I am delighted to tell you that I proved myself wrong this year.
In the past 12 months I have gone from a firm, 'meditation is for other people' identity, to being a person who strategizes to find that time in my day.
Despite 'knowing better' due to the evidence I saw regularly and the clear benefits in some of the research, I was sure it was something I couldn't do. I truly believed that meditation was great for other people -- but not for me. I couldn't sit still, couldn't quiet my mind, didn't feel like I was good at it. And you know, overachievers like me, we like to be good at things right away.
In effect, I was seeking less challenge, more comfort zone.
But, why leave the comfort zone? Well, you can't grow in your comfort zone. And I got to the point where the benefits of growth outweighed my need for the 'safety' of the familiar. I felt like there was more within me, but I couldn't access it. I was frustrated. And stressed out. The tools I had weren't enough to get me where I wanted to go. And then one more person told me meditation would allow me to get there. And I tried it. And I liked it. So I did it again. And again. Interestingly, leaving the comfort zone has felt great. So much for holding ourselves back to avoid hard, painful things. In retrospect, resisting meditation was a lot more painful.
I share this in case you -- unlike myself -- are gifted with the ability to learn from other people's mistakes rather than needing to make them all yourself.
I hope you find the lessons I've learned and the tips I've gathered helpful on your own journeys. Why? Because meditation is good for you.
My two important lessons:
1) There is no 'one-size-fits-all' with meditation, just like there is no one magic nutritional supplement that is right for everyone. Once I realized this, I stopped trying to fit myself into someone else's favorite kind of meditation. I found one that was right for me. As someone with a short attention span and a tendency to be doing something all the time, shamanic journeying fits, as it gives me something to do while I am breathing and observing. I found I really liked how I felt afterwards. And I liked the gifts it brought me, each and every time. Even when I approached it (metaphorically) kicking and screaming. Simple -- and eventually kind of addictive, in the good way.
2) Limiting my personal growth with pronouncements like "meditation is for other people" is only as fun as laughing at myself is later on -- when I prove myself completely wrong, again. I am now resolved to limit the limiting pronouncements.
Tips for incorporating regular meditation into your already full life:
1) Most importantly, be a seeker. Be open and find the sort of meditation practice that works for you. Is it transcendental? Mindfulness-based stress reduction? Guided meditation? Visualization? Chanting? Shamanic journeying? One of the many specific yogic meditation practices, from Kundalini chanting and breathwork to Sahaja yoga's mental silence? One of many Buddhist meditation practices? Walking? Sitting in nature? Prayer?
2) Once you've found something that works for you, schedule it into your planner. Block off the time or it will get swallowed by the many important tasks and even greater number of unimportant distractions that gobble up our days. The early morning is a popular time to set aside time for stillness. Interesting, isn't it? Here is the tone for the day: calm, still, centred, grounded. When you put it like that, why don't we all do it?
3) If possible, create a corner in your home that is set up for meditation. Having the space ready, welcoming and comfortable removes some practical and psychological obstacles. It doesn't have to be a separate room, though it is helpful to have a door that closes if you share your house with others.
4) Do it together. Meditating weekly with a group can help to deepen and reinforce your home practice. Or meditate with others in your household!
5) Modern times, modern technology. Use YouTube and other electronic resources. Seriously. Whether you are looking for guided visualization or shamanic drumming, you can find it online, for free. Use those 10 minute clips as your company or motivation if this is helpful.
6) Be flexible about the details. At the cottage for the weekend? Meditate on the dock. Meeting cancelled? Close your office door, close your eyes and breathe into your heart centre for 10 minutes.
For more about stress management and the impact of meditation on your brain, see Alice Walton's article, "Eat, Smoke, Meditate: Why Your Brain Cares How You Cope."