If it hasn’t happened already, it will. Someone, perhaps a counselor or a sponsor, is going to tell you that meditation will benefit your recovery. It will calm your racing mind, bring you clarity in times of confusion, and help alleviate insomnia, anxiety, and depression. At this suggestion, perhaps you are quick to point out that meditation “doesn’t work for you.”
Here’s the problem: While all the benefits sound great, you just know you can’t do it. You can’t sit still for five minutes, let alone sit on the floor cross-legged for an hour in complete silence while “clearing your mind” of all thoughts. No way.
Good news! That is not the only way to meditate, in fact, most people don’t do it that way, and rarely does someone start out being able to sit for an hour with a “blank” mind. This is a stereotypical view of meditation, and the reality is that meditation is far more flexible and realistic than that.
You Don’t Have To “Clear” Your Mind
This is a myth. In fact, the ability to completely clear your mind is something that even experienced meditators can’t fully do. Your brain doesn’t magically shut off just because you are sitting still and trying not to think. The idea isn’t to force your mind to go blank. That will only frustrate you. The idea is to relax and to not hold on to any of the thoughts that are going through your head.
This isn’t easy, either. So it takes practice. You aren’t trying to be a Zen master on day one. You have to work at it.
I Can’t Sit Still For That Long
You don’t have to meditate for an hour at a time in order to reap the benefits of meditation. In fact, you can start with just five or ten minutes at a time. This is a more manageable chunk of time. Try ten, but if that is too much, start with five. Set a timer, sit in a comfortable position (you don’t have to sit on the floor) and close your eyes.
There are people who meditate with their eyes open. It’s up to you, but as a beginner, you may find it less distracting and stimulating to keep your eyes closed.
Breath in, breath out. This is pretty much the most important aspect of meditation. Breathing in and out in a relaxed manner is what you want to focus on. If you find that your brain is way too cluttered, count your breaths. Count 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 with your in and out breaths. This should help you stay focused on your breath, not so much on the thoughts running through your brain.
Initially, you may find that your brain seems to really ramp up its activity when you sit down to meditate. This is frustrating, and it can feel like your brain is out to sabotage you. In a way, it is. Trying to fight your brain won’t work very well. You have to practice and learn to allow the thoughts to enter your mind without reacting or engaging with them. This is easier said than done, of course, however, it is much easier and more realistic than expecting your brain to magically go blank.
Other Meditation Options
Did you know you can sit in a chair while you meditate? You can lay down, too, but try sitting. With laying down you run the risk of falling asleep! You can choose to keep your eyes open, perhaps using a focal point like a candle. You can chant, or listen to a guided meditation.
If you absolutely find that sitting still does not work for you, there is always walking meditation. As you can see, meditation isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice. You can try different methods, and you can take baby steps to work up to a more rigorous practice. Even meditating for 10 minutes a day can help you become more focused, relaxed and peaceful.