Whenever I share with others that I meditate, which is not often, I get one of a few responses:
a. meditation saved my life
b. I can’t sit still/quiet my mind for that long
c. huh (disinterested glazed-over look)
d. I wish I could do that, but I don’t have the time/the energy/the patience
I used to try to convince those who showed interest that meditation really was a wonderful thing, that it has saved my life, that it has made me a better, more patient and forgiving person, that it was easy, that it was worth the time spent, and that they could do it, too.
And then, one day, I remembered that I don’t like to be preached to. I don’t like anyone else telling me about their conversion experiences. Real change must find its own way to you. It took me three years of therapy and lots of missteps to actually commit to sitting down on the mat (or pillow, or chair, or whatever) and trying to do nothing for just a little while.
So, if it’s just not worked before or you’ve just been too scared/tired/busy to try, here’s some advice I’ve gathered over the years:
1. If you can sit quietly for one minute, then you can meditate. Start small. Don’t expect too much from yourself. No one’s ever been the world’s best meditator, so really, do not put so much pressure on yourself!
2. Try a bunch of different types of meditation: guided, counting, breathing, walking. Also, try different body positions: sitting, standing, laying down, working with props. One of these will be your favorite, your baseline. Others you’ll use for those days you feel wonky or weird. Try them all, it’s good to have a bunch of tools at your disposal. Don’t expect that your brand of bliss is going to look like mine.
3. Read as much as you can on the subject. It’s good to know that other people are having just as much trouble (and success) as you are! It may also give you great ideas for mantras or intentions to guide your practice.
4. Not every time you sit on the mat is going to be life-changing. Sometimes, you’re going to get up before your timer is done. Sometimes you are going to chase your thoughts. Sometimes you are going to feel icky and bad. Remember, meditation is a practice. It is what makes every other part of your life (the game!) a little bit better.
5. Meditation is not about clearing the mind (h/t theyogadoer). You are going to have thoughts. You are human! Meditation is the time to say “Yup, there that thought is. I think that sometimes,” and then, in the immortal words of Elsa, “Let It Go!”
6. Have a focus in mind when you sit down.The focus is that place you snap back to when you realize you’ve been making the grocery list or thinking about what your hair would look like another color or how you’re going to deal with that guy at work. Some people find that just following the flow of their breathing is helpful. Others find that repeating a mantra with their breath (“I’m Okay” is a favorite suggestion from my long-time friend and life coach Meg Cline) helps to focus their practice. If you’re working in a guided meditation, follow the leader’s prompts.
No pressure, though.