7 tips for stress-free meditation

meditationMeditation will be stressful if we think we have to do it perfectly. But you don’t get angry at a baby because it can’t run. You understand that this is the stage they’re at and in time they will learn to stand, then to walk, then to run. If you treat your mind this way, and work towards meditation slowly and without judgement, you’ll be able to do it without the stress of having to achieve perfection, or indeed to achieve anything.

In the West, because of our social conditioning, our minds are at the newborn stage. We are so used to ‘doing’ that we no longer know how to just be. We may even have been made to feel guilty if we’re not doing something. We need training and practice in ‘being’ just like a baby practices walking then running, with encouragement from its parents.

Since starting my studies to become a meditation teacher my ideas about meditation have changed. I now realise that unlike the Western concept of meditation, the Eastern concept has no connotation of ‘doing’ – you don’t meditate on something. It’s about “dropping all contents of the mind and just being”.1

Along with the idea of having to do something comes goals, and with goals comes success or failure. But there is no success or failure in meditation – you practice and it is what it is.

Stress-free meditation

So, the first step to stress-free meditation is to sit quietly where you won’t be interrupted and notice the gaps between your thoughts. Don’t judge any thoughts and don’t judge your progress, just let it be what it is.

You cannot do meditation, you can only be in meditation. It is not a question of doing something, it is a question of being. It is not an act but a state. – Osho1

The next step is to expand the gaps between your thoughts. Many exercises can be used for this, not just meditation practice, for example:

Tip 1:  Look at an object, perhaps a tree or a bird or your pet or your sleeping child, and become absorbed in noticing. Notice colours, textures, sounds, movement, shapes. Now notice when you have thoughts about the object and choose to let the thoughts go – come back to pure awareness.

Tip 2:  When walking, listen to the sound of your footsteps. Try to become absorbed in the rhythm, again letting go of any thoughts that arise about your movement or your shoes or your feet or legs. Notice when there are gaps between your thoughts.

Tip 3:  Choose certain moments during the day to drop your thoughts. For example, while you’re waiting for your coffee or lunch order, while on a bus or train, while waiting at traffic lights, etc. Instead of distracting yourself with your smart phone, pick a point to focus on and have a go at letting all your thoughts drop. Thoughts will arise and that’s ok, notice the small gaps in between them and have a go at expanding these.

Tip 4:  Eat a meal without any distractions of email, internet, television or reading material. As you eat, pay attention to the flavours and textures of the food, notice the sound of your cutlery and of your chewing. When thoughts arise, gently bring your mind back to these things. If you find this difficult, notice your frustration, accept that that’s how you feel right now, then let it go – don’t get angry at the baby!2

Tip 5:  Try a yoga or tai chi / qigong class – these are forms of active meditation. You become so focussed on what your body is doing that your mind becomes still. I always sleep very well after these practices.3

Tip 6:  Go to YouTube and watch clips of the renowned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He speaks slowly and meaningfully. If you listen mindfully, while not distracted by anything else, you are likely to find yourself slipping into a meditative state where you are not thinking of anything but what he is saying – like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his peace is infectious.

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Tip 7:  And finally, undertake traditional meditation practice. This need only be 5 minutes a day for beginners – most likely you will find you enjoy these few minutes of peace so much you’ll want to extend them. Meditate by sitting in a quiet place with your back straight – you don’t need to sit cross-legged, just be comfortable. Close your eyes and notice your breathing. Relax your body. When thoughts arise, just notice them. You can visualise them as clouds floating across the sky, they come and they go, you have no attachment to them, you don’t need to judge them. Again, notice the tiny gaps between your thoughts. That’s it, that’s all you need to do.

Practice at least one of these things daily and I guarantee the gaps between your thoughts will start to expand. You will notice that you feel more peaceful, that you be more calm and lucid under stress and that you have more creative ideas.

I’m interested to hear about any more practical meditation methods you may have found so feel free to make a comment below.

Namaste

1 Osho (2001) Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic, p197, Kindle Edition

2 For more on this mindfulness technique, see books and audios by Jon Kabat Zinn

3 I can highly recommend Simon Blow Qigong Master

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2 Comments

  • Sam says:

    Hi Megan, I really enjoyed reading the above!
    On my journey to mindfulness, I have found imagining a dark spot in the distance as I close my eyes helps me lose all the ‘clutter’ in my mind. I like to call this moment ‘taking out the trash’. 🙂

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