How to Meditate Anywhere

September 16, 2014

People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that meditation needs to not only happen in a quiet, seated position, but that it needs to happen on the ideal cushion, and in the most serene and peaceful setting.  We want to shop for the best Zabuton, create a beautiful alter, and even have a separate “meditation room” – and when one of those things fails to come to fruition we somehow never get around to putting our little tushies on the cushion and getting to work.

Does this sound familiar?

Needless to say, this kind of thinking tends to set us up for failure, because the circumstances are never quite perfect enough for us to get down to business and to reap the incredible rewards of this very powerful practice.

Truthfully, the only thing that we need for meditation is our mind – and the fact that our minds travel with us pretty much everywhere (let’s hope!), this means that we can actually meditate in any place, at any time, even at a moment’s notice.

Now, when I say, “Meditation,” what do I really mean?

While there are lots of different kinds and styles of meditation (transcendental meditation, meditations involving mantras or guided visual imagery), what I’m talking about here is a variation on the theme of mindfulness meditation, where the only “goal” is to be totally present with your current experience, no matter what that experience is.

The essence of mindfulness meditation takes the following premise as fact:  That as human beings we (quite ironically) spend most of our days engrossed in thoughts of the past or the future, despite the fact that nothing truly exists except for the present moment.

The past is gone, and is nothing but a memory.  The future hasn’t happened yet, and is nothing but a fantasy.

The only thing that truly exists in this world is, for me, currently, my fingers tap tap tapping on this keyboard as I write this article – and for you, your eyes looking at these very words on your screen as you read them.

That’s it.  That’s all we’ve got, folks – this very moment, right now.  To have an active meditation practice is to – effectively - remind yourself of that over and over (and over) again.

From that viewpoint we can say that your only “job” when you meditate is to be truly present – whether it’s with your breath, the feeling of your butt on your seat, or what have you.  Now, with that in mind…

How can you take this show on the road?

Now that we’ve established that the only “goal” of meditation is to be present, you can easily see how this practice can travel with you anywhere.  The only question is how you can do it without anyone even noticing!

I like to call this practice “stealthy meditation,” and the name of the game is simply to be totally present with whatever is happening for you at any given moment.

 As an example, let me set a scene:  Imagine that you’re out at dinner with a group of friends.  If you notice that your mind is elsewhere – perhaps the service isn’t good and you’re finding it to be a distraction – allow those thoughts to just gently leave your mind.  Check in with yourself by taking a deep breath, and focus on the feeling of your body in your chair.

Your five senses are vitally important in this practice, and your invitation is to focus on any one of them, while allowing any thoughts of past or future to melt away.

Take a moment and check in with your body.  Do a brief scan – are you carrying tension somewhere?  Try to let it go.  Notice anything that’s physically present for you at this moment.

In our fantasy sequence, where you’re with your friends in the restaurant, is there a candle on the table?  Allow your gaze to soften on it.  In fact, if it feels right, look at the flame like you’ve never looked at a flame before.  Truly SEE it.

As you hear your friends speaking, allow the sound of their voices to sink in through your ears – all the way to your bones.  If it’s a loud, clamorous restaurant, don’t fight it.  Instead be truly present with the noise.  Take a deep breath and find a place of peace amidst the bustle.

If you decide to take a bite of food, try to savor every flavor that crosses your palate.  Truly notice what the food feels like as it touches your lips, or as you chew.

Return to your breath.

The goal is simply to be truly present, and through that presence to find peace.  That peace is within you.

Are you with me?  This is the path to freedom.

Written By: Dr. Leslie Carr is a licensed clinical psychologist (PSY 25306) and author of the eBook When Change Takes Time. She offers therapy and coaching, both in San Francisco and via Skype. More information can be found at www.lesliecarr.com.

Tags:meditationmindfulnesspeacedepressionanxiety

Adjusting to Change

September 2, 2014

If you’ve been on a path of personal growth for a while, I’m guessing you’ve hit at least a few speed bumps along the way.  If you’re anything like me or anyone else I know (if you are, in a word, human) you’ve probably felt frustrated at times, or wished that creating the change that you want to see were a faster, easier, process.

Of course, in some ways we all know that change can take time. No one has ever lost a significant amount of weight, built a profitable business, or written a bookliterally overnight – but in a culture that fetishizes quick solutions and immediate results, it’s almost as if discussing it has become taboo.

I guess I’m just the skunk at the party for being willing to talk about it.

The bigger question though, is why changes takes time. Why does it have to be such a struggle?

From my vantage point there are a few reasons. The first and most basic one has to do with our personal history. The brutal reality is that we’re all products of the lives that we’ve lived up to this point, and changing ourselves often requires a deep excavation into the beliefs that we hold and thoughts that we think that are a result of our previous life experiences.

For example, if you were ever made to feel like you wouldn’t amount to much in life, it can be very hard to overcome that internal conditioning even when there’s a huge part of you that no longer believes that it’s true.

I know that what I’m saying probably contradicts things that you’ve read or learned about elsewhere. I’m sure you’ve heard many times before that your history doesn’t matter – that you get to decide who and want you want to become.

Well, that’s true to a certain extent, but it’s also not the whole story, and I have a hunch that you know exactly what I mean by that.

This brings me to the second major reason why change can take time:

We can’t solve a problem if we aren’t willing to admit that it exists, and we are – in many ways – encouraged to hide from our truth.

We’re already built, internally on a psychological level, to push difficult thoughts and feelings away. Mechanisms like depression and denial are part of our standard operating system – but healing our lives (and becoming the people we want to become in the process) requires grappling with these internal forces so that we can truly see ourselves and our lives with clarity.

Sadly, many of the lessons that we learn in life teach us to do the exact opposite of this.

For example: If you’ve ever felt depressed, perhaps you’ve gotten the message that you shouldn’t admit it out loud, because saying so is an “affirmation” that will manifest more depression.

Frankly, I find that kind of thinking to be really destructive, but we live in a culture that’s come to fear emotion. We bury ourselves in media and technology – dodging negative feelings in favor of the brief dopamine hit of a new incoming message. We drink and shop and eat to numb ourselves to our discomfort, and we lie to ourselves about where we currently are, out of fear that we won’t be able to evolve to someplace new.

Our emotions contain valuable information, however. They exist for a reason, and shouldn’t be cast aside.

You’ve probably been told that your thoughts create your reality, and that if you’ll just think differently, you’ll feel differently. There’s some truth to that as well, but what gets left out of the conversation is what we you should do if it isn’t that simple.

What do you think, am I on to something?

Written By: Dr. Leslie Carr is a licensed clinical psychologist (PSY 25306) and author of the eBook When Change Takes Time. She offers therapy and coaching, both in San Francisco and via Skype. More information can be found at www.lesliecarr.com.

Tags:anxietychangedepressionmanagingemotions