I remember falling asleep once in meditation, falling off my cushion and head-butting the floor in front of me. Well if nothing else it certainly had knocked some sense into me.
At the time I was on a silent retreat - I had been pushing my boundaries somewhat - plus not getting quite enough sleep. The results were a sore head and not a lot more. I then realised I needed to learn to balance my approach to practice by getting the right amount of sleep.
So what type of meditator are you then? This is a question worth asking yourself, because, it may affect your approach to meditation. Knowing could be the difference between getting a practice established or getting stuck and giving up altogether. In this article, we're going to explore this.
It's a simple question. If you are a morning person, preferring to get up early and get on with the day, then meditating in the morning would suit you well. If you are a night owl then this might be more of a challenge as you'll probably be “out and about” in the evenings. Finding some time between finishing work and going out might, then, be advisable. If you are not going out then set aside a bit of time each evening if you can.
If you are easily distracted a bit of structured time is useful here. For example, if you prefer meditation in the evening then maybe set aside half an hour where the TV goes off and you find a little quiet corner of the house to sit in. A "Do not disturb sign" might be an idea too.
Also if you find being pulled away from external entertainment difficult then, I'd say, set yourself a goal to give meditation a chance for say one month or so.
Getting going with meditation can be difficult at first, especially sitting still and being quiet. However, there is a joy in this that slowly gets revealed. In fact, it can become such a joy that one can eventually prefer the quiet to the entertainment!
One just needs to give it a good chance and get through some of the more challenging stuff, to begin with.
Do you like getting up and going for a walk or are you more of a sit-down person? Well if you are more of a movement type then some walking meditation before sitting could be a good idea, but, do remember to include sitting meditation after.
Mindfulness isn't about giving into your “wants”; it is about being aware of them and being wise with them.
Perhaps your inner child comes out and kicks his or her feet, "But I prefer walking, I don't want to sit". Just acknowledge this, say “ok” and let it settle then go and sit. If "kick back" comes up in sitting then be patient with the wanting, eventually with practice the mind will settle.
If you are a sitting person then make sure you sit up straight, keep some energy in your posture and don't slouch back; this will keep sloth from creeping in and taking over. Again if the inner child is stamping his or her feet: let them be aware but don't give in.
Sit with a straight but relaxed posture, and again, exercise some patience while the mind settles.
If you are somewhat rigid then try to be open in meditation. Don't focus too hard; instead, have a broad open awareness. Take in the whole of your body; know the general sense of your sitting posture.
Be broad with the sense of your breath too, feel it across your whole torso.
Try to let go of ideas of how meditation should or shouldn't be and instead be open. Work on loosening up any set views; this is because the fixed view mindset isn't always in line with being open to new experiences and there are going to be many in meditation.
So working on being open to these is a good idea.
If you are a fluid easy open person, maybe focus a bit more in meditation; focus on various parts of your body and be a bit more specific with the breath. Once your mind settles and you're used to focusing then loosen a little; going back to your open attitude approach can be good.
However, be careful as being too open might lead you to start getting caught in any old experience that comes up in meditation.
Believe me: there are a lot of experiences that can come up and can lead you down the wrong path.
For example, getting attached to calm states and avoiding dealing with the difficult stuff; this can be detrimental in the long run.
So having the skill of focusing and coming back to the body in the present moment is very useful.
The above is quite a list and could go on: fiery or placid, analytically or emotionally driven, confident or investigative, and so on... I'll do a follow-up blog later on to cover some more.
Which type are you then? I'd love to hear from you. Perhaps you are a combination of the above? If so be willing to be flexible with your meditation approach depending on what mood you are in. Work with yourself but be willing to rebalance when necessary.