Be Kind To Yourself When You Meditate – You Numpty!

If you’re not being nice to yourself, you’re flipping well doing it wrong!

There are great skills to learn from meditation: the ability to concentrate, emotional calming techniques, equanimity and how to flap your ears (kidding!) But if you try any of these without being kind to yourself you have missed the point. Because we’re all really good at beating ourselves up, most of us become easily annoyed or disenchanted with our efforts. Even monks who’ve been at it for 30 years get cheesed off sometimes.

Just noticing that you’re distracted is meditation gold. Getting to know how your mind works is what it’s all about. When you appreciate how downright bonkers it is in there, you are in a better position to deal with what’s going on with some grace.

You’re not alone if think if your meditation would go a lot better if your mind would just shut up at your command. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that, but the chatter will settle down eventually if you keep realising you’ve got distracted and refocus your attention. It’s important that the noticing should be done with some kindness, or at least a sense of humour at how crazy your mind is!

Here’s how to be kind to yourself during your mediation…

  • Actually allow yourself five minutes to meditate.
  • Are your shoulders up by your ears? drop ’em cowboy.
  • If you feel a bit strung-out or anxious just accept it and lower your expectation that you should be calmer.
  • Be comfortable – you don’t have to be in the Lotus position.
  • Don’t hurl insults at yourself when you get distracted.
  • Smile when you hear yourself grumbling.
  • Have a cup of tea after.


Living With Smelly Goats

There’s always going to be something that pushes your buttons… or smashes the buttons with a hammer and rams the pieces into your eyeballs.

But with regular meditation you will get better at realising when your mind is spinning out. Noticing that your thoughts are racing to oblivion gives you a bit of room to shift your perspective.

That’s where the goat comes in…

There’s an old parable about a poor farmer. He’s got six children, everyone’s living on top of each other, they’ve poor and arguing all the time. The farmer finds a quiet moment and asks God for help…

Bring a goat into your home”, says God.

So the farmer bought a goat and introduced it into his small house. The goat peed in the farmer’s shoes, kept everyone awake at night and was unbearably smelly.

After a few weeks of chaos the farmer was beside himself and asked God to help him again…

“Remove the goat”, says God.

The farmer removed the goat and found peace again.

Things could always be worse. You could still be in that terrible relationship, or be in hospital with raging toothache. Or be living with a smelly goat.

Your Body Is Aways Now

Your body doesn’t live in the past or the future.

It’s always in the present moment. That’s why placing your attention on how you’re feeling physically can have such a calming effect.

If you’ve tried to meditate even for a few seconds, you’ll know how exhausting it can be to keep up with your mind’s hyper-distracted gymnastics… jumping from thinking about the past to worrying about the future, all in a heartbeat.

One way to cut through the restlessness is to focus on the sensations in your body.  Shut your eyes and focus on any physical feelings like pressure, tingling, heat or pain –  even your indigestion counts here!

Your body only knows how to be in the present moment so it’s a super effective way to ground yourself and to stop your mind spinning out.

Try not to get wrapped up in thinking about your senses – just keep bringing your focus back to the tightness in your jaw or the tingle in your toes.

Why Meditating With A Hangover Is A Life Enhancing Skill

Drunken pig

Meditating with a hangover takes balls

You really won’t feel like doing it, but you’ll learn so much more about yourself than you would from a more ordinary session.

Being properly hungover is a vivid experience. You’ll be acutely aware of your physical symptoms and your mental state is unusual. It’s best to meditate before your preferred damage limitation choices: full English, hair of the dog, painkillers… The more raw you feel, the more material you’ll have to work with!

Get right inside the pain

Sit down in a quiet, comfy place and set a timer for ten minutes. Be brave and focus on how you feel. Place your attention on your body. Where are the strongest sensations? What about the nausea your stomach? What is that really like?  Is there a crest? Does it flash or it is more lurching? Are you clenched around your stomach, trying to control it? Can you make a little space around the feeling? If it’s too strong, back off a little to a more manageable place; maybe focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Then if you can, bring your attention back – has your experience changed at all?

If at anytime you need to go throw up, go right ahead. Try to make it to the sink first though. If you feel dizzy, maybe keep your eyes open and gently focused on a stable spot in front of you. Keep breathing.

Mentally, you’ll have a bunch of stuff going on. You probably have a headache or find it particularly difficult to focus. And there may be some emotional trickiness to deal with, too. Maybe you’ll be worrying over what you said about Brexit or there could be some ominous blank spots in your memory.

There might be some excitement going on – elation that you finally told someone you liked them or some enjoyable booze-induced bonding. You might still be drunk.

Put a little space around these feelings if you can and try to hold them with some gentleness.

There’s a tendency with hangovers to punish yourself because it’s ‘self-inflicted’. Bugger that nonsense.

It’s really important to see being hungover as an opportunity to be super-kind to yourself.

Get up carefully when your timer goes off.

Hungover benefits

Meditating with a hangover teaches that you can deal with your really unpleasant and uncomfortable feelings when your first instinct is to escape them.

Being present with yourself when you feel like shit means you’re less likely to resort to numbing or self-pitying behaviour, like drinking loads more or beating yourself up for getting so drunk.

Creating that space, becoming interested and kind to yourself, means you’re processing the feelings instead of storing them up and letting them fester. It’s a major life-enhancing skill.

Now go and eat a plateful of sausages and drink lots of water. 

Thoughts Aren’t Really Real

Loads of your problems come from the stories you make up about what’s going on

Thoughts are your way of interpreting what’s happening in the world. They’re a best guess – and not always terribly accurate.

To illustrate this, imagine a wasp lands on you. You hate wasps, you tense up, get anxious, swat it, heart rate goes up. Irritated. What’s the reality here?

A tiny insect brushed your arm.  The barest of fleeting sensations. The drama was created by the story in your head: Wasp! Fuck. It’s going to sting me! They always sting me. WASP! It’s gonna hurt! Fucking hate wasps the absolute wankers.

The story in your head determines whether you’re going to react calmly or run naked through your house snapping a tea-towel in the air. The meaning you give things – how you interpret what’s happening – makes a huge difference.

‘Real’ doesn’t always mean ‘true’

The thoughts in your head are real, as in they exist.  But your reasoning, opinions or habitual way of thinking might be flawed and create inaccurate thoughts. For example:

There’s a weird vibe at work. You automatically assume:

  • You’ve fucked something up because you’re crap at your job
  • They heard what happened with  Joanne at the Christmas party
  • They’ve discovered you’re stalking them on social media
  • That lie you told three years ago has made it into the local press

When any number of things could may have happened…

  • Someone’s distracted with their own tricky personal dilemma
  • There’s stuff going on you don’t yet know about –  but it’s not about you
  • Someone else may have buggered something up
  • There is nothing weird going on at all

You are a meaning-creating creature. It’s in your human DNA.  You tend to stick yourself in the middle of your own drama.

Making stories up helps you predict and prepare for what might happen. It’s a skill that keeps you safe from internet scams and being hit by cars.

Being hyper-vigilant like this can lead to endless, exhausting worry. You don’t have to react to every random thought that pops up into your head. Meditation shows the sheer tonnage of nonsense you think within the space of five minutes.

Not all your thoughts are worth responding to!

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