Meditation for people who think they can’t meditate

Meditation is good for you. It can calm your mind and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Mindfulness meditation can improve sleep and reduce inflammation in the body. But many people say they have tried meditation and failed.

Here are some common complaints about meditation:

I can not do it. My mind wanders. I can’t sit still. I can’t concentrate for that long. I’m falling a sleep. I have too many noisy thoughts.

If your first or several attempts at meditation led to any of these thoughts, then congratulations – you’ve meditated!

Many people see meditation as a magical moment of transformation. But meditation is not about perfection. It’s about awareness. Being aware that your mind is wandering, that you are tired, that you can’t sit still, that your mind is running wild – that is the point of meditation.

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Judson Brewer, an associate professor at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and a leading expert on meditation, said a common mistake people make is not understanding the purpose of meditation. “I did this for ten years,” he says. “I slammed my head against the wall thinking I should focus on my breathing and [that] I did something wrong because I couldn’t.”

If you’re struggling with meditation, Brewer suggests reminding yourself that, at its core, a meditation practice is about helping you learn how your mind works. The day I spoke with Brewer, a student had just complained to him that she was struggling with meditation.

“I told her to be really curious,” he said. “If she senses there’s a thought, can she be aware of it? “Oh no, my mind was wandering” is often in the background when we think we’re not meditating properly. But just notice it. “This is what it’s like to be lost in thought.” You just learned something about how your mind works.”

Even the fact that you think you’ve failed at meditation is worth mentioning, Brewer said. Have you made a habit of berating yourself?

“It doesn’t matter what the mind is doing,” Brewer said. “Any piece of information is good information. Be aware.”

Here’s some simple advice to help you learn to meditate and incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your day:

Morning meditation is a great way to ground yourself, and studies show that regular morning practice can lower stress hormones over time. I’ve created a morning ritual where I enjoy a cup of coffee followed by a short guided meditation. Meditating during your other morning rituals can help you form a habit – and you’ll be less likely to fall asleep.

It is much easier to start meditating with a little help. A number of apps — Headspace, Calm, Ten Percent Happier, and Unplug — offer free trials and programs to get you started. Apps also offer a lot of variety. Unplug has “meditation quickies” and quirky topics, such as a meditation for “before you send that email you wish you hadn’t sent.”

For a relaxed mindful moment at work, take a few seconds to focus on your feet. How do they feel? Are they hot and sweaty? Do they tingle? Are they sore and painful? Does a foot feel different? Think about the connection your feet have to the ground. Your mind is less likely to wander when you notice your feet. Brewer calls feet “anxiety-free zones.” And focusing on feet feels, literally, grounding.

Sit quietly and inhale to a count of six, then exhale to a count of six. You can sit or lie down. Place your hands on your stomach. If this is too hard, start with a count of three or four and work your way up. The ultimate goal of this technique is to slow your breathing down to five breaths per minute. Practice five minutes a day.

Start with a few calming breaths. Now see five things around you. It could be items on your desk, such as a lamp, notepad, and pen, or trees and rocks when you go for a walk. Touch four things: the fabric of your clothes, a book, a leaf, the cat.

Hear three things. Watch for a dog barking, the click of a keyboard, laughter in the break room. Smell two things. Sniff the air, the detergent smell that lingers on your clothes. Taste one thing. End your meditation with a bite of chocolate, a piece of fruit or something delicious from the office candy dish.

Meditate while brushing your teeth

This is my favorite because it’s so easy to do. Brush your teeth, but focus on the swishing sound of the toothbrush. Pay attention to the taste of the toothpaste and the foam that forms in your mouth. Bring your awareness to the coolness of the water as you rinse your mouth. Add a new element of awareness by standing on one leg while brushing your teeth.

Meditation for people who think they can’t meditate

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