Meditation can be just another thing on your never-ending To-do list … or it can be the one thing that gets you through your never-ending To-do list.
There are so many theories of how to meditate and for how long and what style, etc. I believe what will help us the most along the journey of mindfulness is accepting that it may be hard, but it’s worth doing anyway.
The comments I hear most often related to meditation are, “I can’t meditate because I can’t stop my mind from thinking,” or, “I have tried to meditate, but I just can’t quiet my mind; it’s too active.”
There’s an old Zen saying, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
If your mind is hyperactive, and always in thinking mode, then you will benefit greatly from a formal meditation practice.
The key is that your practice won’t be about stopping your thinking mind, but rather observing your thinking mind while being present with your breath. Meditation frees you to simply be with what is, rather than trying to alter or control your experience.
There is a meditation technique called noting, which is a simple way to be with all the experiences as they occur in your practice. Noting allows you to note whatever comes into your mind or consciousness while you are meditating. If you are thinking about dinner, you simply say to yourself thinking and return to being aware of your next breath. The same goes for the car honking outside, or the grocery list you are making in your head. Simply say hearing or planning then note the next breath. If you feel bored, you say to yourself feeling, and so forth. By noting whatever you experience, you are choosing to sit in a place of witnessing instead of getting carried away by it.
You might get pulled away from every other breath, and that’s OK. It isn’t about how long you can stop thinking or not notice sounds or body aches. It is about observing all of that every time it comes up then returning to the sensation and sound of your breath in your body. That is what meditating is.
Let’s try it for a moment. Take a gentle breath in and notice the in breath and follow it to the end where there is a momentary pause before the out breath begins, and then follow the exhale until the next pause before the inhale begins. Continue this and allow your thoughts to simply be thoughts and allow sounds to be sounds, feelings to be feelings, smells to be smells, etc. Watch and observe everything while you breathe. When you get carried away into a story, a daydream or you start planning something, simply say to yourself thinking or planning or dreaming or feeling and come back to your next inhale and exhale.
Lather, rinse, repeat.