Meditation and the idea that it relieves you of stress has become popular in the conversation of self care over the last few years. There are countless magazine articles and Instagram posts dedicated to convincing you to meditate. I even mention meditation in my 55 Effective Ways to Practice Self Care post. But if you’re anything like the old me, you’re probably thinking it’s a load of crap. How is sitting still supposed to help me and how the heck am I supposed to just stop thinking?! I’m always thinking! Trust me, I know.
For about a year now I’ve been practicing the art of meditation as a way to calm my anxiety. It’s been a long journey and I still am not at Buddhist monk level, but I thought I would share some of my experience with it to help educate those of you that may be interested! Keep reading to learn more about how I got started with meditation and some tips on how you can start meditating in just minutes!
What is meditation?
Well first let’s talk a little about what this practice actually is. To meditate is to focus on being present, to become free of the mind. It’s a mental exercise that takes years of patience to master and can prove difficult for beginners.
Quieting your thoughts for long periods of time may seem impossible at first. Especially for those of us that are constantly thinking about the next thing. This is where it comes in handy to understand that there are different approaches to meditation. What may work for you, may not be what works for others so it’s important to keep trying until you find what does work for you.
Today I’ll be sharing the awesome methods that helped me ease into this life changing practice.
When I first began with meditation, I attempted the concentration approach. I laid in a comfortable position, with my eyes closed and focused on my breathing. I didn’t necessarily change the way I was breathing, but I REALLY focused my energy into flowing with my breath. With each inhale, I felt my breath go to different parts of my body and with each exhale I was able to sink into the ground almost because I was becoming so relaxed. Unfortunately that only lasted about a minute and a half. But I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to be still for hours right out of the gate.
When using the concentration approach, find something to keep you present, whether that be your breath, a repeated mantra, or a single candle flame. Use that thing to keep your thoughts from clouding your brain with clutter. If you find your mind wandering into an unrelated thought, just catch yourself and bring the focus back to your breathing or mantra.
Mindfulness meditation involves becoming “the watcher of the mind.” Well, what does that mean, you ask? It means that instead of trying to quiet your thoughts when they arise, observe them without judgment. Think of it like over hearing a conversation that you’re around in public.
We involuntarily think about things all the time, and then we become consumed with these thoughts, feeling like they need to be addressed right in that very moment. Mindfulness allows us the opportunity to observe our thoughts as if they were someone else’s and begin to let go of the need to deem a situation or person as “good” or “bad.”
The mindfulness approach seemed like it would be super hard for me because I figured that I would just get distracted by the thoughts, but once I got the hang of letting the thoughts “be” I was able to become present for much longer (about 4 minutes) in my first few attempts than I was with the Concentration method.
When beginning meditation, it is important to understand that there is no “goal.” You may benefit in ways such as better relaxation, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure, but the purpose of meditation is to just be present.
Here are a few tips on how to get started practicing meditation in just 5 minutes!
- Find a comfortable position. I chose to lay in savasana when I began, but sitting upright with your legs crossed is very common and works as well.
- If you’re using the Concentration approach, know what you’re going to focus on before you begin.
- Set a timer or use a guided meditation app or recording.
- Start small. I would aim to hold your focus for just a few minutes at first, and then work your way to longer periods of time.
- Whenever you find your mind wandering, use the flow of your breath to refocus. This always helps me.
- With mindfulness, remember not to judge your thoughts, but allow them to arise and then move on.
- Don’t give up. It can prove difficult or pointless if you don’t get it on the first try, which many won’t, but you must keep practicing! Soon you’ll be able to stay present for hours, even without sitting to meditate!
Meditation has improved my life in so many ways. I’m able to stay more calm and focused as I go about my day. My anxiety has it’s ugly moments, but using meditation to quiet my insecurities has helped to make things much more manageable for me. I recommend trying it out to anyone. Even if you think you’re too busy, block off five minutes of your time when you wake up or before bed and see how much of a difference it can make.
You never realize how much clutter is in your mind until you clear it all out.
Have you tried meditation? Do you use a mantra or special beads to focus? Do you want to try it out, but just haven’t yet? Let me know in the comments below!
I hope you all take a few minutes to try it for yourself and see what all the buzz is about. I truly do notice and appreciate the clarity meditation has allowed me to have and it’s such an important part of my life!
See you in the next one.