5 Steps To Tame A Restless Mind
Tame a Restless Mind
The first time I got a taste of meditation was over 10 years ago when I was studying abroad in India.
One of my classmates was this wonderful woman from Thailand who never ceased to surprise me at every step, and she was truly a master at it.
She could sit in lotus position for hours on end, undisturbed, with this peaceful look on her face and the slightest Mona Lisa smile. I remember thinking to myself: Whatever she’s doing, I need to get in on that.
I’ve never really been the peaceful type.
I was hyper as a child and continued to be so as an adult, so much so that whenever I would run into people early in the morning, they would always ask me, “How much coffee have you had?” And I would answer, completely confused, “None. I don’t drink coffee.”
An answer that would always leave them wondering what was going on.
Many confessed later on that they thought I was high on some illicit drugs. I wasn’t… I just had a lot of energy.
Needless to say, the idea of meditation was enticing, but at the same time seemed impossible for someone like me.
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Doing The Best You Can
My first meditation session was a disaster, or at least that’s how I saw it. I kept fidgeting, I was in pain, and my thoughts would ramble all over the place.
By the end of the 20 minutes, I considered it a failure, and it did nothing more than annoy me, because in my mind, I just couldn’t do it right. At the time, I just thought meditation wasn’t for me, and I never expected there to be a second session.
A few weeks later though, I met this man who would end up becoming one of my lifelong friends who convinced me to try again. I told him about my first experience, and he simply said, “You’re judging it too much, it doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to do it the best you can.”
We were on a cliff overlooking the ocean at sunset, and I gave it another shot. Maybe it was the warm breeze or the colors of the sky piercing though my closed eyelids, but this time around, I had this feeling that I was floating.
The thoughts would still come and go, but they wouldn’t bother me or disturb my presence. They were just there… and so was I. By the time the 20 minutes passed, I was feeling peaceful and elated—something I hadn’t felt… well, ever.
Steps to Tame Your Restless Mind
Since that moment, I’ve had all sorts of experiences during meditation. I’ve had the times when I just fall into this peaceful feeling as soon as the meditation starts, and I also still have times when I struggle with it.
I’ve even gone to a week-long silent meditation retreat.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from my on-and-off years of experience with meditation that could help anyone who thinks meditation is not for them.
- Start small. Many of us make the mistake of starting with 20-30 minutes on our first try, and we end up spending half the time wondering when the time will be up. Instead, start with five minutes, and maybe do those five minutes multiple times a day. Once you’ve gotten used to that, increase the time. It’s a bit like being completely out of shape and then deciding to run a 5k on your first day. It doesn’t really work like that. But if you run around the block the first day, then you get up to a mile, then two, and so on, soon enough you’ll be doing that 5k.
- Let go of what it looks like. We’ve all seen those images of monks sitting in perfect lotus position, serene and still. Well, we’ve also seen people run marathons and ultra-marathons, and the reason they can do it is because they trained and perfected their journey towards that. If you need to use a chair, use a chair, if you’re more comfortable on a pillow, then just do that. The one thing that is truly important about your position is that your spine is upright and erect. The rest you can adapt to what you need.
- Try to set up a practice and stick with it. Just like you train your body every day by going to the gym, you have to do the same with your mind. What worked for me was to have my meditation practice every morning right after waking up. There have been plenty of times when I woke up late and had to rush out the door, and those times, I just tried to squeeze it in sometime during my day. Also, recognize that sometimes your usual time my not be the right time on a particular day. I remember one time when I woke up from a nightmare when my alarm rang. No matter how much I tried to do my morning meditation, I just felt agitated from the nightmare. So I got up, got ready for my day, and did my meditation at lunchtime.
- Not all days are created equal. There will be days when meditation just feels natural, when you sit down, start your meditation and it just flows. The deceiving part is that once you’ve mastered that a few times in a row, you think it’s always going to be like that. It won’t! Don’t stress about it! Some days, you’ll jump right into the flow, and other days you’ll be wondering the entire time about your keys or your dog or your upcoming presentation. While we all want the beautiful, peaceful moments all the time, the challenging times give us the opportunity to always come back to our breath and let go of the thought for as many times as we need to.
- Change it up. Some days, I like to do a walking meditation, especially on those days when I feel a little agitated. Other days, I’ll do two or more meditations a day, and other days, I’ll be on a plane and turn most of the ride into a long meditation. Sometimes, I’ll even doze off during that long plane ride, and when I awaken, I get right back into it.
I’ve found that meditation is not something to be mastered but a journey to walk on every day, every minute, with every step.
Pride has no place in it, because every time you think you’ve conquered a challenge, another one comes along.
Just because one day you were able to sit peacefully for a whole hour, it does not guarantee that you’ll be able to do the same the next day.
Then again, there are also moments when you are so light, you feel like you’re floating on a cloud, and the world quiets down both inside and around you. And those moments are worth everything.
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