There’s a difference between solitude and loneliness. Loneliness is a life absent of people that results in sadness, solitude is a positive choice that can result in insight.
This year we have a lot of both, and some people are using this pause in social activity to learn how to meditate. A mindfulness meditation practice can turn time spent alone into revelatory solitude.
But first you have to learn how to do it.
The practice of meditation is deceptively simple. You become still and focus your attention on something, hold it there, and when distracted by thoughts return the attention to the point of focus.
Simple, huh? Try it and see.
Most people don’t know exactly what to try, or how to act when they attempt this simple practice and discover how challenging it actually is. A good teacher can help.
Meditation teachers are everywhere. I teach, and I know four people who studied with me who now teach, some of them with no qualifications other than the 5-hour course they took with me.
Too many teachers promise a lot and don’t deliver, and this is turning people off to meditation. Sure, basic instruction is simple, but the practice requires great effort and delivers a different experience every time the meditator focuses their attention for even a few minutes. Few teachers are prepared to instruct on and support this.
This year I met a man, Dave Smith, who has experience with so many of the challenges mindfulness meditation can present, the language and philosophy that underpins mindfulness practice, and a kind, conversational approach that enables him to address complex concepts in a clear, understandable lesson.
He also has a relatable story of how meditation helped him overcome challenges many people feel are insurmountable. Meeting and speaking with him taught me a lot about what mindfulness can, and cannot, do.
It’s amazing how in his Secular Mindfulness Practice & Education Course he keeps the basic practice of meditation simple while providing information that thoroughly explains ancient ideas, modern research and practical applications of something taught for over 2,000 years.
He bursts the myths and misconceptions about mindfulness and prepares the meditator for what mindfulness can truly deliver: a full experience of your life and your emotions and the ability to approach your life and emotions with balance, less reactivity and more compassion and happiness.
He doesn’t sugarcoat it, or promise that meditation will always be relaxing and pleasurable. Because it won’t be.
Dave realizes that community is crucial to establishing and maintaining a practice, and that community, especially a community that meets in silence, is difficult to establish in an online course. So he sends daily emails with feedback and questions from other students taking the course and holds occasional Zoom meetings to bring together and support his group of students.
I’ve studied with leading Zen and MBSR teachers and find all of the information necessary, the basic and the deep, included in this course of videos, written material and guided meditations. And instead of being delivered by a smiling, spacey new age guru, a distant academic or a robe clad monk, you get it from a down to earth guy with tattoos and a t-shirt whom you can easily imagine hanging out with, talking about real solutions to real problems. And feeling listened to.
As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, most of us are grappling with anxiety. Meditation can help you prevent, predict or manage that anxiety. But it’s difficult to learn during anxious times.
Dave Smith’s Secular Mindfulness Practice & Education Course can help you establish a mindfulness meditation practice right now, when we most need it. A practice you can then stick with and take into your life and grow into peaceful, and sometimes painful, moments of reflective solitude. We can turn a lonely moment into an expansive connection with ourselves and others.
I discussed mental illness, meditation and the struggle to be well on a podcast with Dave. Hear it here.
My book Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis is available wherever books are sold.