I opened my eyes.
I felt uneasy.
My meditation practice was exhausting. I wanted it to help, but it only made me feel worse.
That was a few years ago. Now my meditation practice is actually enjoyable.
At first, I was just doing what books had taught me.
Focus on my breath and when a thought comes into my head acknowledge it then let it go.
My meditation practice caused me more stress than it was worth.
Then I added the secret ingredient:
It was so obvious looking back on it.
It took me 20 years to figure this out. I haven't meditated everyday for 20 years. Sometimes I let entire months go by without even trying to meditate, but I knew it was an important skill that I should learn.
The thing was I would actually dread meditation when I sat down to do it.
I knew meditation would help me stay healthy. It has been shown to lower your blood pressure which makes it easier for your heart to do its job. It also helps with brain function..
We are able to take on tasks that are 30% more complex. We are able to process 30% more information. It’s a great skill to practice.
I knew a lot of this, but my personal meditation practice kept bringing me mild results.
I didn't dislike meditation, but I didn't like it either.
Then I tried something I should have tried years ago.
I thanked every thought that came into my head. It was there because it wanted to be appreciated for trying to keep me safe, happy, etc.
It’s a beautiful addition to my meditation practice.
Now I look forward to it. This big shift in my perspective has allowed meditation to become a regular routine in my life.
Here are four steps that will help you turn your meditation practice into a daily habit:
1. Focus on your breath.
Let out the air then let it slowly back in. This is important because it helps build your focus. The only way to understand more about yourself is to be able to focus on something long enough so you can see the foundation of where your thoughts are coming from and what they are trying to accomplish.
When your thoughts begin to drift away from your breath then go to step two.
2. When a thought comes in, thank it for being there.
This is where we start to deviate from traditional meditation. When the thought comes in I decided to thank it instead of push it away.
This change was huge for me.
It allowed me to actually enjoy meditation instead of feeling like I have to do it to help myself.
After infusing this step into my meditation practice I noticed that I looked forward to meditating instead of dreading it.
I sometimes like to add a smile after I notice a thought and thank it so I feel the appreciation all over my body. This is an important step because it's accepting that thoughts will occur and these are natural and should be appreciated. Then after you appreciate it move on to step three.
3. Be curious.
This is where I struggled. Most meditation teachers will suggest that you let go of the thought.
I tried to let go of my thought, but the feeling usually lingered. When I changed this to appreciating my thought I become more relaxed and more curious about why I was thinking the thought.
Last week I noticed myself thinking about a stupid thing I said at work. I told a woman her shoes reminded me of a vulture. I was trying to make her laugh. She just gave me a death stare.
No one wants to be told their shoes remind you of a vulture.
I could hear myself say, “That was such a stupid thing to say.” I could feel the embarrassment rise up from my spine into my head.
Instead of pushing this thought away I thanked it and began to get curious. Where did that come from?
It was my insecurity of not being liked. I could hear my mom’s voice saying it. I thanked it again and I began to relax.
Then I began to understand why. I wanted to be tough on myself so I wouldn't make that same mistake. I needed to be a little more compassionate toward myself.
I told myself that it was a good learning moment and I'm glad I made the mistake.
4. Come back to your breath.
Then I came back to my breath and waited for the next thought to arrive. I was curious about what else might be weighing me down.
This cycle can really help uncover all the different thoughts and feelings that you are dealing with. When you get into a good groove, it’s a beautiful experience.
I made this small adjustment because I kept avoiding sitting down to meditate. I would procrastinate or just forget to do it all together. Once I found this perspective I was able to look forward to meditating.
If you’ve put off meditation in the past, start small. I suggest starting with one minute a day. We can all sit down and watch our thoughts come and go for at least a minute. It helps to build the gratitude muscle up before you give this technique a try. Once you strengthen your ability to feel grateful for these distracting thoughts then you’ll find it much easier to meditate.
Take the Bring Gratitude Quiz and see how grateful you are. It might be able to help you see how likely it will be for you to sit down and meditate once a day.