I was having a conversation with a friend recently about meditating and she said, 'I cannot make it more than three minutes without wanting to go crazy!' I asked her what the issue was specifically after three minutes and she said, 'I cannot turn off my brain.' I said, 'Turning off your brain is like telling your heart to stop beating, you canNOT do it!'
There are SOO many misconceptions when it comes to meditating and I want to help clear them up from a layman perspective.
But first, why I got started? I will be honest and say I do not remember, I am approaching almost three years of meditating. I think I wanted to have more patience with my kids and be a more present mom and based on articles that I had read, a daily meditation practice seemed like a good way to start. When I started in 2019, I had no idea the pandemic was going to happen, but having this habit in place allowed me much greater emotional calmness and mental stable state when everything changed so abruptly on March 16, 2020.
Let us start with the definition of meditation I always like to start with a definition, so according to Merriam Webster, 'Meditation is to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.'
But 'reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness,' sounds a bit out there, so just remove that part and focus on 'Meditation is to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra).' Ok, that should already sound a little bit more attainable.
I read a book before I started my practice (remember the word practice because we will address this later) called 'Meditating for Fidgety Skeptics' by Dan Harris. He clearly and entertainingly outlines some counter arguments for the fidgety skeptic (Raise your hand, you know this describes you!).
Argument #1, 'I don't have time!' There is no rule that says how long a meditation practice has to be. 1 minute counts just as much as 20 minutes, an hour or anything shorter or longer. Start small. Start with one minute. Once you have practiced that enough, add a second minute, until you find your sweet spot. It will be different for everyone. Mine is 10 minutes first thing in the morning, my husbands is 20 minutes twice a day. What works for you!? According to Harris, 'Yes — five to 10 minutes should be enough to derive the advertised benefits of meditation." So that's the good news. The better news is that I truly believe one minute counts and that it doesn't need to be one minute every day. You can shoot for daily-ish.'
Argument #2, 'I cannot quiet my mind!' See note above, it is impossible to stop the thoughts from coming, but allow them to be like a river, or a cloud or a leaf blowing in the wind. Notice the thoughts, acknowledge their presence and let them float away. Even if you do this 100x in a meditation, its the PRACTICE that helps you get closer to that stable state.
Argument #3, 'I don't know where to meditate.' To this I say, wherever you are most comfortable.
James Clear, author of 'Atomic Habits,' would recommend tacking meditation onto another habit to help create a new habit. He would say 'After _____, I will sit and meditate for ____ minutes on these days.' I would fill in the blanks to say 'After I wake up, I will snuggle on the couch and meditate for 10 minutes Monday thru Saturday.'
When I teach my classes or work with clients I always try to emphasize the word 'practice.' "Skill comes from consistent and deliberate practice.' -Shawn Allen. If you think about getting on a bicycle for the first time, it probably felt impossible. Swimming? Same thing. But the more you practice, the better you get. Fitness is a practice, we call yoga a practice and meditation is also a PRACTICE. Give yourself some grace as you work through the hurdles and figure out what works for you. Create your own practice of meditating and relish the benefits it provides for your mind and your body.
If you want some ideas for apps to help you get started (there are always APPS for that) email me and Im happy to share my faves :)