I have a wonderful technique for helping people get in touch with the feeling that you're looking for while meditating.
A lot of people think that meditation means you have to clear your mind of all thoughts. That’s not actually true. It's a side effect of long-term practice of meditation, but it’s not the goal of meditation. Obviously the goal of meditation is to be at peace.
How do you do that? I use a mindfulness exercise to introduce clients to meditation regardless of whether they are new to meditation or have been practicing for a while.
This mindfulness meditation helps you practice being the observer, which is necessary for meditation.
Before we get into the exercise, there are two rules that I have in my meditation groups.
The first rule is to suspend all judgements.
If you end each meditation session with a critique of how well you did or did not do, you miss the point of meditating. Meditation is the practice of sitting still and attempting to be the observer of your thoughts. It’s the practice of getting psychological distance from your thoughts and your emotions. You're meditating the first time you sit down.
Close your eyes and observe your thoughts. That is meditation. Maybe you were able to stay in the observer mode the entire time. Maybe you weren't. It's okay. If you sat still and attempted to observe your thoughts, you were meditating.
The second rule is do not try to replicate a previous feeling that you got from a meditation session.
Let's say yesterday, you meditated, you were able to stay in that observer mode and it felt great. And now you're trying to do that again. You think you can do better this time.
There is no better. That's the whole beauty of meditation. Let go of all of these expectations on yourself. Let go of the things that make you feel like you're not measuring up. You are enough. This is what meditation is trying to teach us. Just sit there and observe your thoughts and be.
Some days, you’ll be able to stay in that observer mode for the entire time and some days you won’t. Either way you are meditating.
The mindfulness exercise is called Inside Outside Awareness.
Put your feet flat on the ground. Put your hands either on your lap or at your side. Close your eyes.
Bring your awareness to the outside world and finish the sentence, “I'm aware of….”
Notice what you are aware of.
After a couple of minutes, switch your attention to what's happening inside your body and finish the sentence, “I'm aware of….”
Notice what's happening inside your body.
After a couple of minutes, go back to observing the outside world. Maybe you're hearing sounds. Maybe you're noticing a breeze on you. What do you notice? And then shift to what's happening inside your body.
Then at your own pace, go back and forth between observing the outside world and the inside world while finishing the sentence, “I’m aware of….”
What you're doing is you're practicing, shifting your attention and holding your attention, which we call concentration, you're using different mental activities. And by doing that, you're learning how to separate from your thoughts and your emotions and just being the observer.
I hope my two rules and this mindfulness exercise helps in making your meditation practice better.