You want to meditate, but not today because everything is rubbish
You got turned down for a job, you’re worried about money and your go-to behaviours for handling this sort of anxiety are in full swing. You want to overeat, blame, booze, imagine nobody cares, watch porn – choose your weapon. The thought of facing all that anxious, itchy, tension in your meditation session is not appealing. Make a cup of tea. It’s never a bad idea. While the kettle boils, notice the pattern on the mug and watch the steam rising in an effortless swirl. Then make yourself this promise:
You can do all the destructive crap you want but only after you sit and meditate for 15 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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.