We’ve all heard the mantras: Live in the present. Let things go. Stop inhaling those damned Doritos. But how, when we’ve got so much to worry about? So much to get caught up in! Bills to pay and jobs to dread and social media to hate! We can’t even turn our minds off long enough to sleep at night. We are a prisoner of those relentless thought loops that rattle around our minds. That’s why it’s important to learn how to occasionally break free. But how do we actually turn off our chattering squirrel brains?
Perhaps you’ve heard of meditation? Maybe you only think of it as “sitting like a pretzel at the top of Mount Everest until you levitate and/or lotus flowers shoot out of your ass”? Well, being the self-appointed lead authority of dumbasses everywhere, I can tell you three things I know for sure: It works. It’s easy. We all can do it.
Before I let you in on all my secrets of meditating. I’ll give you a little background. I started my meditation practice back in high school. I was sitting cross-legged outside on the grass, gazing at the trees and feeling the warm sun, when I gradually started to go into a trance. More like a comforting, peaceful state. I wasn’t asleep, I was hyper conscious and aware (and I had only smoked one hit off my brother’s bong that day, so trust me, it was genuine.)
I noticed something odd, my thoughts — up until that point a jumbled hot mess of things like “Is that bumblebee going to sting me?” and “Why does it look like Sting wearing a yellow and black striped sweater?” and “Holy shit, what was IN that bong?” — my thoughts started to quiet down. Oh, they were still there, incessantly blabbing into the corners of my mind, but they were slowly disappearing and melting away. Until finally all that I was experiencing was my breathing and my presence. Not even thinking about my breathing, just breathing. Imagine!
Having suffered from anxiety and depression for years, this brief feeling of freedom and peace truly changed my life. I spent years taking meditation classes, reading all the books (yes, all of them!) and practicing, practicing, practicing meditation.
Do I now have all the answers? Am I able to levitate? Did I kick my Doritos habit? Hell no! I still struggle each and every time I sit and try to just “be”. But I am able to just “be”… eventually. Oh yes, I be, baby! And it’s a gift, one I cherish and try to tap into whenever possible. It’s difficult sometimes, what with all the things I have to be offended about on Facebook. So I have some advice for all those beginners out there, or people who might think it’s too hard or not worth it. This is what I’ve learned:
- Sit how you want. I’ve been in classes where the teacher insists you sit a certain way, or hold your hands in prayer or to the side with your finger touching your thumb. Do what feels most comfortable to you. The key is to not get too comfortable or you’ll fall asleep. I sit on my couch with my hands relaxed at my sides. That’s it. There is no magic position you need to be in. What matters is you find a position that enables you to free your mind from your body.
- Chant or don’t. Some people chant meaningful sayings and this repetition helps one focus. Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, has one I like in which you say to yourself “smile ” and “release” with each breath in and out. Some like to have music playing or a guided meditation. Some chant silently, “I will not eat those Doritos, I will not eat those Doritos.” Hey, whatever gets you to relax and focus on unfocusing, do it. I don’t do anything fancy. I like it quiet and I simply close my eyes and breathe. (I told you I was a dumbass.)
- You can do it anywhere anytime. I don’t know about you, but it’s rare that I’m sitting in the cool grass gazing out at snowy mountain peaks while wearing the perfect yoga outfit. I meditate in my bathrobe. I meditate in my car while waiting to pick up my kids. I meditate during work meetings. Especially at work meetings.
- We’ve all meditated before. In the shower, while listening to music, while listening to the boss drone on and on at meetings about how I showed up yet again in my bathrobe. It’s not some crazy woo-woo thing. It’s just being. Releasing and getting those stupid inane thoughts to shut the hell up for TWO FREAKING SECONDS, GAWD!
- It can reduce anxiety, depression, sleep issues and more. Think of it as exercise for your soul. Meditation is incredibly healing.
- There is no right or wrong way to do it. What works for you might not work for me. For me, the key is to let go of all of those preconceived notions, let go of all the words, all the terms, all those confining and annoying things like thoughts. You will have them when you sit to meditate. You are not failing meditation because you’re thinking, “Oh shit! I’m still thinking. Now I’m thinking about thinking! I suck at this!” Our entire lives consist of getting mired down in this nonstop loop of thoughts. You are so much more that that. You are a divine being. Let thoughts drift on by your consciousness and let them continue on the path out of your mind. This is how you tap into your true essence, the presence, the one observing these thoughts. Trust me, this is attainable. It does take practice. Once I was in such a deep state of meditating, I barely heard my boss yelling at me to wake up or I’m fired.
- Practice never makes perfect. Here’s a conundrum: practicing meditation is crucial but you will never be 100% successful at it. There’s no endgame. There’s no winning. There is no point at which you sigh and say, “Welp, I’m done!” It’s a constant learning experience in which you are always evolving. Some days while meditating I can’t stop thinking about Trump’s hair flap or my mother or whether I took the chicken out of the freezer. Other days, I easily go to that sacred space of No Thoughts. But if I can sit and be still most days for even five or ten minutes, I’m grounded and ready to face the Big Issues and even all those petty little annoyances in my daily life.
Like my empty Doritos bag. Sigh.