Weekly Meditation 4: Mental Persistence
“Anxiety is being here, but wanting to be there.”
My nature is type-A. I overthink things and generally, approach them with studied ambition. Meditation was no exception. I had read all the steps. I had a plan. I was ready. I quickly learned however, that meditation doesn’t go according to plan. I found myself frustrated and disappointed in myself when I was consistently distracted or fidgety.
A wise friend of mine re-framed my experience for me, and her words stuck, She explained that at its core, meditation is about being firmly grounded in the present and acknowledging that we are not out minds or our thoughts. We are actually the presence observing those things and we are detached from them – they don’t define us. By being this observer, we can start to accept the present in all its forms and release expectations. This is progress. The nature of meditation means that there is no way to do it wrong – distraction might feel counter-productive, but by observing it we can accept it and ultimately move past it.
Keep this in mind as we go through this week’s tip – instead of getting discouraged from a wandering mind and trying to will yourself to some perfect future-state, stay here. Be gentle with yourself. Bring yourself back to focus as many times as you need to. It’s all part of the process.
This week, we’re going to keep building on what we’ve learned with some tools for mental persistence and focus.
We’ll play with a few different techniques in the coming weeks (like mantras and visualizations) and you can find out what works best for you. I would recommend trying each technique for a several days.
This week, we are going to choose a part of our body to send out focus and attention to. If you are an emotional or devotional person, perhaps your focus will be on your heart. If you are more intellectual, perhaps your focus will be on the centre of your forehead. There is no right or wrong, but choose one that feels good and stick with it for the whole meditation.
Here’s what to do: Take a comfortable seated position – something you can settle into that won’e have you fidgeting or uncomfortable. Set a timer. Close your eyes and take several very deep belly breaths through the nose, exhaling completely and quickly scanning our body to release any tension. Do a few rounds of 4-count inhaling and exhaling, making the breath a little softer each time. When you’re ready, send your attention to your head or your heart. You can repeat the worm ‘OM’ silently for the length of your exhale if that is helpful. I find it helpful to imagine the word emerging from my place of focus – echoing out of my head or heart. Find synchronicity in your breath and your body. If your mind wanders, take a second to observe your inner dialogue without judgement and then gently bring it back. Do this as many times as you need to.
We’re four weeks in! I hope you’re enjoying the series and the path os self-discovery through mediation.