Anyone can learn to meditate and it doesn’t mean you have to go on a 10-Day silent retreat or become a monk in order for your practice to be fulfilling. Meditation takes time and all you really need is patience, self-compassion, and a few guiding principles. In fact, going on a retreat before having an established practice may be more of a disservice than a benefit. This isn’t a rule, as we all have different backgrounds and perspectives and for some, diving into the deep-end may be fine. But think of it this way – you wouldn’t enter a marathon without any proper training or experience, would you? Same goes for meditation.
When I first began to practice meditation formally I thought I had to sit on my meditation cushion with my legs crossed and an upright spine. I would sit for 20-30 minutes but after the first 5 minutes or so my body would begin to ache. My shoulders would tighten and my knees would feel sharp pains. My thoughts would become absorbed in these feelings of discomfort, but I would force myself to stay seated until the ending bell rang. I did this for months until finally, my knees began to suffer from the stress of having my legs crossed for so long every day. The only relief I felt in my practice was when I finished meditating and I could get up again. Luckily, I was soon introduced to my teacher who told me I didn’t need to sit cross-legged in order to meditate. In fact, I could do it on the couch – just like watching TV.
You see, my body was not prepared or flexible enough to sit in that ‘classic meditation posture’. And even more important was the realization that there was no correct posture. The ‘correct posture’ is one that we can maintain with little effort that provides us comfort and support. For me – and for many of us – that posture is not seated on the floor. The first principle we follow in meditation is that of non-resistance and this includes both physical resistance and mental. Anytime we are resisting something we are creating a struggle within ourselves. So I began to sit in a chair or on the couch and instantly my experience in meditation shifted. My mind was no longer absorbed in the physical sensations of pain in my body and instead could align with the feelings of comfort and support I now felt.
The purpose of our meditation practice is to experience more freedom in our day-to-day lives. What do I mean by freedom? In meditation, we cultivate the qualities of the mind that allow us to resonate and align more deeply with our true nature and desires. These qualities of mind allow us to experience greater resilience and adaptability to every event we experience in life. We come to realize that we have a choice (freedom) in how to view our circumstance and eventually we find ourselves gravitating towards viewpoints that offer us feelings of fulfillment and happiness. And this takes time. Just like anything, we need time to practice and integrate our experience. We will perceive this shift of perspective gradually and that’s fine. Meditation is a lifestyle practice, not an instant-salve.