If your idea of meditating brings to mind the vision of a swami sitting cross-legged in lotus position chanting Om for hours on end, then it’s time to update your thinking. Meditation can take on many forms. All that is needed is some experimentation to find what works for you. The more rules you impose upon yourself, the less likely you will be successful at meditating.
Of course, you could end up growing your meditation into something akin to the mystical swami. But that would require great devotion and plenty of practice. When we decide we’d like to learn how to play the piano, we don’t think that from the very first moment we place our hands on the keys that a Beethoven concerto will miraculously come out of us. We take it one step at a time, learning the keys, the fingering, the pedals, the sharps from the flats, the chords, the scales – each piece of the puzzle finally comes together and soon enough, we are able to play the concerto.
And so it is with meditation. If you’ve taken a meditation class, chances are you were asked to sit on the floor, empty your mind of thoughts and focus on a mantra or a vision that would help you stay focused. Perhaps, someone speaking words of wisdom guided you in your meditation. And the longer you sat there, the more of a struggle it became. Thoughts of every variety kept invading your mind space. You might have kept trying to bring your focus back only to find your mind wandering endlessly away from where you were.
Instead of starting at the end, let’s start at the beginning. You start wherever you are at the moment. Just recognizing and giving credence to the moment you are in right now, is a form of meditation. So stop right now, wherever you are, and pay attention. Look around you and notice your surroundings. Don’t put a name or a label on the place; just see it with eyes wide open. Now listen to whatever sounds are around you. Again, don’t categorize them or try to figure out where they’re coming from, just listen. Now sniff the air – what smells are there? As before, there is no need to know what the smells are or from where they emanate, just that they are there and you can discern them. Try swirling your tongue around in your mouth and notice any tastes. By now you know that you don’t need to identify the tastes but just to notice their existence. Lastly, stroke a tree, a dog, or your pants leg. Notice how it feels. You don’t need to know that it’s soft or rough. You only need to know that you have felt something.
In the few moments it took for you to do these simple things, you engaged all five of your senses and focused on each of them. And in so doing, you meditated. Congratulations.