Meditation: Getting Started
Welcome to our final installment for Meditation March! In this month’s previous articles, we’ve covered the multitude of health benefits that come with practicing meditation, as well as the many styles and techniques you can use. However, sometimes we still need a little nudge to get us in the right mind-frame to give it a go. Today, we will discuss the basics you need to know to take the first step toward a more mindful, present, and content you!
Run a Meditation Experiment
From our last post, you now have access to information on several ways to meditate. There are SO many… how will you know which one works best for you?
The best way to find out is to do a small test run of the styles that speak the most to you, kind of like a meditation buffet! Start by picking two or three practices that interest you the most, and choose one style for one week. You may even want to journal your findings, such as if a technique worked well with your schedule, or if you had a particularly good experience with it. After a few weeks of “trying them on”, you can make an informed decision on which technique was the one best suited for you.
Meditation works best when it is practiced frequently, and when you feel you get both enjoyment and peace of mind from it. It’s no good sticking with a certain technique if you don’t feel it’s a good fit—not everyone is cut out to do Kundalini Yogic meditation, and thankfully, not all of us have to! The goal is to find the technique right for you.
Explore Meditation Apps
If you still feel a bit overwhelmed by the options available, you may wish to consider trying one of the dozens of meditation apps available. Many are free, and those that require a subscription can be well worth the cost. They can offer meditations for everyday situations, such as calming down from a panic attack, or bringing you back into focus when you feel distracted. Some have soothing visualization meditations that work wonders before bedtime, or series that help you work on long-term goals, like overcoming anxiety or building up your confidence.
Try a Meditation Class
If an app feels a little too impersonal in your quest for your perfect meditation, you might find your flow with a professionally taught course. It’s easy to feel comfortable in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, and you have the chance to receive one-on-one guidance and instruction. Many courses taught by instructors will give you the chance to be guided through imagery meditation and provide you with the tools to practice on your own. If you were already considering trying a technique focused in yoga, many yoga classes reserve special time at the beginning and end of every class for reflection. You can even find events in your area that host meditation courses free of charge.
Assemble Your Tools
Keep in mind that meditation, on the whole, is absolutely free—there are no “required” memberships or “necessary” equipment, other than what you deem fit for your own personal practice.
However, based on the style you wish to pursue, there may be some tools you can add to enhance the effectiveness of your time spent meditating. For example, if you wish to try a sound-based technique, you may want to look into a singing bowl or small gong. If yogic practice is more up your ally, a comfortable yoga mat can be a life-saver. If you have space and resources, you can even dedicate a small corner of your home specifically to meditation. Some people amp up their spaces with a comfy chair or extra pillows, or even a tabletop fountain or chakra scroll to focus on. There are even those who invest in ultra-comfortable clothes just for the occasion.
Whatever you choose (or choose not!) to add to your practice, remember that there is no obligation to buy stuff you don’t want or need. You can always begin your meditation journey just as you are, and add anything you feel could amplify your experience as the need arises.
Confront Your “I Can’t”s
So often, we fantasize about a life where we could meditate… We could spend a little time each day improving our health and leading a more mindful and fulfilling life, but, right now, we just can’t.
First things first is to remove the word “can’t” from your dictionary! Just as with putting off chores or exercise, getting rid of your roadblocks is the most important step to actually making your goals a reality. Next time you feel that next “I can’t”, consider this…
I can’t clear my mind; I keep thinking!
That’s okay! When you first start meditating, you WILL have trouble focusing. You don’t start lifting 200lb. weights on your first day working out, and you aren’t expected to have a perfectly calm mind the first day (or week, or month) you meditate. There will be a lot of feelings, thoughts, memories, and emotions on your mind when you begin, but don’t worry too much about the feelings as they happen. Instead, try to focus on how you feel AFTER you took the time to take care of yourself.
I can’t meditate, I don’t have the time!
If you ever spend five minutes scrolling through your Instagram feed, or two minutes browsing a Wikipedia article, you have time to meditate! There is no rule that says you have to spend 15 minutes, a half hour or an hour meditating. Even a few minutes a day is better than nothing.
You’re never too busy to drink a glass of water, take any medications, or put yourself to bed, and meditation is no different. It’s a form of self-care, and you deserve the time and effort spent toward a more at-ease mind. If anything, busy people are those who benefit from meditation the most. As the quote goes, “I’m so busy today, that… I’m going to meditate 2 hours instead of 1.”
I can’t calm down enough. I get too anxious
If you’re trying meditation to help with anxiety, it’s only natural that you may have some reservations or concerns when you start. After all, you are trying something new that has the ability to leave a lasting impact on your life… That can bring up some big feelings. Try getting some of your energy out before your practice with some exercise, or start with a breathing technique to put yourself in the right headspace.
I can’t sit still long enough!
You don’t have to sit still at all! Just sit as comfortably as you can and wiggle if you need to. You can also try yoga-centered techniques, or going for a walk free of distractions beforehand (as in free of technology, such as phones or earbuds.) Mediation is the art of just being, so as long as you are allowing time that isn’t completely occupied by a distraction, you are doing just fine. As mentioned earlier, even spending a few minutes a day is effective, so there is no need to worry about staying still for extended periods of time.
I can’t do the whole “chanting” pseudo-spiritualist thing… It’s weird.
Meditation is exactly what you make it, nothing more, and nothing less. There is no need to chant or repeat a mantra in a language you don’t understand unless you want to. There is no need to incorporate any spiritual or religious connotations unless you want to. Meditation is so effective that it is used, taught, and practiced by professional athletes, congressmen, and those serving in the armed forces. What’s so weird about being the very best you that you can be?
I tried it before, and I didn’t like it. I can’t; it’s not for me.
As discussed in our last piece, there are several ways to meditate, and each technique will have its own unique attributes. If you find one style isn’t working for you, try another! The world of meditation is like a menu at a restaurant; you’re allowed and encouraged to have something else if you don’t like what you got.
We hope we’ve helped provide all the tools necessary for you to start your own journey of self-care, self-love, and self-discovery through meditation. Remember that there’s nothing to lose by giving it a try… except for maybe years of emotional baggage! Happy meditating!