I worked recently with a client who said he hated to meditate, and it hit me: have we been making meditation too difficult?
To meditate is simply to focus the mind or to think deeply. Meditation can be the intentional letting go of all thoughts or the purposeful attention on a thought, like a prayer or mantra. We can mediate on our breathe. We can mediate while walking. We can meditate by imagining ourselves as a flowing river or by concentrating on a single image like a cloud.
Over the years I've taught athletes and executives, toddlers and teenagers, newbies and experienced spiritual leaders different ways to stay focused using various forms of meditation.
I think, too often, we've been going about teaching meditation the wrong way.
The more we make meditation like a skill that can be mastered, the more we turn it into the esoteric vocation of yogis and gurus.
It simply isn't. Meditation is something you either do or don't do. It's like breathing. We don't have breathing competitions. Some days breathing is easier than others, but that doesn't make us less human or less valuable on the days when, because we're sick or aging, we struggle to breath.
I've had trouble with my own practice recently. Busyness and some health challenges have made it extremely difficult to quiet my mind or focus on the little prayer I've used for years. I can do my visualization meditation that I use for my golf training, but on tired days, I don't enjoy it.
So I started a new technique for me. It is the beginning of what the ancients called Vipassana. I found others call it "Detached Observation" or the "Awareness of Thoughts." Everyone can do this because it is not overly focused on a result.
The technique: watch your thoughts. Sometimes for a few minutes, other times for twelve minutes or more as new research recommends. I treat my mind like a movie theatre and if thoughts come, I notice them. If my mind is blank, I enjoy that too.
The power of this kind of meditation is that it doesn't lend itself to judgment. You're not meditating poorly because you have lots of thought or less. There is no goal except to sit and be and appreciate what your brain is doing today.
So start right now. Set your smart phone for a 12-minute count down. Get comfortable. Most teachers like us to sit straight with feet on the floor. Lie down if you want to. Close your office door or find a quiet place if you're at work. Enjoy your own mind.
There will be pleasant thoughts, maybe some strange thoughts, and maybe, if it's been a stressful time lately, some uncomfortable thoughts too. Watch them come and go. If something really ugly gets stuck in your head, get some help.
But if you're like me, taking all the pressure off feels like the world is no longer on my shoulders. You will be grateful you made the time for you. You will experience freedom you've known before, but haven't felt in too long. And it only takes a few minutes.
The purpose of this kind of meditation is simply to enjoy your mind. You are smart, capable, and the more you recognize how your brain works, the more you can value your brain and your life as it is.