This morning I was exceptionally all-over-the-place with my mind. You know the feeling? Monkey-mind, squirrel-brain; call it what you want but thoughts were swirling out of control. As a result, I was feeling a physical response of tension in my chest as well as an inability to take a deep breath. The stories related to this uncomfortable feeling were: you just started a new job and you don't know what you are doing and you are not going to do well at it and you will not meet other people's expectations and yada, yada, yada. On top of these stories were lists of things I had to get done today and the overwhelming sense that I didn't want to do any of them. Sound familiar?
So, I set up my oil diffuser (the frankincense and rosemary combo is delightful), sat on my meditation pillow, and spent the first minute taking really big, deep breaths in and then completely exhaling all the air out of my lungs before breathing deeply in again. Then, for some reason, I began a mantra and it went something like this: "I breathe in and I am centered, I breathe out and I am grounded, I breathe in and I am centered, I breathe out and I am grounded...." and so on and so forth. The words paired with the breath work helped me to stay focused and present. Although there were thoughts that popped into my consciousness, the mantra gave me a support structure to realign my awareness and allow the thoughts to dissipate more quickly. Then, I began to imagine that, on the in-breath, I could bring the surrounding energy into a small ball in my chest and, on the out-breath, my body would become more still and rooted into the Earth. For a few moments, I was in "the zone" but then a fly landed on my leg and it was over.
I share this with you to say there is no wrong way to meditate. We get so caught up in the rightness and wrongness of the things we do, whether we are doing them well or doing them poorly, that we become attached to our experiences and thus create stories about them. These stories, most likely untrue, cause suffering. It is okay to do what you need to do to meditate your way, for however long. What's more, every day is different. What works one day is not what you need the next. There is no final exam for this. Just show up.