You are warmly invited to participate in my daily meditation challenge in 2018. My motivation to create this challenge is partly selfish, partly caring. Maybe you know the feeling of a mind in chaos, in stress, in frustration? Or perhaps you feel a bit lost? It could also be that you simply want a moment for yourself before closing the day and going to bed. Regardless of your reason, I encourage you to meditate 365 days in a row, 5 minutes (or more if you feel like it).
No Perfection Necessary
Maybe we will fall off the wagon at some point, but it doesn’t matter. To me, at least, it is about creating a habit. Banally, I respect my teeth by brushing them twice daily, so why not show the same kind (pun intended) of respect to my mind? If you’re using one of the electric toothbrushes with built-in timer, potentially you spend at least 4 minutes every day on your teeth.
The difference of course is that many of us were taught the significance of healthy teeth early on in life, but now as more mature people, creating new habits can be surprisingly hard. So when we compare the total length of time spent cleaning teeth to a lack of regular meditation, my first reaction is a combination of excitement and horror.
For some reason, I don’t trust myself to be able to meditate 365 days in a row. Why? I brush my teeth at least once every day, so how come this is unreasonable? Well, it isn’t, and for once I won’t jump into overanalysing all the feels, but instead I’ll do my best to take one day at a time. That is all we have anyway, isn’t it, so five minutes daily is the only commitment you would have to make.
Let’s meditate together. I will send this post into cyberspace and then imagine someone else sitting with me, either simultaneously or in parallel. You don’t have to do anything but take care of your own meditation.
If you want, you’re welcome to comment on the monthly blog posts that I have planned for checking in as well as thinking out loud about what went well or not (not that judging oneself is the main point).
What Is Meditation?
Answering the question what meditation is will require another blog post, but suffice to say, you sit quietly. Or walk. You do guided meditation or you fly solo. You use incense or not. You have a meditation altar or you don’t. You place your hands in mudra positions or you don’t. There is a Buddha statue in your home or there is none. In the end, all that is required is you present in the moment, no matter your thoughts on religion and spirituality, as meditation works quite secularly as well.
My first attempt at meditating was hilarious, since I had no idea of what I was doing. I heard everything one could possibly pay attention to, and my mind was as far from a quiet place as could be. While it felt amusing, I knew there was more to it, so I began researching until I found answers, at least some to get me properly started. I ended up using a guided meditation by Rolf Sovik on Yoga International, lasting about 10 minutes, and it changed everything for me. After a few times listening to his guidance, I felt confident to try on my own. And there was calm.
The purpose of this introductory post to my challenge is to encourage you to simulate that journey, should your style be experimental as is, or in case you tend to research indefinitely without ever getting started in practice (like yours truly tends to do sometimes.) If you’ve never tried meditating before, just jump straight into it. There are no right or wrong ways to do it really. Once your curiosity is piqued, you can always look for the most pressing answers.
Tips and Expectations
If I should give you a couple of tips, though, one is not to sit in a lotus position, the “traditional” position with legs folded over one another. There are better positions out of the ergonomic perspective, and in fact you can simply sit on a chair, with palms on your thighs, close to the knees. You can tweak later with meditation cushions such as the zafu on top of a zabuton. Try keeping your spine straight. And if you have a disability, adjust advice such that you’re as comfortable as possible.
The other tip is to understand the concept of alambana, Sanskrit for support or foundation. The reason for my giggles was a lack of alambana. I didn’t give my mind anything to focus on, because contrary to what some people assume, the mind isn’t silenced. Try it and tell me how successful you are in that case!
Instead, expect a wandering mind, and give it an alambana, something to turn back to after thoughts have meandered. An alambana at its simplest is your breath, in and out. It can also be a mantra sounding in your mind only, or a set of beautiful mala beads with one mantra voiced internally for each bead. Again, you can start simple and listen to what is already there, your life-giving breath. Once you notice wandering thoughts, gently bring attention back to your one focus.
Just start somewhere. And reach out if doing this alone feels like too much. A year is a long time and stuff does happen, but personally I long to feel a little bit more grounded, a little less stressed and chaotic, and instead of thinking of meditation as taking something from you, perhaps try viewing it like an act of giving more space to think and deal with issues whenever they arise. How does this sound to you? Is the idea of a habit as alluring to you?