What if we didn’t call it meditation?

One of the most effective ways of connecting with the deepest part of who we are, our true self, is to meditate. Mediation is also an excellent tool for reducing stress and for improving overall health and well-being.  Most of us know this, or at least have heard it, so a simple question comes to mind — if meditation can be very helpful, why don’t more of us meditate?
 
“I can’t do it,” a friend said to me.  “I have bought CDs, downloaded podcasts, and read dozens articles over the years, but nothing has helped me learn to meditate. I just can’t do it.”  She shook her head and looked down at the floor, the frustration in her voice unmistakably clear.  Like a number of my friends and acquaintances, the young woman sitting across from me, successful in so many aspects of her life, was frustrated by this thing she believed she could not do.  She continued, “How can people say it’s simple?  It’s impossible to sit still and quiet my mind.  What is a quiet mind anyway?” This is an excellent question, of course, and one that I asked myself frequently when I started to practice mediation.  
 
There are many, many sources of information about how to meditate.  I am a student of mediation and it has taken me countless attempts and much humility to develop a technique that works for me.  I have learned a great deal from my teacher and from various other people over the years, but perhaps the most helpful tip was to call the practice something other than meditation.  This helped a lot because I found the descriptions of mind-clearing and mediation techniques difficult to believe and nearly impossible to do.  In the words of my friend – what is a quiet mind anyway?
 
So now I think of the practice as “silent stillness.”  I don’t worry about whether my mind is quiet or not – I am patient with myself and allow my over-active mind the freedom to clear itself or not.  My focus is on modeling the stillness of one on my favorite creatures (and the symbol for Awakening Your True Self), the heron.  I have reframed “meditation” as “practicing heron-like stillness.”  
 
Having agreed that we will not call it meditation, here are a few suggestions for when you can find just five minutes (ideally a few more) to put yourself first….
 
– Set a timer for 5 minutes (or more if you can) so you won’t be distracted wondering how many minutes you have left!  If you use a timer on your cell-phone, I suggest that you set it to a non-jarring sound.
 
– Sit in a comfortable position anywhere – in your room, office, or car (as long as you are not waiting for a traffic light to change from red to green).
 
– Close your eyes.
 
– Take three deep, deep breaths, slowly drawing air in though your nose, holding the air in your lungs for a few moments, and then exhaling very, very slowly through your mouth.  (I like to think of it as breathing in air so deeply that it reaches my toes, even though I know that’s not how it works!)
 
– Continue to breathe deeply, trying to focus only on the flow of air in and out of your body.  Don’t worry if thoughts flow through your mind, simply smile and continue breathing slowly and deeply.  
 
– Smile and breathe until your timer sounds.
 
– Open your eyes, turn off the timer, and say “Well done!”  
 
– Congratulations!  You now have successfully meditated.
 
 

12 Responses to What if we didn’t call it meditation?

  1. Henna Inam March 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Hi Sharon –

    I loved your blog post about meditation. One of the things I love best about meditating is how it teaches us to observe how things are without necessarily acting on them. Whether it’s my breath or my over-active mind, practicing observation has helped me be less reactive to thoughts and emotions that arise in me.

    I am looking forward to reading your next post.

    Henna

    • sharon March 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Thanks very much for your comment, Henna, and for your insightful comments about mediation.

      • sharon August 31, 2012 at 4:20 am #

        Thanks very much for your encouragement, Rudi!

  2. db March 9, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    Thank you for your wonderful blog on meditation, Sharon. I practiced heron-like stillness last night at the time when I usually would have been trying to meditate – I loved it!

    • sharon March 9, 2012 at 3:34 am #

      Thanks, db, for taking the time to circle back and share your experience. If you have meditation advice you would like to share now or in the future, I would love to hear from you again.

      • Pamela August 30, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

        I can understand your point, thank you for sharing. The reason why this post in written that way is because each person is unique. I advise to listen to the inner response, to different ways and times of meditating rather than to follow what works for others. Give more power to your own experience and take on things.

        • sharon August 31, 2012 at 4:15 am #

          Yes, Pamela, we are all unique and I appreciate your advice that we must find what works best for us. Thanks very much for your comment.

  3. kjan March 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    One of my favorite quotes is “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” from Wayne Dyer.

    Thanks for giving a new way to think about meditation!

    • sharon March 7, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      Thank you for the comment and the quote, Kathie. I’ll try to change the way I look at everything today!

      • Lucreziuccia August 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

        Man, talk about a fantastic post! I?ve stmbuled across your blog a few times within the past, but I usually forgot to bookmark it. But not again! Thanks for posting the way you do, I genuinely appreciate seeing someone who actually has a viewpoint and isn?t really just bringing back up crap like nearly all other writers today. Keep it up!

    • Bilal August 30, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

      Thank you for such a informative blog. Where else could one get this kind of initrmaofon written in such a perfect way? I have a presentation that I am presently working on, and I have been on the look out for such info.

      • sharon August 31, 2012 at 4:17 am #

        THanks for your comment, Bilal, and good luck with your presentation!