If deepening the connection with yourself and practicing non-judgement and self-compassion sounds good to you, (and I think it's fair to say we can all use some more of that!) then it may be a perfect time to start a meditation practice!
You probably already know of the many benefits of meditating, some of which include lower blood pressure, decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression, an increased sense of well-being and higher levels of resilience.
But how can meditating help you deepen the connection with yourself? Well, you're the only one who can observe your inner experiences and manage them. When you wade through the "mind chatter" you begin to get a feel for who you really are. I can guarantee you, it is a worthwhile investment.
Common Barriers to Starting a Practice
First, let's talk about some of the barriers to starting a practice, one of which is the idea that you need to "empty the mind" to be a successful meditator. This is simply not true. The nature of the mind is to endlessly engage you in negative thinking. The thoughts don't stop when meditating, rather you gain an expanded overview and distance from said thoughts and therefore, change your experience of them.
You also may be thinking, "I tried meditating, but it's not for me. I can't do it." And this also is just not true. But it's totally understandable if you feel this way.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not an exercise in relaxation. It is an exercise in focus and concentration. Sure, relaxation can be a secondary benefit, but if the expectation is "clearing the mind" and you don't achieve that early on, it will probably not be something that you look forward to doing. When trying new things it's natural for us to want to have a achieve a certain level of success so that we're motivated to keep going.
Next, let's bring attention to our universal experience of the "negativity bias," which says that negative events have a bigger impact on us than positive ones. We put more focus and attention and spend much more time rehashing our negative experiences as compared to the positive ones. What's worse is that we personalize this process and interpret it as "something is really wrong with me" or "I'm a broken person."
This can make it very difficult and sometimes unbearable to sit with ourselves because we confuse the "mind chatter" to be a fault of ours instead of what it really is, which is the mind and fear.
Staying "unconscious" in this process, which is what occurs when we put no effort into changing that experience, causes us to feel as sense of disconnection within ourselves.
Let's fast track to what can make it easier to navigate this process. And that's reminding ourselves that we all go through the same "madness" inside our own heads and the real truth is that there is nothing wrong with us.
Once you can get to that place, you can begin to show yourself some grace, move forward in letting yourself make mistakes and show yourself some compassion.
There are many reasons we do not want to sit in stillness. For us humans, it's all about getting back to safety. And if sitting quietly to observe out thoughts and emotions doesn't feel safe, we will most likely avoid it.
However, when we know that gradually stretching out of our comfort zone allows us to grow, bolster our confidence and reach our goals that can give us incentive to give it a try.
There may be trauma and emotional pain that we want to protect ourselves from. Sometimes it can be helpful to seek professional support if it's difficult to be with yourself because doing good self-care requires us to be with ourselves, even if we are struggling and suffering. However, it is possible to start with small chunks of time and go slowly so that it feels right for you.
Now, You Can Deepen the Connection with Yourself
As I have personally been meditating for over 20 years and taken several meditation courses and workshops, I can tell you that it is possible to start a practice spending just a few minutes a day. You can very gradually work your way to adding more time over an extended period at your own pace.
Think of the idea of not trying to do anything but letting your thoughts flow. That may sound strange, but the more we resist something, the more it persists. The point is not to empty the mind, but to observe it. You don't have to do anything other than that.
There are no "good" or "bad" thoughts or emotions or stories or situations, they are just what they are. There are times when you can process your emotions, restructure your thoughts, resolve a conflict with someone, but not during your meditation time. That time is for you to take a pause and just be.
Remember, we are human beings, not human doings. There will be plenty of time to do whatever it is we need to do after we're finished sitting.
Repeating this over and over, which is necessary when observing and working with the mind, helps to sharpen the skills of observation and non-attachment, which basically means not letting yourself get caught up in the negative aspects of a thought, belief or story.
I encourage you to sit and observe your internal goings on and use non-judgement, one of the attitudes of mindfulness. You will find that you will start bringing the same freedom you feel within your meditation into your day-to-day experiences.
Even though we're not supposed to be "striving" for a certain outcome in meditation, you can expect to get a much clearer look at how the mind relentlessly engage us in any way possible because that's what the mind does.
So, sit, find a quiet space, close your eyes and use your breath as a focal point. When your mind engages, as it most certainly will, guide yourself back to the breath.
Taking the time to practice will surely help you develop and deepen the connection with yourself. Be mindful of showing yourself kindness, compassion, and most of all, love!
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