March 22, 2016

Taking a Break from our Phones: the First Step in Beginning a Meditation Practice.

author's personal pic: Erin Ramsay (not fore re-use)

Meditation is hard.

Which really does not make intuitive sense, because at its core, meditation is about clearing the mind. Meditation is being still and observing one’s own thoughts. Meditation is being and connecting with yourself.

And the unfortunate reality is that we live in a world where being still, being observant and being within yourself is hard.

I’m a few years into my meditation practice, and this question really plagued me when I first started my meditation journey. Why is meditation hard? Why is meditation daunting?

The benefits of meditation are well researched and well documented, so there is enough content out there which tells us why we should meditate. And while it is hard to do, all signs are showing that people are starting to adopt the practice more.

The topics of meditation and mindfulness are coming up in pop culture, social media and even the business world. It’s also important to keep in mind that the practice itself is thousands of years old, so it’s tried and true.

One of the reasons meditation can be so hard is that we are constantly bombarded with external messages. Our lives are now digital—we manage our daily operations and communicate and consume information primarily through a digital medium. As a result, we are never without a screen, and the energy transfer is two-way—our device both gives us stimuli through messaging, but it also takes away our energy. Why? Because where our mind goes, our energy follows.

We live in a state where our mind and our energy are most often directed towards external messaging. It’s important to recognize that external messaging runs quite the gamut—it can be friendly and uplifting, but also negative and antagonistic.

So what does this mean? It means there is never a void. Smartphone addiction isn’t yet a clinical diagnosis—and some experts contend that our relationship with our phones is more obsessive in nature—but nobody can disagree that we do check our phones a lot.

The actual data collected has reported that we check our phones 46 times per day. Some research reports that certain demographics check their phones 85 times per day. This equates to hours per day, but the true finding is that we are never without external stimuli.

If we experience any sort of void, we fill it with our smartphone.

We have trained our minds to be externally engaged at all times. We practice external focus constantly by responding to any blank moment or space by unlocking our phone and looking for…anything.

A new text message? Ooh, exciting!

No new text message? Phew, I didn’t miss anything.

There is always something on social media—look at all the content!

This makes meditation really hard.

Meditation and mindfulness articles speaks to the difficulty of finding time, feeling the benefits and clearing the mind as the primary challenges when starting a meditation practice. I would argue that the true challenge is clearing the mind, because we have have spent years training the mind to be occupied externally.

As a result, directing our focus from the outside to the inside is not just hard, but it’s a little scary—this is uncharted territory for many—and when something is uncomfortable, we aren’t going to want to go there.

Starting short, finding comfort in the seated pose and limiting distractions are the most common suggestions in regards to overcoming the initial challenges of meditation. However,  my own recommendation is to actually start practicing—before you sit down cross-legged with your eyes closed—by taking a break from your phone.

Leave your phone in another room for a while, or go for a walk without it in your pocket. Go out with your friends and leave your phone behind. Get an old-fashioned alarm clock, so your phone isn’t what introduces the new day.

Practice feeling the space and the void in your daily routines, and this will transfer to your meditation practice.

Start coming up with your own ways to creep into that space—that void—that internal gaze. Start to meet yourself. Start to feel what is going on within the edges of your form, and you’ll begin to realize the benefits of meditation. Because the reason meditation is so hard for us, is the same reason we need it so much.


Author: Erin Ramsay

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own.

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