I’ve been wanting to do a post on meditation for a long time, but trying to figure out the best way to write about it has been difficult. Meditation has been life changing, and a catalyst for my growth as a human being. That being said, how can I write this in a blog post so that I can 1) effectively communicate what it has done for me and 2) do so in a way that makes sense for you as a reader. The ultimate goal of this post is to share some of my life experience with you in the hopes that you can find something helpful that may work for you. Meditation has been an essential part of my recovery from both addiction and eating, as well as an integral part in motherhood. I’m so grateful that it has risen in popularity and though it may seem like a trendy fad for yoga people, I believe strongly that it is an important thing we can all do to become better humans. So please continue reading to learn meditation for beginners.
My Own Meditation Story
I was first introduced to meditation through a yoga class at a dance conference. The teacher ended the class in savasana, as we do, and she did a body scan meditation. I fell asleep because as a teenager, I wasn’t really trying to get any kind of mental benefits, I just went to a class. After getting sober in 2000, meditation was suggested as a daily practice to get in touch with a higher power. We were to read meditation books and spend time in quiet reflection. I will tell you that over the years, quiet reflection has been very difficult. When I first started sitting down to meditate, I wanted to run far far away and hide somewhere that was full of things to keep my mind stimulated, Being present with myself was not appealing, not at all. I did it anyway, and over time, it became easier. Then you know, it got harder again. Then it was easier, then harder again. I think that’s why it’s called a practice. It’s hard. If it were easy, it probably wouldn’t have so many benefits. Today, I am still squirmy for the first 5 minutes but settle down and can enjoy the last 10 minutes.
What have I gained from it? For one, I am still sober, 17 years later. I have grown as a human being. I’ve become more kind, more thoughtful, and less afraid of the world. I have gained a heightened sense of awareness of a little voice from within, my intuition. I have learned how to be present and still, in the moment, not perfectly, but better than I was. I have had a major perspective change in life, I’ve learned how to be grateful, and I’ve learned how to be gracious (or at least more than I was). I have gained a stronger connection with my God, and I have come to develop a set of beliefs and moral code that cannot be shaken by the opinions of others. I have less anxiety and I sleep better. I have become more creative and have found joy in creativity. I have learned to be a better wife, and I think, a better mother. Meditation has been essential to my self care.
Common Meditation Myths
- I can’t sit still that long, so I can’t meditate – I hear this a lot. People always say this specific sentence, I just can’t sit still that long. The thing is, no one can, that’s why we have meditation. It’s like saying I can’t go to the gym because I’m too fat, or I can’t go to church because I’ve sinned too much. Meditation is there to help you still the mind, so since it’s a practice, that means it’s not easy. One of the things that I struggle with in meditation is that sitting down quietly for 10 minutes makes me want to run away. In the book “Eat, Pray, Love” she talks about having to sit in a cave and meditate and she feels like her skin is going to burn off, like she is on fire. That is seriously how I feel when I sit down to meditate, every. single. time. Even now, I want to run to the hills when I think about being quiet and sitting still for 10 minutes. I try to think of ways to get out of it. Like, oh today, I’ll just do it 5 minutes. Or today, I’ll just skip and do something else. Oh, my yoga counted for today. This year, though, I made a commitment to myself to meditate daily and so, no matter the excuse, I have made myself sit down and do it daily. Guess what? I still feel that way when I sit down, but it goes away more quickly now.
- Meditation is for Buddhists and I’m a Christian – I hear this a lot too. No, meditation not just for Buddhists. In fact, Jesus spent a lot of time meditating. When I converted to Catholicism, Father Pat had us go out into the woods in this beautiful place, and meditate. He led us in a meditation. I’m not really sure why Christians are so afraid of yoga or meditation, or why it is something that seems so odd, but meditation is simply quieting the mind. It can be however you want it to be, and you can incorporate any God, or lack there of, in any way you’d like to. It can be a spiritual practice that focuses on listening to the voice of your God, or it can simply be a time where you try to quiet yourself and take a break from the constant stimulus of the world. There are scientific studies that show how meditation benefits the mind and actually changes the chemistry of your brain, so it can be as spiritual or as nonspiritual as you’d like it.
