“Meditation is hard work!” That’s what my kundalini yoga teacher told me in class today. I would have to disagree. Meditation doesn’t require any effort, but the way there – that is hard work! 😊
What exactly is meditation?
You can read all the books you want and go to all the meditation classes, workshops and trainings, but you probably still won’t know what meditation is. All of these will just teach you techniques that you have to practice in order to get to meditation one day. Meditation is a very personal experience and this is how you know what it is – by experiencing it. So I am not going to describe what meditation is, because it automatically creates expectations of how it should be. And also because I can’t really talk about something that I haven’t fully experienced yet. But I can tell you what meditation is not 😀
I’d say that most of the things that are called meditation nowadays, are not really meditation. That’s also the case with kundalini yoga (the Yogi Bhajan style). This type of yoga has a number of meditations with music, dancing, shaking, and so many movements and things to do at the same time, that it I really don’t understand why they call it meditation. It’s an exercise that keeps you busy on all levels. Meditation is the absence of all that, it’s being still in your body and mind.
I understand why this kind of meditation is so popular. It was made for the modern Western person that’s not able to sit still and in silence. We are so used to multi-tasking and being busy all the time that we don’t know how to stop anymore. The simple act of just being still and aware can often be the most stressful thing in the world. That’s why many students at a yoga class enjoy the asana practice, it keeps them busy enough. But when it comes to the final relaxation at the end of the class, they cannot handle it. Lying on the back and trying to relax is a huge struggle for them.
The problem of modern society is that nobody knows how to relax anymore, and we have to learn it, like we learn how to drive. Are you one of those people who come home after a long tiring day and switch on the TV, have a coffee or a beer and a cigarette and just “relax” on the couch? Well guess what, you are not relaxing! All these are just distractions that keep you as far away from yourself as possible. The real relaxation is away from these outer distractions.
But if you stay in silence alone the monkey mind goes crazy. It’s just easier to distract yourself than to face all these thoughts, right?
So yes, choosing the silence over distractions is definitely not the easy way, and yes, it takes hard work to get to meditation and relaxation. I know it very well because I’ve been there. At that time I thought I was the only person in the world that was getting really bad headaches after every attempt to meditate. Now I know there’s so many people who are stressing about meditation as much as I was. I would love to share with you the magic key to overcome this, but I don’t have one. I guess everyone should discover it their own way.
So what is the recipe?
Practice. Practice. Practice. And again – practice. There’s no other way, there’s no magic trick to learn how to meditate in a few days. It’s just consistent practice. And that’s what stops most people before even trying. “What?! It’s going to take months, maybe years before I know how to meditate?! Well, I’m not wasting my time!” My words, a few years back. We are so used to getting everything right here and right now that if someone tells us that we will have to try hard for something, we choose to avoid it. We are constantly looking for shortcuts. Well, with meditation there’s no shortcut. It’s a long and hard process. But it’s also very interesting and rewarding. The choice is yours.
Let me tell you about the 8 limbs of yoga. I will try to keep it short. According to Patanjali, the founder of yoga, the path of yoga has 8 steps. The first two steps are the Yamas and Niyamas, which are some kind of guidelines how to live our lives if we want to avoid suffering. The asana practice (what most of the people knows as Yoga) is the third step. Then there’s pranayama, the practice of breathing and controlling the life force within us (prana). The fifth step is Pratyahara, which means withdrawal of the senses. It’s when we go inside ourselves and we do not let outside noises, smells etc. bother us. The next step is Dharana or concentration. We practice this when we are focusing on the breath in preparation for meditation. And only then comes Dhyana or meditation, the stillness of the mind. The last step is Samadhi or enlightenment. You see now? We don’t have to follow the steps in this order, and there’s many steps that we can practice at the same time. But the fact this that until we master Pratyahara and Dharana, we cannot experience true meditation.
Now, I don’t want to scare you or put you off. It’s true that it’s a long way to get there. But so what? We are too focused on the goal and we have so many expectations. If we just let them go and enjoy the journey instead, we wouldn’t care that much anymore if we reached the destination or not. That way we would relax and get there faster.
I know you heard it a million times already, but I also believe the most important thing is just to take some time for ourselves, even if only 10 minutes per day. We tend to keep ourselves distracted all the time and we never take time to be alone and just observe. To just notice anything that is happening. Noticing thoughts, emotions, feelings, anything. Turning inwards for a change. I know it’s difficult, but it’s very rewarding. When we start doing that, when we start observing, we realize we don’t know ourselves at all! And if we continue observing every day, we will start to get to know ourselves better and discover some amazing things. Even if we just observe our thoughts instead of trying to make them go away, eventually it will lead us to meditation. But practice is the key. Practicing yoga helps a lot with meditation, but if for some reason you don’t want to do it, it’s fine too. Practice concentration and practice relaxation. Meditation will follow naturally.
If you would like more practical tips on how to start your meditation practice, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to help you 😊
Also, if you need help with relaxing, Yoga Nidra is a very good practice for that. If you want me to make you a custom guided relaxation, you can order via Fiverr – click here.