortable. My shoulder ached and I was haunted by a horrible feeling of restriction in my life. Suddenly, I realized it was time to break some rules. Without thinking twice, I dropped my intention to meditate.
Instead, I put on my blackout eye mask and decided I was going to honor every sensation that came up. I allowed myself to massage my shoulder. I let myself adjust my seat and itch my nose. I gave myself permission to move as often as needed.
Once the fidgeting stopped, I allowed myself to talk out loud. I dropped some angry comments about my shoulder and verbalized the angst and confusion I was feeling. I felt deep pain, anger and sadness and let myself cry to the point of soaking my eye mask. I let everything out until I felt there was nothing more to say.
Within about twenty minutes, I noticed that my shoulder no longer ached and that my heart felt lighter. All of a sudden, it felt like my head had lifted off my body like a helium balloon. I had made it back to nowhere land! I stayed in that peaceful place for a while and received powerful insights about why I was feeling so restricted in my life.
I opened my eyes and realized how much healing had just occurred. I then wondered: How did this happen? That night, I had a dream that explained it to me: By vocalizing the pain out loud, I had played the dual roles of patient and healer. As the patient, I got to state all of my aches and discomforts. Hearing my own words allowed me to also serve as healer – one who listens, acknowledges and validates.
Here’s my meditation advice for you: Do not try to force yourself into a state of stillness and silence.
Sit upright in a chair in a private room and wear an eye mask. Seeing pitch black allows you to go deeper within yourself and puts you directly in touch with your sensations. It feels like you are entering a dark confession booth and serving as your own non-judgmental, compassionate “priest”. Say out loud all that is stirring within you. Exhaustively acknowledge everything you feel physically, emotionally and mentally without blaming yourself for having those feelings, thoughts or sensations.
The reason so many of us are frustrated with meditation is that we expect to go from hyperactive to Zen-like in one single leap. We are skipping a critical stage. There’s a really powerful bridge state that automatically transitions you from monkey-mind to meditative – and that bridge is always accessible. Once you’re on the bridge, it’s like a moving walkway: You just have to stay on it to be transported across.
I often meet clients who tell me they can’t meditate. Their monkey-minds and fidgety bodies won’t allow it. Realize that asking your mind for permission to meditate is like asking a monkey to stop swinging on trees. When you tell your mind and body to ‘relax’, it gets translated as something that needs to be done. This keeps your mind locked in active mode.
Here’s the deal with meditation and relaxation: You don’t make it happen. Rather, it happens to you when your mind, feelings and bodily sensations loosen their grip on you. Give them the attention they’re asking for and they will let you go.
If you believe that meditation is not for you, here’s an analogy that might shift your view: Have you ever heard someone say that they can’t do yoga because they aren’t flexible? Or perhaps you know people who avoid yoga because they think they’re too stiff? If yoga was designed for people with noodle-like flexibility the practice would serve no purpose at all. Being inflexible is the precise reason to get started.
The same is true for meditation. Being too restless does not make you ineligible. It makes you a prime candidate!
Meditation is available to everyone at any time. It’s home.