Like most other practices, meditation is both an enlightening and lesson-filled experience. Some of these lessons come to us slowly, organically, gently… while others veritably bash us right in the third eye.
Keeping these meditation lessons in mind will help you refine your practice and alleviate any guilt over not doing it the “right way.”
1. Full Lotus or Bust
It’s a common misconception that we must twist our bodies into human pretzel shapes in order to get the most out of meditation: back straight, hands in mudra, soles facing the sky.
Although this pose may get you in the zone, keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all position for enlightenment. In fact, if you have achy joints or a bad back, forcing yourself into an unnatural pose may lead to distraction and discomfort (the enemies of meditation).
If you feel the urge to lie down during your sessions, go for it. Eyes closed? Only if doing so enhances your experience. If you find that you become restless during sessions, try mixing things up by partaking in a walking or standing meditation. Experiment with your positions and surroundings and see where your practice takes you!
2. The Longer the Better
When we assign time constraints to a practice, we end up feeling restricted and obligated. Guidelines are great, helping us stay motivated and focused, but some wiggle room is needed to reach go-with-the-flow flexibility and, of course, relaxation.
It’s all about quality over quantity. Maybe you’re prone to a random two-hour session a couple of times a month, or a lengthy full moon ritual now and again. This is all well and good but, to be honest, an inconsistent practice is more likely to crash and burn.
Try breaking your longer sessions up into consistent weekly chunks instead. Sure, the sessions may be shorter, but consistency is key; it builds “muscle memory” that will help your body and mind learn how to get into the zen zone more quickly and effortlessly. Little by little, you’ll be able to find that sweet spot to suit your unique energy, and reap the benefits like a guru boss.
3. Meditation is a Cure-All
Once we start seeing the results of our dedicated efforts to meditate more, we sometimes become tempted to do a clean sweep of all prescription meds, doctor’s advice, and anything else that falls under the prefix “Western.”
Let’s be clear and honest here: you should not disregard important medical advice or give your therapist her walking papers just because you have found Nirvana.
Complementary medicine is defined as a non-mainstream practice used together with conventional medicine. You can have your grain-free cake and eat it, too! Let your doctors know that you’ve adopted some holistic, mindful practices that will enhance your healing, and enjoy becoming a catalyst to bridge the gap between the Western- and Eastern-medicine schools of thought.
4. You Must Be Enlightened to Become… Enlightened
“Oh, I can’t meditate. I’m not a guru!”
This one’s a bit of a paradox. After all, Buddha himself wasn’t born into enlightenment. Strong willpower, 49 days of meditation, and a conveniently-placed Bodhi tree helped him reach a blissful awareness and understanding of all things.
We all start somewhere, and each of us is on a different path to knowledge. There’s no room for comparison, and no need to feel like you’re “catching up” to some invisible measure of achievement. Let “go with the flow” become your inspirational mantra, allowing you to release all preconceived notions and misconceptions that stand between a cluttered mind and a still one.
While some may find it easier than others to tap into the “source,” we all have lessons to learn. Meditation teaches us about the strength of our commitments, our hidden motivations, and our patience and desire to grow. So sit back, close your eyes (or not), and allow the lessons to flow.
Image credit: Cetin Cetintas