By Kevin Schoeninger
As a meditation teacher, I’ve heard countless students share their excuses for why they didn’t meditate in the past week. They wanted to. They know it would be good for them. They just didn’t do it. At least, not consistently.
Something always seems to get in the way: they need more sleep, the dog needs to be walked, the kids are up, they had to work late or had an early meeting, they felt too anxious, worried, or irritable… Meditation just didn’t seem as important as other things they had to do. Yet, all those things they did didn’t give them the peace of mind they desired.
Of course, meditation is about changing your relationship with all the events, worries, and anxieties in your life. It’s a daily ritual-like eating, sleeping, and brushing your teeth-that creates a more relaxed, healthy, meaningful, and intentional way of living. It’s a powerful practice to realize the deep peace of mind we all desire. So, what’s the secret to moving from excuses to practice?
The answer is: you’ve got to have a strong “Why?”
Where do you find your Why?
The answer may surprise you.
The Secret is Body Awareness
Your body is not just a mechanical vehicle for carrying out all the activities in your life. It is a highly-sensitive bio-feedback system.
Your body can tell you what is good for you to eat and how much, when you need to rest, when you need to relax and have fun, when you need to get up and move, and when you need to be alone, have contact with others, be in nature, and spend time in meditation. It connects you to when, why, and how much to do anything. If you’re paying attention.
In our context, it connects you to WHY you might want to meditate in the first place. At least it has the potential to do this-if you pay attention. Yet, how often do you pause and really pay attention to your body’s signals? How often do you stop to sense what it is telling you?
Why aren’t you doing this?
First off, we have a culture that encourages just the opposite. We are encouraged to focus outwardly rather than inwardly. We are encouraged to do as much as possible. We are encouraged to gather as many products and as much wealth, data, and sensory input from the external environment as we possibly can.
We are encouraged to react quickly and are discouraged from taking time for well-considered and deeply felt responses. We are conditioned to quick reactions and sound bites on news and social media. We are impatient with anything that takes time. We go, go, go, until we are too exhausted to continue.
Do you feel this exhaustion?
Yet, are you worried about what might happen if you stop? Are you worried you’ll fall behind and be left out? At a certain point, you may decide you just don’t want to live this way anymore. When you reach this point-or preferably long before that-take a moment to pay attention inside. Notice what all this thinking, doing, worry, accumulation, and stimulation is doing to you.
Is there another option?
Meditation Creates a New Way of Being
Meditation interrupts nonstop thinking and doing and gives your body a chance to relax deeply-something you may not even get to do in a restless sleep. Consciously relaxing, as you do in meditation, unwinds tension accumulated beneath your awareness in the past 24 hours as well as in the years of your life up to this point. It slowly dissolves the reactive mental-emotional patterns that drive you on the hamster wheel of nonstop activity. It quiets your mental chatter.
Now, when you first start to meditate, you may not notice this relaxing, quieting, and calming effect. You may become even more aware of how busy your mind is, how conflicting your emotions are, and how tense your body is. If you have mistreated your body through over-stress for a long period of time, initial moments of Body Awareness in meditation might not feel so great.
Or, you may feel little to nothing at all. All that thinking, doing, and pushing yourself to do things you feel you “have to” or “should” do may have cut you off from how you feel. You may have lost touch with your vital sensations and feelings. You may just feel bored without external stimulation keeping you distracted.
Yet, discomfort, boredom, or numbness, when you face them honestly, directly, gently, and without judgment, as you do in meditation, can alert you to just how much you need to activate another way of being.
If you heed this signal and take time to sit, breathe, and mindfully notice what’s happening inside-the layers of stress will begin to unwind and your vital senses will reawaken. As you unwind, Body Awareness may tell you just how exhausted you are from the way you are going about your life.
As you pay close attention to what your body has to say, you might find that all those things you’ve been chasing after may not be as important as they seemed. You may discover you don’t want to live on the human hamster wheel of incessant activity, worry, and anxiety any longer. You may be inspired to make new choices that reflect your soul’s deeper desires.
Meditation beckons you to a more relaxed, healthy, meaningful, and intentional way of living-and your body will tell you just how important this is-if you pay attention.
Kevin Schoeninger is a writer and teacher of Mind-Body training, including Mindfulness, Meditation, Qigong, and Reiki. He is the author of the book “Clear Quiet Mind” and numerous guided meditations and programs in the field of personal empowerment and spiritual growth.
“When you breathe, you inspire. When you do not breathe, you expire.” – Quote from an 11-year-old’s science exam
John Grinder, co-creator of NLP talks about the link between respiration, physiology, internal state and high performance. He calls this ‘the chain of excellence’.
First; when you are experiencing a powerful, positive state, allow yourself to become aware of your breathing rate. Pay particular attention to the timing and rhythm of your in-breath and out-breath.
Second; Next time you are in a neutral or negative state, start breathing at the rate and rhythm from exercise one, and within a minute or so, the positive state should begin to return.
Many of the ancient text advise people to do breathing exercises regularly. Tony Robbins in his book “Unlimited Power”, advises that you start each day with a breathing exercise of inhaling slowly and deeply, then holding it for twice as long as the inhalation and exhaling in twice the pace. It really is invigorating and a great way to get motivated at the start of the day, especially if you are looking to do some things with your day that require motivation.
Breathing is powerful! It’s essential to our life force, and is a major influencer on our state of mind.
So, finally; Start breathing comfortably but deeply, in through your nose & out through your mouth. Imagine that you are breathing from that area of your abdomen just beneath your belly button. Make the in-breath last to a count of 5 and the out-breath to a count of 6. Continue for at least 2 minutes, and notice what happens.
These techniques can be very powerfully utilized when wanting to get in control of your state if you are going through a period of change such as reducing your weight, stopping smoking or developing more confidence.
Please remember that most people don’t breathe nearly enough. Start to breathe more deeply and notice how much better you feel. Have lots of fun with this. Notice how good you can make yourself feel when you breathe differently.
Who am I? What comes up for you when you ask this question of yourself? In terms of memories, ideas, how you’ve been described? What do you identify with? Does this process of identification help you, or just cause suffering? Are you still figuring or learning about who you are?
Perhaps when your favorite basketball team loses, you suffer as though YOU lost. When your car is damaged it feels like YOU got hurt. When someone attacks who they think you are, does it seem as though they’re actually reaching inside and poking at your true nature (they’ve struck a nerve)? How can you escape the unnecessary drama and pain? (more…)