Life is BUSY. But you don't need me to tell you that.
Not so long ago, the idea of giving myself time to connect with myself felt a little bit self indulgent to me. Busy life, busy mind, just BUSY. And sitting around doing nothing? Not going to happen. But then things got so busy that I felt like I was losing my mind, not just finding it tough - full scale not coping! Thankfully things conspired to set me on the path to meditation. I vividly remember that first experience of sitting with my busy mind, eyes closed and watching as the dust settled and the thoughts stilled. A moment of clarity.
A new way...
From there I became determined to make meditation a permanent feature. After just a few sessions I could feel the difference. The sense of spaciousness that developed and a tiny moment of pause where I could choose how I responded instead of reacting. That “muscle” for choosing my response getting stronger. (Check out the research on this It’s a real thing! It turns out meditation changes your brain - and the changes last).
Building a practice can be challenging
After a while though, I noticed that I was still holding on really tight. Meditation was definitely helping me but I was still more reactive than I wanted to be. I wasn’t after Zen monk levels of calm, but still something just felt a little off. Self doubt crept in “Am I even doing this right?”.
The problem of trying too hard
When it was added to my list of jobs to do, meditation practice made me feel stressed out and under pressure. That agitated, nagging sense of “don’t interrupt me Life, I need to fit a meditation in”.
In fact, there was a distinct moment when I realised what I was doing. It was school holidays. The kids were home and I had decided that I could squeeze my meditation in while they were occupied.
But of course, in the same way that a phone call is like an unspoken alert for children to need you, the kids immediately had (what felt like) 10,000 reasons to interrupt me.
And my blood boiled. I mean really boiled. So much so that after the fifth time a little voice called out for something that could absolutely wait, I snapped and shouted in a mean voice that I didn’t (but also did) recognise “I’M TRYING TO MEDITATE”.
Not my finest hour and not what I imagined in my newly meditating existence. Surely all of this meditation was meant to make me a calmer, saner human being? And yet here I was yelling at the kids for needing me.
Being kind is ok
That’s when I realised that I needed to be kinder to myself. Meditation wasn’t another job for my list or another thing to be stressed about. It was something to actively create the space for so that I could still be present in my life and behave like the kind of person I wanted to be.
Evolving my practice
So what changed?
Well, with my mini meltdown, I realised that part of developing a meditation practice was carving out a time that I committed to. Not just as a chore but as an active practice of self love (stick with me - I know the concept of “self love” might sound a bit tree hugging and self indulgent).
So kindness for myself actually looked like changing my routine
I began setting my alarm earlier so that I was up before anyone else. Not because I needed to fit this extra job in, which is an energy guaranteed to make you feel tense and pressured, but because I deserved the chance to give myself that gift.
The gift of self love and self care.
That slither of time I carved out for myself really was an act of loving myself because I gave myself permission to put my own oxygen mask on first.
Too often we can end up believing that taking care of ourselves is a luxury not a priority. Something for when "things" calm down, or the kids are older, or work isn't so busy or the many other things that need to be done are finished.
By realising I couldn't be the supportive and loving person I wanted to be if I was stressed out and burnt out, I gave myself permission to look after me. Trusting myself that I would be WAY more effective with my head as a nice place to be than with a head full of crazy.
But that's not the end of the challenge
I would love to tell you that I made that decision and then I was able to always do it. But that wouldn't be true. It took time for it to truly be a daily practice that requires little effort, even though the action itself is effortless. At first, my early morning meditations could more accurately have been described as sleeping upright.
I would crawl out of bed, bleary eyed. Creep to the sitting room where I liked to meditate. Drag a blanket over my knees and then close my eyes.
My head would droop forward and I would continually be jolted out of falling fully asleep by my lolling head - and the occasional dribble from the side of my mouth as I was barely conscious. But I kept showing up.
Learning to be curious
Whilst those drowsy sessions felt like they weren't much more than sleeping, I knew from all I had learnt that more was happening than I knew. I had to keep the faith.
Over time, they became less sleep filled and more thought filled. Like my mind suddenly realised that here was a time of day it could hijack me with hundreds of thoughts, worries and problems.
That was harder.
My perception of meditation had been that it should be a tranquil and mind emptying experience. Instead, sometimes it felt full of anxiety and fidgety restlessness.
The challenge was learning to sit with that and to keep taking my focus back to the meditation practice.
The real benefit is not experienced with your eyes closed
What I realised was that what actually happened in that 20 minutes of eyes closed meditation wasn't the point. That need for kindness for myself became even more important. Not judging and criticising myself for my experience but learning to ride the waves. It took lots of falling off and getting back on again before it really stuck.
I promise it's worth it
Whatever your life circumstances, there’s likely to be so many demands on your time and energy - whether it’s the pressure of work deadlines, financial stress or coping with the demands of family life. Having time and space to connect with yourself at a deep level can honestly be a game changer, no matter what challenges you have.
It’s not just about learning how to meditate
The nuts and bolts of HOW to meditate is really just the first step. Beyond that it’s about more than desire and motivation.
That's what’s I love to do - help you overcome the barriers to meditation so it can truly become part of your everyday life. Check out which option might work for you here.
What things get in the way of you building meditation into your life?
I'd love to hear from you in the comments.