- I don’t have time to meditate – Bullshit. Sorry, not trying to be rude, and I know it’s hard, but I’m calling bullshit. You will make time if it’s important to you and if you’re reading the post, I think you are probably a little interested. Otherwise, you would’ve clicked that x already. I have to meditate during nap time. Even if I get up early, I can’t meditate because I am too focused on waking up and coffee. Others love to meditate in the morning, it all depends on you.
- I don’t know how. Let me tell you how I did it!
How to do Meditation
If you feel inclined to start a practice on your own, there are tons of resources out there to help you. I am going to tell you some key things that helped me in my journey, but please know, these are not perfect for everyone.
- Create a meditation space – I’m sure you’ve heard of muscle memory. We get better as we do things over and over, like riding a bicycle or driving a car. Creating a space and a ritual for each time you meditate will help your body and mind remember that you are getting ready to meditate so get your mind right. I try to invoke most of the senses. For smell, I use incense and candles. For sound, I do a guided meditation, I open a window to hear the birds, or there is meditation music you can find on YouTube. For sight, and this is probably a bit of stretch, but I light a candle. While I close my eyes to meditate, I light the candle first, say a prayer for whomever comes to my mind, and then do all of the other stuff. The things I include in a my space are very important to me. I only use candles that have a special meaning or bring me a lot of joy. I use incense that makes me happy like sandalwood or frankincense. I have items that special people in my life have given as a gift. And I have a plant to bring some life to my space. You don’t have to do all of that, but I do recommend having a special candle, a special scent, and a special pillow or blanket. My routine includes lighting a candle and saying a prayer, lighting incense, reading my meditation book, and then setting my timer.
- Wear comfortable clothes and have a way to sit comfortably but straight up – Since I do yoga, I have learned how to sit in a meditation pose comfortably, but before, I would generally sit in a chair or lean up against the wall. I do use a pillow to help elevate my hips and keep my back straight. You can lie down but be careful because I will fall asleep lying down, almost every time.
- Use a timer – I use Insight Timer which is an app for my iPhone, but you can use anything. My recommendation is to start with 5 minutes. You can just be quiet for 5 minutes, or you can listen to meditation music on Youtube for 5 minutes. It may be hard, you may open your eyes to check your time every 30 seconds, but commit to yourself that you will not get up, no matter how uncomfortable for 5 minutes. Do that for a month and see how you do. After a month, increase your time to 7 minutes. Then try 10 minutes. You can meditate as long as you want, but my daily goal is between 10-15 minutes.
- Breathe – Focus on your breathe. As your mind starts thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner that night, and you realize what you’re doing, just say, oh okay, and take your focus back to where you feel your breathe. Do you feel the air come in and out of your nose? Do you feel it in the back of your throat? Do you feel the rise and fall of your chest? That’s where i feel it most, in my chest. So when my mind wanders, I just focus on the rise and fall of my chest.
- Be gentle with yourself – remember, this is a practice. It isn’t easy. You’re going to miss days. You’re not going to be able to sit there some days. I have gotten up many times and just said, eff it, I can’t do this today. I always try to come back the next day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet.
I am typically very private about my practice, but I felt the urge to share this with y’all. I think meditation is important and beneficial for anyone, any religious beliefs, any place in life. We are constantly inundated with messages from others, on the news, in our feeds, everywhere. It’s VERY important that we shut that out from time to time and learn to connect with the voice within. You have an intuition that is God given. I’ve learned through motherhood that just because someone says it on the internet, doesn’t make it true. So how do I know the answer? I have to learn to listen to myself. I am linking a podcast that talks about this so if you have time, take a listen. Thanks for reading