I frequently meet people who say they would like to meditate.
Of course, they don’t actually meditate, and don’t really have any intention of doing so.
They like to meditate in the same way they’d like to win the lottery (without ever buying a ticket).
This makes me wonder whether a relaxed body and calm mind seem like pipe-dreams to such folk. Or are they content to rely on the socially sanctioned means of relaxation: TV, alcohol, pain-killers, holidays, consumerism and so on.
There are also people who say they would like to meditate — and really mean it. They aspire to practice diligently, but struggle to do so.
Sometimes they just don’t know where to start, or how to fit it into the day, or which technique or approach to stick with.
These are not insurmountable problems. In fact, they have simple solutions.
- If you don’t know where to start, register for a course or workshop, or learn online.
- If you don’t know how to fit meditation into your day, start with spot meditations — or continue reading.
- If you don’t know which technique to stick with, just keep experimenting until you find one you like.
Whether you fit into one of the categories above or not, I think the word meditation itself may be part of the problem.
For some people meditation means emptying your mind. For others it means sitting still, focusing exclusively on the breath or body, or chanting a mantra. And for nearly everyone, it means setting time aside to practice one or more of these things. And that, I believe, is why so many people struggle to put it into practice.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. What, for example, would it be like to think of meditation simply as a moment of awareness?
Everyone has a moment. And a twenty-minute meditation is nothing more than a bunch of moments in a row. Who says you have to do them back-to-back?
I’ve recently been experimenting with these moments of awareness and I’ve been surprised by just how profound they can be. I find them just as useful as a formal sitting practice.
My inspiration for these micro-meditations were the last few chapters of Eric Harrison’s book, The 5-Minute Meditator. In all honesty, for a long time I thought the final chapters in Eric’s book were a bit nerdy and neurotic. But then one day I noticed that I would nearly always lock my car two, or sometimes even three times. I’d pull up somewhere, jump out and walk off. Half way across the street I’d suddenly remember that I hadn’t remembered whether I’d locked the car or not. I probably had, but I didn’t know for sure, because it had all happened on autopilot. So I locked it again, just to be certain. Sometimes I’d do that on autopilot, so I’d have to lock it a third time, from across the street or half way down the block!
And then I thought to myself: “Now, who’s the neurotic one?”
So I made it my mission to ‘colonise’ that space, that time, that moment.
And somehow, there was something very satisfying in knowing that I’d locked the car. There was a moment of calm. A moment of mindfulness. A little bit of sanity and self-awareness.
So I started stringing these moments together. I’d arrive home, and instead of just ripping on the handbrake, grabbing my bag and leaping out of the car, I’d do all this consciously.
Rather than leaving the car in reverse, I’d put it in first gear, ready for the next departure. Then I would lock the car, very deliberately, just once.
I would walk to the basement door, noticing whether it was fully closed, or left slightly ajar, as it frequently is. As I walked through the door I would pay conscious attention to the transition from basement to stairwell and then I’d negotiate the stairs, each step another micro-meditation.
In the space of one-minute I’d have strung together many moments of awareness. That to me, is a perfectly valid ‘meditation’. It’s meditation broken down into its core component: paying attention.
It’s also a fine way to slow down a headlong rush towards increased stress and anxiety.
Do you use micro-meditations? What do you think of the idea? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear if they work for you too.