I’m a meditator. I’ve been meditating regularly for about 3-5 years. Before that I did occasionally but it never really stuck.
Fun fact: I actually first meditated as a teen when I was struggling with anxiety and my mom bought me a Louise Hay meditation tape. I sat in my room, criss cross apple sauce and lit a scented candle (it was very 1993). But my mind swirled. And I quickly gave it up. Though I did enjoy listening to Louise talk, and I’m sure some of her wisdom definitely stuck (win).
Fast forward and I dabbled here and there but my meditation practice always fell flat. Primarily because like most people I thought meditation meant sitting still for long durations repeating mantra and chanting. Or being completely silent. That was enough to make my head spin, give me a twitch and fire my monkey mind into overdrive. Cue: me running away screaming.
The tides they turned (thank goodness)
When things really started to shift for me was when I began to practice self-compassion. And read the book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris.
What I started to see was that while sitting in lotus, chanting, or observing silence is meditation, it’s also not the whole picture.
In fact, research is showing that the benefits of meditation can be felt as soon as after one single session. Yup, with just one session of meditation you might notice increased mood, decreased stress, and reduced blood pressure..
What? Yup. One session! YES! I call that a win!
And (bonus), whenever I fall away in the meditation practice – it’s not me failing at meditation (phew), it’s me being human! Hand on heart, be kind and begin again (thank you Kristen Neff, Chris Germer and Sharon Salzberg).
I’m now happy to report I meditate about 3-5x per week. Sometimes I sit for 2 minutes, sometimes 20 (rarely, let’s be honest). But it all counts. And it all adds up to making a difference in my life (win). I’ve even written and recorded a few of my own meditations for members of the Super You Studio. Talk about a full circle moment (Louise Hay would be proud).
In this blog I’m clearing up some of the meditation myths that might be tripping you up and provide you with some tips to get your practice started.
(A Few) Meditation Myths:
- Meditation requires a fancy cushion.
- You need to sit (in silence) for hours of time to get benefits.
- The objective of meditation is to “still the mind.”
Nope. Nope and….Nope.
- You can meditate ANYWHERE. Legit. I’ve done it in a busy airport surrounded by people. I sat in a lounge chair.
- I often use guided meditations. I like someone walking me through it. Or I’ll use really soft (no words) ambient music. Why no words…because…distraction (in my alternate world I’m a rock star, so my urge to sing along is intense).
- There is no such thing as a still mind. Our minds are CONSTANTLY thinking. The objective of meditation is to notice it. And be able to bring our attention to a single point of focus (essentially to “tame” the mind from running around like a crazy monkey – hence the phrase “monkey mind.”)
So, what can you do?
- Try an App like Calm or Insight Timer. Guided meditations can be really powerful especially when you’re just starting your practice. Many apps have free versions to try. This is not an ad and those aren’t affiliate links. I just like the companies.
- Follow your breath. Simply sit and focus on your breath at your belly or nostrils (or wherever you can feel it) for 5 inhales and 5 exhales. This is a simple practice of mindfulness meditation and is incredibly powerful.
- Repeat a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase. You can use it bu repeating it aloud (like a chant) or in your head. It does not need to be in Sanskrit to be effective. Repeating a simple phrase like the metta phrases from loving kindness meditation can be extremely powerful. What are they? May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be safe. May I live with ease. That’s one version, feel free to get creative and develop your own! There really are no rules. Speak what serves you!
- Count beads on a mala or gaze at a candle flame. Yup. You too could light a scented candle! In all seriousness though, finding a point of concentration is a powerful meditation tool. In fact that’s what you’re doing when you focus on your breath or repeat a mantra! As for those beads, if you happen to have a mala – using it is simple. Simply start at the “guru” bead (the one at the tassel typically) and work your way around, counting the beads one by one. For more on this practice and the meanings read this.
- Sit and notice. Notice your desire to move, go do something, make mental lists. Just notice. No judgement. Breathe and be. The act of meditation is training your body and mind to respond to your intention: to not move. You may find the urge to move is like that of a rebellious teen who’s been told they’re grounded. It’s ok. Be with that. Acknowledge the discomfort. And ride the wave.
Making it happen
However you do it, look at how you can build your meditation practice into your life.
- Meditate each morning while the coffee brews.
- Plan to meditate at the end of your work day as a way to release your day and transition into after work activities.
- Build it into your night time routine for a restful sleep!
However you do it, start small with 2-5 minutes. And slowly work your way up. Even 10-20 minutes 3x per week can make a profound difference on your concentration, focus and satisfaction.
Need a bit more convincing?
- just a single session cuts mind-wandering by 22%.
- in 10 days participants experienced a 7.5% increase in satisfaction with life.
- 4-weeks of meditation can increase focus by 14%,
- 8-weeks of meditation participants reported a 46% reduction in depression and a 31% reduction in anxiety
Bottom line: Meditation is good for our health – body, mind and spirit.