People love to talk about meditation like it's easy. Like all you have to do is sit down, close your eyes, and in a few short weeks of consistent practice you will experience the Oneness, have a transcendental experience, and start unraveling all of your conditioning.
Well I call bullshit.
The truth is that collectively our attention is broken. We are bombarded with constant stimulus. Social media, how many instagram "likes" we've acquired today, fear-mongering news, flashing lights, smart phones, and a million ways to numb out, check out, and disassociate from our Higher mind, our trauma, and our uncomfortable feelings.
We have lost focus, the ability to concentrate, and connection to our deepest listening.
The yoga tradition teaches that when we are born, wrapped in jiva (your mortal body) that your Witness, our Higher consciousness is cloaked. It is hidden away deep beneath the 5 koshas, which for now you can think of as 5 layers of your being that make you a human.
As we move through life, if we don't wake up, yoga teaches that we walk around in ignorance, not seeing the world with clear perception, and we forget who we really are. The sages say this is the source of our suffering. Not knowing who we are. Forgetting.
The tradition teaches that we start to identify with the objects of our perception and the subject (aka YOU) becomes fused with those objects. An example? Your pain, your fears, your likes and dislikes, your mental chatter, your thought life...all of it becomes your identity. Your history, your inclinations, your pesky emotional habits.
And the more you identify with your mind-body complex and all your emotions and thoughts? Well the more cloaked the real you becomes, Higher Self gets buried. Consciousness itself gets buried. Our ability to connect gets Our ability to connect gets hidden behind the veil of mind, habits, and false perceptions.
Lets fast-forward to you and your meditation practice (or lack thereof)...
Ok so your consciousness is cloaked in a veil of darkness (don't worry there's a way out), your attention is broken, or at least banged up, and you have decided to start meditating. You sit down and set an alarm for 15 minutes.
What happens next? Well for many new practitioners after about 5 minutes any value that was gained is lost.
Why? Lots of reasons. Frustration, physical pain and tension, rising anxiety as they get quiet and face their own monkey mind for the first time, trauma...a thousand reasons.
And here's the deal, pushing through and forcing yourself to sit? The impressions that caused the issues in the first place are only going to get stronger AND you'll have delightful new objects to attach to like "I suck at meditation," "I have anxiety", "this practice doesn't work."
And in that state there is no glimpse into consciousness, no glimmer of something worth having. The practice can just become another place we shame ourselves for not being good enough.
Meditation is arduous. Especially in our culture, in this day and age, in our present condition.
But it isn't impossible. And it is critical if you want to grow into your highest potential. Ultimately it is our most potent practice and its benefits immeasurable.
So what to do...
Take the pressure off. Meditate for 5 to 7 minutes and no longer. Build your center slowly over time. Get acquainted with your mind and allow yourself to catch glimpses of the one that is always at rest.
Who is that? It's the part of you that doesn't transition. That doesn't get triggered, that watches your emotions, the part of you that is always content, always free, the part of you that observes your mind. You can learn to live in that consciousness more and more of the time and be pulled by the thinking mind less and less.
But it will take patience, consistency, and "shraddha" faith in the practice, trust that it works.
Celebrate your small successes, the moment when you for a split second you realize that you are not your breathing body but the one that watches the breath, those tiny moments when you truly connect with "I am not my thoughts." And every time you have one of those moments, use it the next time you go in to guide you there quicker. Remember it, seal it in your heart. Return to it.
Trust. Trust the process. And I know it is so simple and cliche but just return to your breath. Again and again. Be its disciple. Its prana and it has something to teach you.
Choose a practice you can stick with and then do it, for 40 days. Get an accountability buddy and truly commit. And I promise you will see a shift and the more glimpses into the Oneness you get? Into consciousness? The more you will crave it. And the longer you will sit. It will become sweet. I promise.
Need somewhere to start?
I cannot recommend enough my teacher Yoga Rupa's Sanctuary app for short, potent meditations. He has designed specific meditations for healing your cognitive mind that are rooted in tradition, 5-7 minutes long, and tailored for newbies. You'll also find a number of soundcloud meditations on my website, always free and available to you.