Meditation is challenging. It can feel like a terribly solitary endeavor. Being alone with the activity of our minds, watching our thoughts, intentionally letting go and practicing being present is unsettling. For many of us, the individual and unique patterns of our thought processes are like a well-worn security blanket offering the illusion of comfort and safety. When we practice meditation we are gently detaching from our thought stream. We are witnessing our thoughts from afar. Stepping away from the activity of our minds can leave us feeling uneasy and vulnerable.
Meditation is like any new activity we try - it takes a bit of time to get comfortable. Although it may seem contradictory, feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and even fear can be heightened by the very practice that’s meant to reduce them. In truth, this type of initial response is actually very natural. However, with time, learning mindfulness through meditation will take the edge off vulnerabilities and allow us to grow more confident from within.
Here are a few tips to help begin the practice with ease:
1. Take a walk.
There are days when stillness feels unavailable. One solution is to take your meditation for a walk. As you walk, move with awareness. Be aware of the sensations in your body. Feel your muscles working with each step. Note how the temperature feels. Notice any discomfort. Bring awareness to your thinking. What thoughts enter your mind as you encounter new or familiar sights, sounds and smells? Are you forming judgments or opinions about your experience? Just notice and keep walking. Notice the nature of your thoughts. Are you planning, worrying, hoping, dreaming? Again, just notice. Ask yourself if you are present or if your mind has wandered away. If so, gently bring your thoughts back to walking – the movement of each step.
2. Community meditation.
Another great way to ease into your meditation practice is to find a community. Surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals can be motivating and encourage consistency. Moreover, sharing your own experiences will expand your own practice. As the concept mindfulness was once esoteric; it is now mainstream. There are entire organizations committed to educating and building community through meditation. Research what’s available in your area and share what you learn.
3. Public meditation.
Traditionally meditation is practiced while sitting in a comfortable quiet space. However, at times a private space can feel more confining than reassuring. Rather than meditate alone, try doing so in public. Find a place you feel at peace - where you can be alone but around others at the same time. Perhaps it’s a park bench, a museum, or even a particular train or bus ride. Wherever you choose, be there in awareness of your surroundings. Connect with the breath and practice being present from one moment to the next.
These suggestions are just a few of the many possibilities you might choose to try when sitting in stillness feels inaccessible. I encourage you to experiment with various approaches knowing that with time, you will become more comfortable with the concept of allowing yourself to simply be in awareness of the present. And when you feel ready, please do try meditation in quiet stillness. You may be surprised by the comfort and confidence revealed.