Meditation hacks for people who can’t sit still, and other excuses I’ve made up.
The science says that meditation can improve pretty much all aspects of your life, apart from pay off your debt or make you look sexier. Actually, wait, some people do think it makes you look sexier. When you calm your brain, lower your heart rate and generally just be more present, your stress levels lower, your blood pressure lowers, your focus lasers-up and you can address other things that might be bothering you, like your sleep, bad skin or your posture.
From the bombardment of mindfulness colouring in books, Balinese retreats, media coverage and wellness influencers, it seems as though everyone who’s anyone is doing it. Rock stars, stand-up comedians, supermodels, corporate leaders, tech start-up nerds, politicians and even Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch?
So why am I still struggling to meditate?
I have tried to learn several times, however they’ve all fizzled. And it wasn’t the meditation instructor’s fault, or the App’s fault, or the yoga teacher’s fault. It was mine. I mean, I loved ‘leaves on a stream’ and I find my breath very fascinating to observe, but I cannot for the life of me sit still for more than a few minutes.
Does this mean I’m doomed and I’ll never achieve enlightenment, or find inner peace? Will I always be just that little bit more stressed, unsuccessful and uptight than other people who can meditate?
I spoke to two women who could see light at the end of the tunnel, and here’s what I learned.
You definitely don’t have to stay still
One of the most common myths about meditation is that you have to remain in the same position for what might feel like the never-ending story.
“If you go from not having done meditation before to sitting, it is extremely off putting for most people”, says Ashley Hunt, whose teaching style encourages students to move or stretch if they need. There are also a number of moving meditations for those who feel more comfortable walking or doing some form of exercise, which range from Buddhist influenced styles to mindful movement.
Kimberley Chan agrees, “It’s not a statue competition… For Vedic Meditation, the key is to sit in a comfortable position, one that you can be in for around 20 minutes, but to allow yourself to move if you need to.”
Don’t overthink it
If you’re striving to ‘get’ meditation, chances are you are also trying too hard.
“Meditation is very simple, and should be completely effortless”, says Hunt.
“The more you try to block out your thoughts, the less likely you are to do so. Don’t confuse the outcome of meditation with process”.
Hunt suggests resting your awareness on an anchor point, and allowing your mind to wander, and adds that it is unrealistic to expect to master meditation the first time. Just like anything new, it takes practise and commitment to get the hang of.
You aren’t too busy. Really.
Whilst both Chan and Hunt agree that 20 minutes per day (for a minimum of 1-3 months to get going) is optimal, they both say that practising for 5 minutes is better than no time at all, and that consistency is key.
“Everyone is too busy for meditation. I have not met or taught a single person who has told me they have time for meditation. And yet lots of successful busy people meditate and have done so for many years. They don't find the time, they make the time”, says Chan, who says the key to learning to meditate successfully is to show up.
“If you still don’t think you can find 20 minutes, look at your screen time and the amount you spend on social media, and then tell me you don’t have enough time! It all comes back to priorities”, adds Hunt.
You don’t have to break the bank
Another common misconception is that serenity comes at a cost. Some styles do, particularly if you want to learn privately with a teacher, however you can generally drop into a class for around $20 in most towns in Australia.
For those on an extra tight budget, both Hunt and Chan recommend going digital, and trying YouTube or Apps like Smiling Mind, Calm and Headspace as starting points. It is also worth approaching teachers you’re interested in to see if they will negotiate on price.
“I am not aware of any teacher who has turned down teaching a student due to financial limitations. All the teachers I know, including myself, are more than happy to work out a payment plan for any student who wants to learn but may be experiencing financial limitations,” adds Chan.
Screens aren’t all bad
If you’re the kind of gal or guy who likes to live with headphones on, apps can be a solution. They do require self-discipline and careful monitoring, though, especially if you are already clocking up screen time.
“Some students have expressed a plateauing in their experience once they have been using apps for a while. They are a great way to introduce meditation into your daily life and once you are ready to dive into a deeper experience, the best thing to do is to learn from a teacher”, says Chan.
It’s not just about you
The last thing to take with you is that, while you will reap the benefits and glow from within, others will benefit as well.
“We all know that energy is contagious. If you feel good, everyone around you will feel good too,” says Chan.
To learn more about Vedic Meditation with Kimberley Chan, visit kimberleychanmeditation.com.au
To learn more about Ashley Hunt’s meditation, visit ashleyhuntmeditation.com