I had always liked the idea of practising meditation but thought it sounded too hard. Whenever I had tried to meditate in the past, I would just end up sitting there with all these thoughts popping into my head. I thought the goal was to be thinking of nothing so I judged that I had failed to do it ‘correctly’, felt deflated and gave up.
Then a friend of mine talked me into doing a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat. I liked the idea of it because it is non-denominational and open to any religion. It turned out to be a life changing experience for me. I learnt that meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts from entering your mind, but about not getting caught up in them.
Observing your thoughts without getting involved in them is a bit like being on the side of a road watching a parade of beautiful floats going past. The challenge is to just sit and observe them. It’s so tempting and easy to hop onto one of those attractive floats. You find yourself miles down the road before you even realise what you have done. In my early days of meditating, when an attractive thought came along, like “what should I do today?” I would hop on that float and end up spending my entire meditation session planning my day!
I can now catch myself within a few minutes of hopping on board a thought. When this happens, I calmly get off the float and just gently bring my concentration back to my breath. The secret is to notice you have done it and return to your breath, without judgement.
I meditate in an area I have set-up for this purpose in my dressing room, with a cushion and a pashmina to drape over my shoulders. I meditate the moment I wake in the morning before I have any conversations or read any emails. This helps prevent giving my brain stuff to think about. I do it again the moment I get home at night, though some people like to do it just before they hop into bed.
Making meditation a regular practise has been one of the best things I have done for my quality of life and my health. I am much calmer, more focused, more efficient and happier. I don’t do it all the time, sometimes things come along and I skip it, but I find now that I look forward to my meditation and don’t want to miss it.