Meditation has always been difficult for me. I’ve tried it a few times in the past, but found myself discouraged by my inability to quiet the constant chatter inside my head. This year, I committed to giving it another shot, and with the help of some written materials, online materials, and an app, I’ve meditated for 90 days in a row. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.
Meditation Isn’t What I thought it Was
I’ve always been hung up by the idea that meditating is about “clearing your mind”. When I tried to meditate my mind would start an ongoing dialogue on things I had done, things I intended to do – all manner of thoughts. I would struggle against these thoughts and get increasingly frustrated and discouraged. Worst of all, I started to feel bad about myself for not being able to meditate. And feeling bad about yourself isn’t the point at all!
I’ve since learned that my expectation of clearing the mind was an unreasonable one. Our minds are habitually conditioned to think, to plan, to analyze, and yes, to worry. Meditating isn’t about stopping this chatter, it’s more about changing the way we respond to it. By practicing meditation we train the brain to see these thoughts for what they are – temporary and intangible. We can get better and better at simply observing these thoughts, and letting them dissipate.
In some ways, Meditating is Similar to Exercise
People don’t generally “find” time for exercise – they MAKE the time. They understand that staying active is important to physical health, and dedicate time to getting it done. Sometimes that means getting up a little earlier than usual, or working at your desk for lunch so you can use your “lunch break” for exercise. Meditation is exactly the same. I didn’t find the time to meditate, I had to make a commitment to working it into my day. And I had to let others know what I was doing so that this time was uninterrupted.
Another reality of exercise is that some days go better than others. There are days I go for a run where I feel like my feet are barely touching the ground, and other days when I feel like my legs are made of lead. But either way, it’s still exercise, right? Meditating is the same for me – some attempts are a lot harder than others. There are times when mindfulness seems to just happen, and I find myself truly aware of the present moment and space. There are other days when the chatter in my brain is just too dominant. But I have come to view all of these sessions as good practice.
It takes Less Time than you Might Think
Most days I meditate for 25 minutes – 1o minutes in the morning, and 15 minutes in the afternoon. That’s it! I also found many simple mindfulness tips available online, which helped me to work periods of awareness into my day while I was brushing my teeth or drinking my coffee. And I have absolutely seen the benefits of sticking with this. There have been times recently when I have started to feel anxious, and have found myself suddenly observing the feeling and simply letting it be. It’s like my brain is learning to say “oh, I’m feeling a little stressed right now” and instead of shifting into overdrive attempting to fix the stress, I just acknowledge it. And in doing so, there are times when that stress simply dissipates!
90 Days later and there is no doubt – I am very much a novice when it comes to meditating. But it has become more of a habit for me, and I’m actually looking forward to keeping the practice going. If you are thinking you’d like to give it a shot, there are many books and online resources available. Although some of the apps are subscription based, they frequently have free trial periods so you can see if they are a good match. My biggest piece of advice? Stick with it, and get in the habit of congratulating yourself for every session you make it through. Some will be harder than others but it’s all practice that gets you closer to making meditation a habit, and making improved mindfulness a part of your life.
If you have any meditation tips, please share them with us on Facebook! We would love to know what you have learned.