I’m ready to meditate. I feel inspired and filled with the hope that meditation will bring me the calm and the focus I so much need at that very moment. I close my eyes and start to breathe in and out. Suddenly a thought comes into my mind: “Don’t forget to buy cheese and salad for dinner, and to get the car checked”. “Oh, and to correct the document for tomorrow’s meeting and, and and…” I realize I’m actually not meditating, or emptying my mind as I’m supposed to. My thoughts are there, brighter and more active than ever. And then my back starts to feel uncomfortable and my legs hurt. I open one eye, check the time and realize that I have 7 minutes more to go. I think “Gosh! This is not for me”. I make a last effort and end up dropping it. Instead of the promised soothing experience I intended, I end up in combat with my mind. I judge myself, thinking “I’m not made for this”, and next day I find a ‘good’ excuse not to go through the same boring nightmare again. Sounds familiar? That was my first meditation session.
Yes, meditation is boring…for the mind. The mind is used to jumping from one thought to another with no restraint. When you try to regain control and instill a bit of order, it feels like a big fight. Not a comfortable feeling!
How to approach it? Actually, it’s quite simple. We can say meditation is a mind training technique. Like athletes train their muscles in sport, meditation helps train and focus the mind. As in sport, there are easier days and harder days, but training is what will help you strengthen the muscles and build momentum. So there is not a good or a bad meditation as such. Only by sitting you have done a great job. Yes, whether you have a focused meditation (in which you experience deep calm or even bliss), or whether you are in total monkey-mind-dispersion-mode, making your shopping list and more, you have already done an awesome job. And as in sport there are resistance points to be crossed. Once that’s done, it all becomes easier.
How does your resistance to meditating work? I understood a lot about resistance through the work of Todd Herman, a sport psychology consultant to professional and Olympic athletes. He explains that when you want to introduce into your life a significant new habit – like a sport routine, or meditation – your brain initially inundates your body with delicious happy neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. So all is good for the first couple of days. You have energy, inspiration and you are going for it. By day three you start to feel resistance. You do it but you are not as motivated as in the beginning. Day four, “gosh, harder”. On day five you find a good excuse not to practice. And then you drop it. Day 5 is the moment where your cells are about to change their configuration, says Mr. Herman. They are active and being reshaped. But they are not completely aligned yet with the new habit, the new substances flowing in your body, so you interpret this as resistance, heaviness, boredom and you just drop it all.
The good thing is that only by being aware of this resistance you will change the way you handle it. Next time you are installing a meditation practice into your everyday routine (let’s say tonight before going to sleep) and you feel resistance, you know now what it is all about. As I in my first session, you are not doing anything wrong. You are made for this (anyone with a mind is made for this). You just need to give your cells a bit of help and jump over the initial 30-day resistance period. Once that’s done, you will start enjoying it differently and will end up even needing to take that moment of silence and calm more often.
Here is a meditation I made for you. You can train your capacity to focus as if concentration was a muscle. But instead of putting effort and weight into it, you put breath, ease and flow. That’s why, instead of asking you to fight to empty your mind, I have recorded a meditation including a mantra in sanskrit (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration) so your mind hooks onto something:
Babanam Kevalam (it means: Love is all there is)
So straighten your back, and listen. Everything is explained in the video. You just have to follow. You will soon be enjoying this and receiving all the benefits from it. And let me know how it went in the comments below. I would love to here your first meditation experiences.