Let me start this by saying I’m pretty much the last person who would meditate. I have a hard enough time sitting still, let alone getting my mind to do the same. I’m the one who starts wiggling her fingers and toes in final savasana just moments after I get there. During those last few minutes of yoga when everyone else is focusing on their practice, I’m debating whether I should shower first and then eat dinner or eat dinner first and then shower, as well as counting down the seconds until I can get up to go do those things. I could go on and on, but let’s just say quieting my mind has never been one of my strong suits.
But as someone with a considerable amount of stress in her life, a declining memory, and a host of unhealthy habits, I’ve always thought I could benefit from a little om time in my life. So I decided to give it a shot.
Keep reading to hear all about my newbie adventures in meditation!
Getting started is the toughest part—scratch that—even just knowing how to get started is the hardest part. Do you just sit there? Can music be involved? Do you need a mantra to repeat? Is the “om” thing really necessary? Clearly, I was starting from square one. So I consulted a few friends and colleagues, and everyone said the same thing—download a meditation app. And I did. I tried two of the top recommendations: The Mindfulness App ($3) and Simply Being ($2). These apps are great for beginners because they offer guided meditations. You just choose how long you want to meditate (five minutes for me—baby steps), and a soothing voice walks you through what you’re supposed to do, with instructions like “notice the breath moving in and out of your nose” and “simply be aware of whatever is happening right now in this moment.” With The Mindfulness App, a bell chimes every minute—which is great for people like me who want to know exactly how much time has passed and exactly how much time I have left doing any task. That bell is a huge help for beginners like me, as looking at the clock during meditation is a big no-no. However, I prefer the Simply Being app because you can choose music or nature sounds to accompany your meditation (gentle forest brook being my favorite).
During my first attempt, I found myself peeking at the clock and feeling rather distracted—despite the peaceful voice inviting me to let go of my thoughts, but not resist them. My friends also told me to expect this. I felt a little bit like my expectation of how this experiment in meditation would go became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I walked away feeling like it didn’t work. I didn’t meditate for a few days after this first experience.
After my first attempt, I waited a few days and then tried a couple more times, although I didn’t really feel like I was giving it my 100%. Which is hard to do after a long day. But I got another valuable tip from a friend: Meditate first thing in the morning, before you’ve glanced at your inbox or even started thinking about what you’re going to wear that day. This tip was the real game changer. When I meditated right away in the morning, it went much better. In fact, five minutes flew by. I didn’t even realize it was over until I started to miss the soothing voice, which hadn’t spoken for a while. My mind still drifted to thoughts of meetings later in the day, but I felt like I did a pretty okay job of bringing them back to the present moment. That, to me, is the hardest part. When meditating, you’re supposed to let your thoughts happen without trying to change anything—you’re not supposed to resist them or shut them down, nor are you supposed to follow them. Make sense? My point exactly.
You’re supposed to be aware and present (two recurring meditation buzzwords) and just refocus your thoughts when they start to drift. Which, when you say it out loud, doesn’t make much sense. In fact, at first when the soothing voice would instruct me to do this, I would then starting thinking about what she meant and how I was supposed to accomplish such “presence.” Which is probably why my first attempts were so unsuccessful. Once I stopped questioning this process, it started to make sense. When my thoughts drifted to the emails I needed to send and the tasks on my to-do list I needed to accomplish, I tried to bring focus to a specific body part, like my hand or my forehead. With each exhale, I envisioned myself releasing tension from that body part—blowing away the emails, the meetings, and whatever else was interrupting my moments of peace.
I wish I could say I now meditate every morning for 20 minutes and I’ve never felt better. And perhaps one day I will, but for now my meditation practice is limited to three or four mornings a week. It’s a refreshing way to start the day, and I’ll admit the days I skip it tend to be more hectic. I’ve also meditated at my desk a time or two. When a particularly stressful moment pops up, I highly recommend popping in your earbuds and spending a few minutes with the sounds of a gentle forest brook.
I also did a lot of reading up on meditation in preparation for my experiment. One of the most common anecdotes I came across was how meditation helped a number of people fall asleep. As someone with a rather difficult relationship with sleep, this is will be my next endeavor—meditating myself to dreamland. Wish me luck.
Do you meditate? What tips have helped you? Tell me below!