People often say that they would like to meditate but they can’t find the time, or they don’t have the right space, or it is too noisy. If only we had the perfect conditions, then we would be able to practice! Well the bad news is, there is no such thing as perfect conditions. Instead of putting off meditation until you find the elusive perfect conditions, how about making the most of the imperfect conditions we have?
- I often suggest to people that it is good to find a quiet place to meditate. However, nowhere is perfectly silent. We may have noisy neighbours, or live in the middle of a city, near a main road. Even in the countryside we might need to deal with the sound of animals! So instead of trying to find perfect silence, or trying to block out noise, why not make the most of the imperfect silence? Allow the sounds to be part of your meditation practice. Notice the clock, notice the traffic, notice the sound of the children playing outside. See if you can be aware of all of this as well as the focus of your meditation, be it the breath or anything else. The key is to just notice without getting caught up.
- Ideally it is good to find a time to meditate in which you are likely to be reasonably alert. Some of us are better in the mornings while others are more alert in the afternoons or evenings. However, many of us have busy lives and many of us struggle with fatigue. This doesn’t mean that we cannot practice. Instead of seeing the fatigue as a barrier to practice, why not be curious about it? Where in the body do you feel this fatigue? What happens when you practice with your eyes open?
- If you are used to practicing meditation at a meditation centre with fancy stools and cushions it might seem daunting to try and replicate the experience at home. Do we really need to go out and buy all this equipment? The simple answer is no. Meditation is not about being in the perfect posture. If you can find a way of feeling grounded and sitting with your spine in an upright position then that’s great. You might do this on a dining room chair or by stacking up pillows or cushions. However, you could meditate lying on your bed, sitting on your sofa or even standing at the bus stop – though you might be better keeping your eyes open if you are standing in public! Again, be curious about how your body and breath feel in these different positions.
- Many people feel that they are simply too busy to find the time to meditate. It may be true that it is difficult to find 40 minutes for a meditation. However, why not spend five or ten minute a couple of times throughout a day checking back in with yourself and your breath? Notice all those moments when you are procrastinating by using social media, or watching a TV programme you have already seen. Could you use this as an opportunity to practice? Maybe try muting the TV during the ad break to practice a 3-minute meditation. Many people find that when they have taken a short meditation break in the middle of their working day, they come back to work more refreshed and are more productive.
- Stress. Sometimes people tell me that they are too stressed to meditate or that they can’t relax. Firstly, the point of mindfulness meditation is not to relax. It might be relaxing but it might not be! The point is simply to notice. If we wait until our minds are completely stress free before meditating then we may never practice. Instead, why not notice the stressful thoughts and let them pass. Be curious about how your stress feels in your body. And, importantly, treat your stress with kindness and compassion!
In short, there are no perfect conditions. However, if we can make all of our conditions part of our practice, then every situation can be a perfectly imperfect condition to meditate.
Dr. Rachel Jones-Wild