This week at work, we had a presenter speak about meditation and the benefits of it. Now, you may have heard the co-opted “self-care” meditation that tells you to sit, clear your mind, and the secrets of the universe will reveal themselves to you. That is NOT how it worked for me, and it’s not the focus of thousands of years of human meditation. For me, meditating grounds me as it connects me with what Glennon Doyle calls her “deep inner knowing”, the wiser, rooted part of us, our core. It gives me a chance to see things from a detached perspective, to be less reactive. And if I’m honest, I have become deeply reactive lately. Here are some things I’ve learned through years of meditating that I’ve recently returned to:
- Telling yourself you’re not doing it right is NORMAL and very American – The Dalai Lama said he never foresaw how Americans would make meditating about competition and who’s doing it correctly. “Right” looks different to many, as it should. The first few seconds or minutes of my meditation, I remind myself over and over that there’s no “right” way to do it. And that the impact of regular mediation builds over time. You won’t be healed after one three minute session. Be kind to yourself.
- Start small – if you’re new to this, or you are feeling particularly unmoored, start with a three minute guided meditation. There are many apps for this such as Calm or Insight Timer, or you could even find guided meditations on Youtube fo’ free. Start with three minute guided meditations. As that becomes easier for me — like working out, meditations is an exercise. You get better the more you do it, and if you stop your practice altogether, it’s going to take some time to build up that skill again — I increase my sessions to five, ten , fifteen minutes as I feel three minutes becoming easy. At one point in my practice years ago, I could do hour and a half sittings. I just had to slowly build up to it. And now I’m starting over with three minute seshes.
- If you feel sleepy while in this state, meditate before or WHILE you’re on your way to slumber. This is one of my favorite Youtube guided meditations to help me fall asleep. A deep voice with an Australian accent moves through progressive muscle relaxation in conjunction with chakra clearing. I know I said to start small in general, so allow me this contradiction: a guided meditation to help me sleep needs to be longer so I can clear my mind and focus on a singular thing. Calm has sleep stories, breathing exercises, three minute meditations, soundscapes, different music that alings with varying moods. Insight Timer allows you to track your silent meditation, has breathing exercises, and meditations based on world religions. There are so many options. You do not need to take a class to practice meditation, and you do not need to spend money like you would with the Calm app. I keep it because I love their sleep stories, so it’s worth it for me. There’s a sleep story on Calm that works every time. A woman with an English accent narrates a perusal through a cozy bookstore down the street. The same person narrates a jaunt through an antique shop in a sleep story that warms me like a blanket.
- Instead of “clearing your mind” try imagining your thoughts as a thin layer of fog rolling over a lake with a tranquil surface. You are the lake, the fog is your thoughts. Allow your thoughts to come and go. You are not your thoughts, they do not define you.
- When experiencing chronic pain, sometimes the absence of pain that comes with meditating, can lead to anxiety. If you’re used to feeling in control, try trusting your body. It is far wiser than we give our bodies credit for. Let it go, girl.
- Visuals for breathing exercises are the most helpful for me. My Calm app shows a graphic of a blue ball that expands when my lungs should and then contracts when my lungs should. Something about the visual calms and focuses me. In fact, some schools of thought require breath work before learning to meditate.
- Don’t forget to engage all your senses. Burning incense, diffusing essential oils, candles, or even bringing some greenery from outside inside helps me connect more deeply with myself and what I think of as the collective consciousness. Maybe turn on a fan. Hold a rock that channels different energies like jadeite or agate. Turn off all the lights. Or sit by a salt lamp. So many options, and they don’t have to cost much.
Have you tried meditating? What are some of your tips to make it work for you?