Meditation. So many people talk about it. I should be doing it more. I just can’t seem to get the hang of it. It is too hard for me. But what is meditation? And how do we start meditating?
Meditation is simply training our brains to be aware and attentive. That’s it. Training is my favorite word in this explanation. Meditation isn’t something that we can just expect ourselves to be naturally good at. In addition, some days training will go well, and some days training will be really hard. Meditation is a practice, just like playing the guitar or dancing or remembering to wash your face before bed. Give yourself space for you—and your meditation practice—to learn and grow.
Meditation isn’t about stopping all of your thoughts. Our minds are made to think, so that is what they are going to do. The purpose of meditating is to develop the ability to choose what thoughts we want to interact with and what thoughts we want to just let float right on by. We don’t judge our thoughts for being there or for what they are. We can see them and just let them pass us by without getting pulled into them.
Anyone can start meditating at any time. There are lots of cushions and apps and teachers that you can get invest in down the road, but let’s start with these steps to building a meditation practice.
Be flexible with the time and space where you practice.
So many experts have opinions on how to meditate. First thing in the morning. Last thing before bed. Before you get out of bed. But not that way! You’ll go back to sleep! Anywhere but in your bed. You have to have this specific stool or cushion or weighted blanket. No, no, no.
The only way to build a sustainable meditation practice is to build a meditation practice that works for your life. And the only way you’ll know what works is to try different things. Try first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Then try in the shower. Then try in the car before you drive home from work. Then try after dinner. Each day for a week, try a different place or time to see what works best in your schedule and your life.
It is all about the breath.
But exactly how do you meditate? This one is easy. You breathe.
Find a place to get still and comfortable. Close your eyes and then breathe. Say to yourself, “I am breathing in” on the inhale. Say “I am breathing out” on the exhale. That’s it.
Practice keeping your attention on your breath. Maybe you can drop the phrases that remind you to focus on your breath. But when your attention wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t judge yourself or berate yourself—your mind is supposed to wander. When you notice your mind has run away from you, simply say to yourself, “huh, my mind wandered off,” and bring your attention back to your breath. There you go. Meditation.
You don’t have to meditate for long periods of time to feel the benefits of meditation. Commit to starting with five breaths. Breathe in and breathe out. Just five breaths.
Maybe you can find five times in your day to take five breaths with attention. After a week of that practice, you can increase the breaths from five to 10. After a week of that practice, you can decide where it best fits in your day and try five minutes of attentive breathing.
Take the next step in your meditation practice.
Once you have a meditation practice, you get to choose how you proceed. You get to determine what a beneficial meditation practice looks like in your life. You don’t have to do anything more than what is helpful for you. Just remember it is your practice.
Five minutes a day may be plenty. You may find that you enjoy it enough that you want to do one longer practice each week. Or you might want to see more benefits and increase the time you spend in each daily practice. You might want to continue self-guided practice, or you might be interested in joining me and Cassie for our guided meditation series on body acceptance in Resprout.
Resprout is our total body wellness program that uses yoga, meditation, nourishing food, and journaling to guide you along the path to body acceptance. If you’re ready to really dive into a robust meditation practice, Resprout is the perfect place to get started! Sign up here to be notified when Resprout opens again for registration.