This is a guest post by Prudence Sinclair.
Good morning, lovely you!
I often get emails from people who express their desire to commit to a meditation practice. They hear me and others speak about the benefits meditation offers our body, mind and spirit and feel a deep sense that meditation holds the key to their health and well-being.
But what typically happens is, many of these people will set aside 5-10 minutes each day to retreat to a quiet space to meditate. And it’s harder than they think it will be. And usually around day 5 or 6 they begin to get so frustrated with the whole thing that they just give up.
Does this sound familiar?
While meditation is a vehicle to relaxation and peace, it can be a nightmare trying to get started!
Why is it so hard to meditate for most people?
Meditation is all about focus. The practice is focusing on the present moment. Being lucid right HERE and right NOW.
But for most of us, our brains are not conditioned for this intense kind of focus. Even when we think we are focused on a specific task for work or a DIY home project, for example, our minds are actually racing with other thoughts at the same time. Start to pay attention to this. Watch how your mind is able to, say, write an email but at the exact same time think about something that happened over the weekend and what you will have for lunch. Your mind is very busy and really good at multitasking!
And this is why people quit meditation. It feels almost impossible for them to quiet their minds and simply focus on the present moment.
You’ve Got to Walk Before You Run
If I were a personal trainer and I had someone come into the gym one day who was middle-aged, 50 pounds overweight and hadn’t exercised in years, I would NOT have them begin a training program by running two miles on the treadmill and then lifting heavy weights. They are simply too out of shape, and they would get hurt and never come back.
As a spiritual trainer of sorts, I also recognize that many people have minds and attention spans that are very much out of shape. I know that if I tell you to sit quietly for 20 minutes and focus only on your breath, that you will “pull a mental muscle” and never come back.
One of the best ways to get your mind and attention in shape is to begin practicing creative meditation.
What is it?
Creative meditation uses visualization and intention to train the mind to focus on specific outcomes. Most athletes, whether they call it creative imagination or not, use visualization before a game to help them optimize their performance. They will block out all noise and distractions and quiet their own mind from any anxious thoughts and simply focus intently on the outcome they want. They see themselves hitting a hole in one. They see themselves scoring 30 points or throwing a winning touchdown.
Now you may think, “But what does visualizing throwing a touchdown have to do with creating inner peace and perfect health?”
The practice of intense visualization trains your mind to focus on what YOU choose to focus it on. For many, using the imagination in their meditation practice is a gentler way to get started; an easier way to focus their full attention on something other than their breath or a mantra.
Getting Started with Creative Meditation
Creative meditation is quite simple and very fun! I would suggest starting with 5 minutes each day. Set a timer on your phone.
The kinds of things you can imagine, obviously, are limitless, so choose an intention based on an outcome you’d like to experience in your own life. For example, if you really need to feel calmer in your life (and who doesn’t), then imagine a calming scenario. There are a couple of ways to do this…
If you are completely new to visualization, you may want to start by recreating something in your mind you have already experienced, as opposed to creating something new in your mind from scratch. Focus on a place you have visited that is calm and brought you peace. Is it a beach? A mountain cabin? Your childhood treehouse? Close your eyes and really put yourself there and feel the calmness and tranquility that space offers.
Once you become able to focus on that scenario and hold it in your mind without your monkey brain chiming in with endless thoughts, you can try to create an entirely new calming scenario in your head. For instance, if you are stressed out at work, you may want to visualize being in your office, cubicle or wherever it is you work and feeling calm there. See yourself there and really feel what it would be like to not feel stressed at all but totally calm and at ease.
You can visualize on any intention and outcome you desire.
Want more energy? Imagine yourself with boundless energy. What does that look like to you? Do you climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath? Do you wake up feeling great? Maybe you start by remembering a younger version of yourself and how you used to be able to play basketball and stay up all night with friends and still have energy the next day to go to college classes.
Maybe your intention is to have a better relationship with your partner. Sit in your quiet space for 5 minutes with eyes closed and visualize what that looks like. Put yourself there and see and feel what that would be like.
You can visualize and imagine any intention and outcome you desire. Over time you will train your mind to be able to FULLY focus on something for 5 minutes. Try upping your time to 7-10 minutes.
Creative meditation is so effective because it is FUN! Using your imagination is fun! That’s why children are so imaginative.
Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.
~ Albert Einstein
And perhaps the best part is, since our minds and thoughts really DO create our reality, then we are shaping our reality for the better while training our minds to focus and be still. A win/win!!
If you’ve been struggling with your meditation practice and are thinking about quitting or have already quit, remember that you must walk before you can run. Try creative meditation and see if you don’t find it an easier way to get started.