Meditation. I'm willing to bet that you've heard of it since it's such a hot topic these days, but you may be too bashful to admit that you're not exactly quite sure what it means. The Buddhist Centre describes meditation as "a means of transforming the mind...[to] encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things." Or more simply put, meditation teaches us to calm the mind and see things as they really are.
There is so much evidence out there as to why we should meditate (it reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves levels of happiness...the list goes on!), but I've heard just as many "reasons" as to why we don't meditate (we don't know how, don't have time, can't sit still...the list goes on!). Been there, said all that. When I started practicing yoga, I wanted nothing to do with the "crunchy, granola" side. Meditating bored me and I was terribly uncomfortable with "Om's". But over time, as I got over myself and stop letting my ego tell me what I should or shouldn't be doing, I came to appreciate meditation for what it was: a time to sit quietly without expectations or judgement.
So how did I go from being Miss Judgey McJudgerson to someone who loves meditating and chanting "Om"? I took baby steps and started small. It wasn't something that just happened over night - I had to make the conscious decision that I was going to be open to something new and go from there. So without further ado, here are 3 of the simple ways I came to develop a meditation practice:
1. Be realistic. If you've never really gotten into meditation before, you may want to steer clear of setting lofty goals like meditating every single night for 30 minutes. While I appreciate the ambition, setting unrealistic goals or expectations inevitably leads to failure and disappointment. When I first decided to meditate regularly at home, I set a goal of 15 minutes and I didn't even get through one session!
Instead, start a little smaller, setting a goal of meditating for 2 - 3 minutes every night (or morning!), and working your way up to at least 5 minutes at a time. This way, you're only committing yourself to very small chunks of time, which is so much less daunting than a full half-hour! 2-5 minutes will get you many of the same benefits as 30+ minutes, and it's more accessible given all of the other things you have going on.
2. Try a class. Now I don't mean a full-blown, 45+ minutes of meditation and only meditation (but if that's your thing, go for it!). There are a lot of yoga classes out there that incorporate anywhere from 5 - 15 minutes of guided meditation into the beginning or end of the class. This is also a great way to learn about different meditation techniques in a safe and judgement-free zone. With a class titled "Yoga and Meditation," or something along those lines, you're also sure to get some movement mixed in with the stillness so it's great intro if you have a hard time staying still for extended periods of time.
If you're going to try one of these classes, I recommend you go to your first one alone. I went to my first yoga class with a friend, which was awesome because it made the experience less intimidating to have someone there that I knew and could turn to with questions or nervous laughter. But when the time came for a short guided-meditation, I was so uncomfortable, constantly looking around the room to see if I was doing something silly or wrong and looking to my friend for reassurance that I wasn't. I was nervous that I would somehow embarrass myself in front of my friend, or even worse, embarrass her somehow. I was just way too self-conscious that I really didn't even meditate for a single second. However, when I went to a "Yoga & Meditation" class alone, I found myself much more open-minded to the whole experience. Not feeling like I had to please or impress someone took all of the pressure off and I was able to focus on myself.
3. Explore different techniques. Just like there are so many different types of yoga, there are SO many ways to meditate. So if sitting quietly, cross-legged on the floor just isn't working for you, try another way! For instance, you can meditate lying down or sitting in a chair, or even while walking, eating, or exercising. As long as you are staying in the present moment and really, truly experiencing it, you are meditating! Other meditation techniques include following your inhales and your exhales; doing a body scan and noticing how each and every bone and muscle in your body is feeling; and repeating a mantra, or saying with special meaning, over and over again in your head. Whatever the technique, you will benefit and start to see things with a different perspective.
I’m Anahita Reilly, a Type-A, native Northern Virginian, happiness lover. This blog evolved out of my longstanding desire to share this beautiful thing called yoga with others. Click here to read more...