Confession: I’ve attempted to start a mindfulness meditation practice for close to four years. You read that right…FOUR YEARS. The reason why I was never able to establish a solid practice is that I had some fallacies about what meditation was and how to go about it. It wasn’t until I began doing my own research that I really felt motivated to sit down and meditate on a consistent basis.
Here are 4 ways that helped me begin a meditation practice.
Get your calendar out yo’
RSVP to yourself. Seriously. Pick a time and place that works for you. When I first started meditating, it helped to have a consistent time that worked for my schedule. By having a designated time, I had no excuses to NOT meditate. For me, I like to meditate first thing in the morning and about an hour before I go to bed. Not going to lie, sometimes the night meditation doesn’t happen – I’m too tired, I get distracted doing other things…life happens. But I always get in my morning meditation. Even on a day where I’m running behind, I’ll sit for at least 5 minutes. The location is also important. I personally like to meditate in my living room in front of my patio doors. It has a lot of natural light and I like to hear the morning doves in the tree outside (and because #nature) It’s good to pick a place where there is not a lot of noise and you won’t be interrupted or distracted. So pick a time and place and put it on your calendar. Set a daily reminder if you have to.
Apps and Zerts
If you don’t get the Parks and Rec reference….here you go: Apps and Zerts
But really, get yourself some apps. I personally use the Calm app. I’ve used others in the past but Calm has been the real game changer for me. (I plan on doing a review of all mediation apps I’ve used so stay tuned.) When you’re first starting out, 5 minutes can feel like 20 minutes. You’ll feel tempted to look at your phone or check the time. It’s so helpful to have a voice to listen to and guide you in breathing and direction, especially when you’re a beginning. Most guided meditations are for a variety of different functions like sleep, focusing, anxiety, gratitude, self-esteem, forgiveness etc. Choose one that works for you and then mix it up! You may even get to point where you don’t want a guided meditation. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t – it really depends on my mood. Do whatever feels right for you!
Drop the judgment.
This is what really did me in. I had this assumption that meditation meant that I was supposed to sit for 30 minutes without thinking a single thought. It’s ACTUALLY impossible to not think. After during a lot of research, I finally learned: It’s okay to think during meditation. Re-read that: It’s okay to think during meditation. One more time: It’s okay to think during meditation. Got it? When I was first starting out in my practice, I would get prepared to meditate. I would lay out my yoga mat, turn off the lights, light a candle, find the perfect song, set my timer and then I would sit with my topknot and open palms.
Immediately, I would start thinking. The conversation went a little something like this:
“Stop thinking, stop thinking…ughh”
“Why can’t you do this?”
“Did I start the dishwasher?”
“SEE! YOU’RE THINKING!”
“Breathe, Breathe, ooooommmmmmmm BREATHE BREATHE BREATHE”
“Did you remember to call your grandma back? It’s been two days.”
“This is dumb…”
“Why do you even need to meditate? it’s not like you’re going to become a Monk and live in a cave”
*Opens eyes and scrolls through Instagram for the next 10 minutes till alarm goes off*
Don’t be like me. Don’t have this dialogue with yourself.
Some days you’re going to be overwhelmed with thoughts when you meditate. That is OKAY. It happens to everyone. Remember to return to your breath as soon as you can. Don’t tell yourself that you “can’t” do it or that you’re “bad” at it. Relax. This isn’t a sport. You’re not trying to rack up points or tackle your opponent. Don’t over complicate something that is so simple. Stop judging yourself and just sit yourself down, close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Consistency = MAJOR KEY ALERT
This is probably the most important part of starting any practice. Turn it into a habit. Consistency is what is going to make your practice really stick. Take it from the girl who tried to meditate for FOUR years. The only thing that really worked was returning to the floor every day. Even on days that I claimed I didn’t have the time or see the value in sitting with my eyes closed for an extended amount of time. One of the craziest things about meditation is that you don’t see the results immediately. You don’t meditate for a week and magically all of your stress and anxiety disappears. About 2 months into my daily meditation, I remember having this moment of like “aha…so this is the good stuff” I began noticing my thoughts and emotions but not having a reaction to them. When a stressful situation would arise, I handled it with an ease and calmness that wasn’t there before. The results of meditation are subtle but they are ubiquitous.
It’s also important to remember that there are different types of meditation. I found mindfulness meditation was the best choice for me. Do some research. Try out a few different types of meditation. See what works best for you. I had to learn to drop the judgment, stay consistent with my practice and remain patient with myself. After about two or three months, I began to really see and feel the benefits in my life.