Give meditation a try anywhere and anytime you have a few minutes. (Photo: Betty Nudler, Flickr)

Meditation is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It doesn’t have to take a long time. You can’t really be bad at it.

It’s not as if you’re required to sit on a pillow, legs crossed, with a completely clear mind or else you’re a meditation failure.

That thinking is contradictory to the practice.

Advertisement
Definitions

Merriam-Websterdefines meditation as “the act or process of spending time in quiet thought.”Other definitions include “a typically self-directed practicefor relaxing the body and calming the mind.”

Yoga is definedby Yoga International as “a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state.”

In my last column,I tackled the science behind meditation, and I got some feedback that made me realize there are myths and misunderstandings about meditation-and that it seemsinaccessible to many people.

So let’s start simple. What is meditation, exactly?

As I looked for definitions, I realized how it could seem unattainable or pointless.

It might seem unrealistic or at least very low on the priority list to spend time sitting quietly.

After all, there’s work, laundry, kids, family, friends, exercise, bills and Netflix binge watching to do. (And I’m not being sarcastic about Netflix. I love some “House of Cards” binging.)

If you’re wondering why you should even meditate, Google “Benefits of Meditation”and have at it.

If you’re aware there are benefits but aren’t sure how to get started or feel a bit confused about what it entails, let me see if I can help.

I talked toClaudio Barrientos, an independent contractor who teaches meditation and mindfulness at Chattanooga’s Center for Mindful Living and at the Mindful Center in Knoxville.

He starts many of his classes by dispelling myths that people might have about meditation and mindfulness-which are different but go hand in hand.

I also spoke withAmanda Carmichael, who is a yoga teacher and owner of Ooltewah’sBeYogastudio.

Myths about meditation
-No. 1: Meditation is about escaping.

Actually, meditation is about learning to become more present; it’s about learning to connect to yourself, Barrientos said.

Dr. Deepak Chopra echoes this on his website.

“In meditation, you dive below the mind’s churning surface, which tends to be filled with repetitive thoughts about the past and worries about the future, into the still point of pure consciousness,” he wrote.

This is part of what is so attractive to me about meditation. It’s so easy for us to get wrapped up in the daily demands of life that don’t really matter in the big picture. And it’s very easy to confuse all these daily realities with who we are.

But who we really are is often buried deep below daily errands, constant worries and to-do lists. It’s hidden behind social niceties and roles we play to fit in to relationships or work environments.

-No. 2: Meditation is about totally emptying the mind.

To a large extent, we generally can’t really control what thoughts come and go from our minds.

“You may have little to no control over what thoughts arise, but we do have the capacity to build the ability to let go of those thoughts,”Barrientos said.

When I started guided meditation at the Center for Mindful Living, the facilitator of my class helped all of this click for me.

I was in a 30-minute class, I knew my mind would wander, and I felt like I was doing it wrong.

But she told us not to judge our wandering minds, not to get frustrated. She told us to gently guide the mind back to the focus of the meditation, which for me was my breathing.

Each time my mind wandered-and sometimes it would be multiple times in one minute-I just started over, refocusing on my breath and how my body felt as I inhaled and exhaled.

It didn’t take long before I was able to focus for longer than one minute. And now I regularly enjoy sitting for 30 minutes, guided bymy facilitator’s kind, gentle voice.

Click here and here for more myths.

Easy ways to start meditation
-No. 1: Use an app.

Chattanooga resident Todd Harless started using an app called Headspace.

Apparently, it’s big with entrepreneurs and techy types, because he heard about it via social media from people such as Jack Dorsey, who is the co-founder of Twitter.

Harless wanted to combat stress and anxiety, and by using this app-which is guided by a man called Andy who has an appealing accent and a kind voice-he’s found success.

It only takes 10 minutes a day. (Another myth is that you have to meditate for a long time to see benefits.)

Harless recommends people go in with an open mind and give it a try. He’s seen results, such as feeling less anxious when talking with authority figures at work.

-No. 2: Go to yoga.

Carmichael incorporates a few minutes of silence into the last few minutes of her yoga class.

“I kind of sneak it in, and people might not even realize,” she said.

If you think about it, it’s probably pretty rare for us to just sit in total silence, even for a few minutes.

What would happen if you tried it?

-No. 3: Meditate while cooking or listening to music.

Or try it while you’re exercising or lying in bed waiting for sleep.

There are plenty of opportunities to focus and calm the mind.

I have never liked cooking, but I’ve recently come to appreciate the act of chopping vegetables.

It’s relaxing; there’s nothing else except that motion, that work. Even if only for a few moments, your mind is calm and clear and you can be in touch with the physical, repetitive movement of chopping.

You can also try putting on your favorite song, closing your eyes and focusing on the intricacies of the music.Let yourself become engulfed in it.

If your mind wanders or starts judging the music or worrying about what you have to do later in the day, kindly redirect it back to just the sounds.

Be purposeful about it and see what happens.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

Advertisement