Day and night, you are being bombarded with opinions from all directions. Billboards, news, your digital devices. At every turn, the world is trying to elicit judgment from you. Invariably, stress builds up. You’re human, after all. A solid routine of meditative activities is necessary to keep the barrage at bay.
There are many ways to meditate. There is music, sports, reading, dance, prayer, bird watching, swimming, cooking, gardening, kite flying, sewing, washing your car, and mowing your lawn, just to name a few. What makes these activities meditative, is that you give them your fullest attention. When you give something your fullest attention, it reduces the emotional and physical stress caused by your otherwise incessant judging of the situation. Even doing your laundry can be meditative. Keeping your mind focused on folding your clothes, one item at a time keeps your mind from worrying about who you are or who you should be. The calming effect continues well after the activity ends. For example, if you exercise in the morning, you feel less triggered throughout the day.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to calm your mind is through breathing. You already know how to breathe. You just do it in a more deliberate way. You can do it while sitting at a red light, or waiting for the elevator. Even the smallest opportunities to focus on your breathing make a big difference.
There are many different techniques that utilize the calming effect of breathwork. Surf the internet for things you can do at home, or ask for advice at your local yoga studio. At this point, everybody knows somebody who does yoga. Find something that works for you.
But don’t be fooled. If you try focusing on your breath, even just for 5 seconds, you realize quickly it’s not as simple as it sounds. You become aware of just how engrained your judging habit is. Your mind is constantly drifting off into stories. When you’re lost in your stories, you’re not really here. But this comes as no surprise. You’ve been judging all your life. You can’t expect to break your judging habit so quickly, nor can you expect to rid yourself of it completely. You’re human, after all. Life keeps finding ways to elicit judgment from you. As long as you’re alive, situations are sure to come along that trigger you.
That said, you can learn to judge less. A lot less. The less you judge, the more you become who you are designed to be.
Be mindful when meditating to not slip into self-judgment. As you dip in and out of trying to calm your mind, it’s easy to get frustrated about not being able to do such a seemingly simple task as staying focused on the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Instead of calming your mind, you get all flustered. You might judge things that disturb you in your meditation. You might judge others for not having a meditation practice. A sense of dismay can develop towards the physical world because life keeps getting in the way of your precious meditation time. On days you can’t go deep enough for some reason, you feel like you’ve failed. Somewhat paradoxically, meditation can turn you into a control freak, if not approached mindfully. No wonder traditional meditation is so difficult for many. It’s much easier to follow your favorite sports team.
Even when you’re an expert meditator, you can’t stay in meditation forever. You have a life to live. It’s arduous to think you can isolate yourself in meditation and ignore the rest of your life. You are endlessly torn between the state of a calm mind and wanting to get back to it when you’re doing something else. You’re always rejecting or longing to be in one state or the other. You feel like a spiritual yo-yo.
Meditation can be hugely beneficial and by all accounts, it is becoming a necessary component to regulating modern life. Just be aware of your approach to it. Whenever you get frustrated, you are judging yourself for who you are at that moment. You can’t move forward from a place of self-rejection. That’s when meditation becomes a struggle and can be counter-productive.
Another aspect of traditional meditation is that cultivating your connection to your realized self is much easier when you’re sitting on a cozy yoga cushions in your room, far from the distractions of life. It’s a good place to start, but you must equally cultivate your connection when you’re out and about. Experience the unfiltered reality of the unfolding of life. When you are purely experiencing, you don’t fear losing your state, because you never leave your state, to begin with.
Situations that trigger you, are opportunities for transformation. As you transform yourself, so does the situation. In the trenches of life is where your journey happens.
How are you doing in the trenches?