In my experience, and maybe you can relate, it often seems easier to read a book or article about meditation than it is to actually meditate. I’ve had more than one person commiserate with me about how we know that meditation is “good” for us—that it can help us gain a clearer perspective, appreciate life more, and even support the healing process—and yet, it’s so damn hard to find the time for it! Well, believe it or not, there’s something even more important to figure out before deciding when, where, or how long you “sit” for.
Identifying Your “Why”
Intention is what turns desire into action. It infuses our ideas about starting a practice with the focus and longing necessary to pursue our mindfulness practice with sincere earnestness. Your intention for practice answers the question, why do you want to meditate in the first place? What draws you to it? Do you think you should meditate because you’ve heard so many times how beneficial it can be? Or maybe you know someone who sits daily, and they seem to have something—patience, balance, joyfulness —that you wish you had. While not unreasonable, these motivations point more toward criticisms of how we think we don’t measure up. They don’t provide the needed traction for habit change that an authentic intention does.
An authentic intention is borne out of a deep longing. But a longing for what? A longing for peace of mind; for connection; for a general sense of okayness even when shit is hitting the fan. I call these “deep longings” because they live way beneath the surface of our day-to-day thoughts. They’re what our hearts cry out for when we think we can’t take another crisis, setback, or disappointment. And once we’ve really, truly acknowledged that we have been suffering and that we long for relief from the suffering, something miraculous happens. The longing for relief alchemizes into the powerful energy of intention.
Do What You Want.
Once we’re aligned with this intention for our own well-being, we will do what it takes to make it happen. We’ll willingly let go of things that aren’t helping us, like mindlessly scrolling on our phones or binge-watching our favorite show, in favor of having the time to practice mindfulness meditation. We will commit to beginning, no matter what secondary emotions (like nervousness, confusion, or even boredom) arise.
There’s no wrong way to meditate; the best way to practice mindfulness is whatever way you do it. But if you’re newer to the practice, it’s helpful to start small:
- Find a quiet space that feels comfortable to you. It could be the park, your yard, or even your closet!
- Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying down. Give yourself support with blankets or pillows if necessary. Set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Take a moment to orient to the space by looking around, then softly close your eyes.
- Feel your breath as it flows in and out of your nostrils.
- Each time your mind wanders, gently redirect your attention to your breath.
- When the timer goes off, silently thank yourself for taking this time to practice, and go back to your day.
Having the right teacher can be very helpful for learning more about the practice from a practitioner and for receiving some personal guidance on formal practices and comfortable postures. And if you’re like me and prefer to temporarily defer to someone with expertise until you gain familiarity, it’s important to look for a teacher and a meditation style that aligns with your interests and needs.
You can listen to a guided meditation on our YouTube channel, learn more about our upcoming classes, or join us for a free, online introductory class to see what the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness has to offer. Find out whether we’d be a helpful support to you on your journey to your own heart’s longing. We would be honored to walk the path with you!