In the past I put a lot of pressure on myself to meditate the ‘right way’. Attempting to find a state of inner peace, clutching to the hope that if I pushed myself hard enough I would eventually transform into an enlightened ‘guru’. Believing that finally all my troubles would magically disappear.
But the problem was, I was finding my experience with meditation far from enlightening. I was in a constant battle with my mind, attempting to block out my thoughts and emotions when they arose. It seemed the harder I tried to push myself, the further I felt from finding my inner state of ‘zen.’
I tried countless times to set myself strict routines to meditate each night for a set amount of time. But when I wasn’t able to stop my mind racing or sit still without getting a dead leg, I became frustrated and feel like I was failing.
I was constantly seeking external sources for answers; online, books, spiritual retreats, and other people’s experiences. I felt impatient, confused and frustrated. Because all that searching just lead me to more questions and suffering through comparing myself to others.
Looking back what I really wanted was a ‘quick fix’ for my life. I hoped that someone would show up and tell me “This is it! Here is the answer to what life is all about!” I put so much pressure and expectations on my meditation practice to give me answers. But I completely missed the point!
Until one day something changed for me. I realized that I wasn’t actually doing what I wanted, I wasn’t listening to what I needed. Meditation was not there to ‘cure’ me, or offer a ‘quick fix’ to my problems, nor was something I could force.
So I took a step back and it occurred to me, I was not really living my life – I was not living my truth. I was just going through the motions, desperate to find answers and my intentions were all wrong. I was so busy caught up in expectations and relying on external sources for answers, instead of trusting that I already held the knowledge within.
So what did I do?
I made the decision to stop using meditation as a ‘quick fix’ and accept where I was at, right at that moment. It was time to drop the expectations and take responsibility for my life.
Here are eight steps towards finding your inner peace:
1. Be kind to yourself.
Learning to be kind to yourself is the most important step, because self-judgement only holds you back. I learned that it was okay to fall along the way, congratulate yourself for having the courage to give things a go. You are already on the right path, learn to trust yourself.
2. Listen to your body.
Tune into your emotions and thoughts, simply sit with them instead of trying to block them out. Ask yourself the question: What do I need to nourish myself today? Just listen, the answer will come. It may be a thought, bodily sensation or a feeling.
This is part of meditation, because you are learning to trust your intuition. With practice you will discover a deeper sense of inner peace and connection to life.
3. Don’t always focus externally for answers.
Part of being human is to seek and learn. But focusing all your energy on external sources for answers, can lead you to feeling overwhelmed. Often it takes your further from your own unique path.
Information is helpful, but your number one source of information should come internally. When you begin to tune in and accept who you are, the answers often come naturally.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others.
This can be difficult at times due to our constant access to information. But when you learn to accept that everyone is at different stages on their journey, this helps to lift the pressure. Judging ourselves and others will only cause separation and keep us from living our true purpose.
5. Accept where you are right now at this moment.
This is a very powerful step, because you begin to surrender to life. Accepting that life is full of mystery, and surrendering to the fact that you cannot control it is very empowering. You will never have all the answers, nor will you ever be 100 percent ready to take that leap of faith. And that’s okay. What is important is enjoying the journey and staying open to what life presents.
6. Challenge your beliefs.
Challenging your beliefs is about asking yourself honest questions. Ask yourself the following:
“Am I doing the things that truly resonate with me?”
“Is my life aligned with my passions and core values?”
Or “Am I just following directions of others?”
These questions help give you insight towards realigning with your true purpose. It might help to write them down or keep a journal.
7. Embrace life for what it truly is.
Life is a constant ebb and flow of change, nothing is stagnant and everything is energy. The sooner you begin to embrace the messiness, chaos and the unpredictable and sometimes crazy flow of life. The more you become open to what life has to offer.
8. Acknowledge that meditation comes in many forms, there are no rules.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines Meditation as: “The act of giving your attention to only one thing, as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.”
I realized that I had such a narrow view of what meditation was, and there were in fact, no rules. By turning your attention to one task at a time and being fully present for that task, you are practicing meditation or mindfulness. This practice allows you to tune into the present moment, bringing a sense of calm and inner peace. This is what it means to feel truly alive.
What I discovered from practicing these steps.
Firstly, I learned that that meditation comes in many forms and that the most important thing is just to be present.
Some forms of meditation that I enjoy are:
Quiet reflection, body scanning, walking barefoot in the garden, yoga, hot baths, drinking tea in the garden, conscious dance, music, gardening and bush walking. All of these I put my heart an soul into and enjoy being fully present
By following my instincts, my heart, and not my head I started to realize that this was in fact true meditation and inner peace – it is a way of nourishing the soul. When we are doing things that bring us joy, that make us present in our body, we are practicing the deepest form of meditation.
So have these practices lead me to find all the answers? Absolutely not.
And am I feeling any closer to becoming an enlightened guru? Unfortunately no…
But what I have gained along the way is deeply rewarding. I feel a strong sense of gratitude for life, just as it is – the beauty beneath the chaos. I am able to experience inner peace by focusing my attention on individual tasks that shape a sense of purpose and meaning.
How can these steps help you to find inner peace?
Life is about finding joy in the simple pleasures, the things that nourish your soul. By practicing these steps towards inner peace you are learning to stay true to yourself, as well as discovering what feels good in your heart.
These practices will help you tune into your inner being and help to free you from life’s pressures and expectations. When you truly begin to accept yourself and follow your own path, you will discover the endless possibilities that meditation has to offer.
What form of meditation do you enjoy and how do you find peace through your practice? Share your comments below.
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