Hi <<First Name>>,
Welcome to Day 1 of the "Meditate with Ease" Challenge! One of the biggest obstacles to meditation I hear, is "lack of concentration" or "inability to calm and focus the mind". While getting rid of thoughts is impossible and not the purpose of meditation, you do need to cultivate the ability to focus your mind and allow distractions to pass you by (without getting swept away by them).
And this is done through "concentration meditation" practices. Meditation teacher Ram Dass, calls concentration the "root skill of all meditation practices".
When I did my first ten day meditation retreat, they taught us a simple concentration practice that we did for the entire first three days (before ever introducing us to any other meditation technique). They did this because they knew that if we couldn't focus our minds in a simple practice, we would find all other meditation practices frustrating and likely give up.
"First we need to stop the invasion of feelings and thoughts, which deplete our strength in meditation, and cultivate the capacity, the power, of concentration. Concentration is the first practice of meditation."
Thich Nhat Hanh
So while completely emptying your mind of all thoughts is not natural, neither is feeling bombarded and overwhelmed by them 24/7. We live in a very noisy society, and distractions are constantly competing for our attention. In order to find more peace of mind, feel more calm, and find ease, joy, and focus during meditation (and life), you must first cultivate concentration.
I recommend everyone start their meditation journey with a concentration practice. And I still start all my sittings (no matter what type of practice I plan to do) with a few minutes of concentration and grounding.
Once you get used to doing this through the guided meditation, it becomes easier to do it on your own anytime and anywhere. A client just told me she did it in the grocery store, to combat feelings of anxiety as she waited in line. For those who are particularly sensitive and prone to anxiety and overwhelm (raising hand), this practice may become your best friend!
And if you think you just can't sit and meditate, you likely just need to cultivate more concentration :) Take it slow and perhaps just start with a few minutes a day. There are more active practices that will also help cultivate concentration, but they're also often are more distraction-prone. We'll discuss them shortly, but for now just try to start with this basic seated concentration practice.
Share with us in the Facebook Group to be entered to win a prize (be sure to post it on the DAY 1 THREAD)!
That's it for today. Tomorrow's topic is is a fun one and a favorite with many of my students.
See you then!