Let’s talk about meditation. And no, you don’t have to sit down.

When someone says the word ‘meditation,’ the first thought that may pop into your mind is some peaceful-looking person sitting cross-legged in a serene garden with their eyes closed, and a perma-half smile planted on their face. Total serenity, total bliss, total concentration, total…ly impossible? 

This is what I used to think meditation looked like. And for me, the scenario above wasn’t just fantastical – it was completely unattainable. I always felt like I was ‘too busy’ or ‘too distracted’ to be able to meditate. To me, meditation was this transcendent experience only achieved by the most disciplined and least human, humans. Don’t get me wrong – I was in awe of people who could meditate regularly, envious even. I want that peace! I want that bliss! Give me serenity!

Until one day I just did it (you will find that this is kind of a trend in my life – just doing things and hoping for the best), and it wasn’t anything like I imagined.

I was in my car, on my way to the grocery store with my toddler. She was chatting away in the backseat, and I was going through my mental checklist of what I needed to get at the store, what I needed to do after the store, what to cook for dinner, if I remembered to turn off my straightener (that happens a lot)…and then I just stopped. Not literally, I was driving. But I just stopped thinking about all the things that were coming down the pipe. It was this crystal clear realization that my brain was living several steps ahead of the here and now, and it didn’t need to. I could just focus on the present, the right in front of me, the immediate moment. And I started noticing the details of the moment – my breath, my heartbeat, my daughter’s voice. It was this overwhelming sense of calm. I didn’t say a mantra or pull over and get into a cross-legged position, but I did stay in that state of focus for a few minutes and I meditated.

So the first thing you need to know about meditating is that it doesn’t have to happen somewhere special like a serene garden. It certainly can (and sometimes a quiet place is exactly what we need), but it doesn’t have to. It can happen in your kitchen while you’re washing dishes, in bed before you fall asleep, at your desk at work, or – quite literally – in your car on the way to the grocery store. The important thing to remember is that it’s not where you physically are, but where you mentally are that matters. Get your mind in a steady, present place.
Second, and similarly, you don’t have to sit still. I get it – life is busy. You’re fidgety. You don’t have time to sit. While I do think it’s important to prioritize self care (if you need to sit, sit), I get that sometimes you just can’t. And that’s cool. Because you can walk and meditate. You can run and meditate. You can walk your dog while eating a bagel with 3 books on your head and meditate (and please find time to take a picture, because that’s impressive). Just like you don’t have to be anywhere fancy or special to meditate, you also don’t have to be in some structured position to meditate. Just get comfy and unrestricted

And while we’re on the subject of stillness, you also don’t need to expect your mind to go blank. Deepak Chopra, meditation and consciousness expert (among many other things – seriously, look him up. He’s awesome.) says this about ‘perfect’ concentration in meditation: ‘…this nature of the mind to move from one thought to another is in fact the very basis of meditation. We don’t eliminate the tendency of the mind to jump from one thought to another. That’s not possible anyway. Rather, we make use of that tendency in order to give the mind a taste of what it’s really searching for—an experience of inner quietness and completeness. That’s the technique of meditating. Having lots of thoughts doesn’t disqualify you from meditating. Having thoughts is really the only precondition for meditating.’ Boom. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You’re supposed to have thoughts. You need them.

Here’s my challenge to you: try meditating for 5 minutes today. In the shower, in the car, in the office (does this feel like a Dr. Seuss book yet? ‘On the train, on the plane, in the rain…’); find your moment and get present. You will discover that bringing it all to the center opens up a world of self awareness and connection, reduces stress and chaos, aligns your body/mind/heart, and grounds you. Throw out the preconceived rigidity and create your own space and rules.
For those of you interested in a little bit more of a deep dive, structure, or prefer a guided approach to meditation, here are a couple of great resources:
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program by Sharon Salzberg (Sharon is a true expert on the subject of meditation, but approachable and accessible in the way she breaks it down for readers)
Do you meditate? How has it helped your day-to-day life?

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