You have no idea how hard it is for me to sit down, hold still, and shut up.
Try it sometime and let me know if you can do it.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and just listen to your brain start jabbering away at light speed about the most random things. It will amaze you that your brain goes this fast.
You never sat and watched it before.
There are whole movie soundtracks and math equations and relationship issues and upcoming meetings to plan racing side by side while you consciously scream to yourself to just shut up already.
The silent noise is deafening, right?
Welcome to meditation.
When I first gave it some serious attempts I was appalled and thought, “Oh great. Another thing on my list of things to try: epic failure.”
I didn’t realize what was really happening. I had assumed that meditation would bring me a little drop of peace in a wildly chaotic day. Like a nap.
Instead, it felt like I had sat myself down in the middle of the freeway during rush hour.
The trick of it is, to realize that you can’t be hit by the cars. That they are actually passing right through you and disappearing around the corner, leaving you completely untouched. They are only thoughts.
Once you stop panicking you start to to ignore the noise of the traffic. You actually get a little bored with it, and suddenly you notice the hawk sitting perfectly still on a light post.
He is also watching quietly, but not the traffic. He is watching a small hole in the grass. If he waits long enough, he will be fed.
So will you.
There are many ways to practice ignoring the traffic.
Some people gently bring their attention to the sound of each breath. Some like to silently repeat a phrase or mantra of some sort. If you are tactile, holding a heavy smooth rock may ground you in the present. Some are visual and like to imagine staring into a still pond or a glorious sunrise.
Or you can stare into the small hole in the grass and see what pops up. It may be the answer to a puzzling question you’ve had for a while. Or a fresh perspective on yourself.
What impacted me was a sudden sense of complete safety followed by the realization that God was present. I really can’t explain it any better. But it was incredibly joyful. And only the beginning, really.
If meditation seems a bit much for you, try another way:
Practicing yoga is a type of meditating. Still quiet, but gently stretching your muscles and focusing on your breath. Yoga is more about the deliberate release of tension and the acceptance of whatever your body gives you each day. It gives you practice with stillness, it’s just not as overwhelming. Yoga is also self massage.
If meditation is too mental and yoga is too physical, massage is a third way to go.
With soothing background music, heat on your muscles, warm sheets swaddling your body, and the gentle touch of healing hands, it’s hard not to relax. I would personally recommend aromatherapy or hot rocks. Remember to drink as much water afterwards as if you’d done a strenuous workout. Trust me on this one.
These stress-busters are worth trying this year if “less stress” is on your resolutions list.
It occurred to me at some point that trying to stop or detour the cars on my freeway was entirely futile. I wasn’t going to outrun my thoughts. Let them zoom right along.
But it’s actually possible, with practice and a deep breath or two, to stand in the middle of chaos and be entirely unaffected by it.