All of that is true.
And then they say this:
All of your thoughts will disappear from your mind.
This is when your ears prick up like they do when you hear a lie.
You tried to meditate once or twice. You sat in an awkward cross-legged position on the floor. You set your timer. You focused on your breath. Closed your eyes. And waited….waited for the calm to wash over you, the monkeys to leave your brain and peace to prevail.
And then, every thought you ever had came racing through the mind you are desperately trying to calm:
“God, I’m so uncomfortable. Why do I have to sit on the floor to meditate, I’m not a freaking teenager. My knees hurt. I have so much work to do today, how am I ever going to get through it. My boss is such an ass. He has no idea what I deal with. I think he’s kind of a bully. And Sarah is driving me crazy. I must make sure I pick up pineapple and broccoli at the shops today. And coconut water. Oh and light bulbs. What else do I need? Must write a list. And a to do list for work as well. Must call Mum. And Nancy. And that guy who needs to fix the shower. Jeez, is this meditation thing finished yet? I feel like I’ve been sitting here for an HOUR. I’m so done with this.”
The timer goes off. You’ve been sitting for an entire two minutes. And not one second of that two minutes did you have a mind void of those rabid incessant monkeys.
Welcome to your meditation practice. The number one myth that stops people from meditating is we think that as soon as we start, our minds will empty the 60,000 thoughts we have on any given day and there will be silence. This is what we are told by well meaning people who are trying to help. But it doesn’t happen like that. And it’s not helpful.
Research was done with the most experienced meditators in the world. They were asked how long into their meditation practice do they become aware of the first thought coming into their mind.
Brace yourself. 30 seconds. Yes, 30 seconds. The most experienced meditators in the world. So why on earth would we expect that a mere novice like us could sit to meditate and be clear and free of the monkey mind.
They call it a practice for a reason. Your work in meditation practice is not to clear your mind of all thoughts. Your work is to show up, breathe, and when you notice that you’ve jumped on the thought train, to gently bring your attention back to your breath or your point of focus (mantra, music, guided visualization, mala beads, candle, etc.)
That’s the practice in its most simple form. And it’s worth persisting because the research is compelling: meditation boosts our emotional intelligence; brain-imaging research shows that it can help strengthen your ability to regulate your emotions; meditation builds resilience; and multiple research studies have shown that meditation has the potential to decrease anxiety, and potentially boost resilience and performance.
Meditation has also been shown to increase empathy, improve focus and reduce distractions, improve relationships, boost your mood, improve your connections, enhance your well-being, lower your stress and make you kinder and more compassionate.
Find five to ten minutes once a day, and start a practice. You don’t have to sit on the floor if you don’t want to, a chair will do just fine. You can use an app like Headspace or find some guided meditations online. Or use a simple timer app like Insight Timer, which is my favourite, close your eyes and follow your breath. Whatever supports you to build a practice is great. Make it a non-negotiable part of your day. And watch what happens.
Please stop expecting a miracle to happen. Just give yourself the gift of showing up for yourself, taking your seat and finding your breath. And let go of any myths or expectations that stop you from doing that. And then: simply practice.