I Thought Meditation Wasn't for Me: Then, I Grasped It With This Understanding.
When I first started meditating, it was like being on a treadmill. Boring, and all I wanted was for it to end. For years, I wanted to be a meditator, but I never actively sought it. I tried a few times and determined it was NOT for me. Convinced I didn't possess the zen gene, I looked to other activities to relax and concentrate my mind such as exercise, nature, and cooking. While they gave me joy, I still felt the rumination of my thoughts and kept hearing about the amazing benefits of meditation.
So, I actively set a goal to learn meditation. It took me a few weeks, but it was well worth it. Just as the benefits predicted. I had a clearer perspective. I could handle my emotions better, drop stupid stuff better, and focus efficiently. I resisted meditation for so long, but I am so grateful to have gained this crucial skill.
So how do you do it?
1) Don’t force it
Be patient with your ability to learn meditation. While you might not be enlightened after your first session, you are working towards an understanding that develops over time.
Take small steps. Start with one mediation a day, and do it when you feel more calm.
I heard that the best time to meditate was the morning, but I would wake-up and the thought of meditating felt impossible. So, I wouldn’t do it then. I would wait until I was at work or later in the day when I was feeling a little more sleepy from reading or listening to slow music.
Also, don’t force yourself to do 20-30 minutes a day. You can start off with a 2 minute meditation to begin gaining benefits.
2) Educate yourself
Read about mediation. Get different perspectives to develop what meditation can do for you. Your perception will change over time, but when you understand what it means for your life to gain benefits from meditation- you will better grasp it in the moment.
MY PERSPECTIVE ON MEDITATION:
Meditation is about taking discomfort from the mind and body and focusing on a present space of calm. You can find a balance of calm by acknowledging distractions, letting them go, and holding the remaining feelings of calm in your focus.
For example, you may feel uncomfortable trying to focus on a meditation. The guide may start with a short breathing exercise or body scan to relax the listener, but a beginner might not respond to these cues to relax. They cannot be present in their breath and only feel the discomfort of not being able to focus. Acknowledge the discomfort, allow it to melt away with a few breaths or imagery, and train your mind to focus on the good. Gradually, you will more quickly ease into a relaxed state.
So, drop any thoughts towards the future or the past, dispelling any discomforting thoughts and feelings in order to train focus on the balanced feeling of calm.
3) Find the right guide
The person who guides you has to make you feel good, so start off with a recording that resonates with you. I would listen to this deep breathing exercise. It is recorded by a high school student, and is not exactly a guided meditation, but it would get me into a relaxing rhythm. I would start off with this, then move to a more structured meditation.
4) Create awareness of the present
“Be present” was a term that took me a while to understand. I did not realize that my mind was always filled with chatter on occurrences of the past or future.
I used to:
- Be in a conversation planning what to say next instead of listening.
- Instead of enjoying dinner, daydream about the event that followed.
- Think how much I wanted to be home instead of embracing the car ride.
When noticing present thoughts and actions throughout the day, you can truly understand where the benefits of mediation lie. Noticing when we fall short will increase our desire to meditate. The awareness of a non-productive state is the first step to countering that state and bringing the self to present awareness.
5) Actually meditate
Rather than just clocking your time, let yourself be active in the process. While it may take a while to fully grasp the process of meditation, understand that you are strengthening your mind's ability to control emotions and thoughts. You need to presently internalize the act of the guided words.
If you have felt that your meditation sessions are uncomfortable and a waste of time, you have not reached this point of understanding. Listening to mediation principles repeated over sessions will slowly gain you insight.
Now, I never want my sessions to end. It is amazing how easily I can hop my mindset into meditation and into better emotions. Be patient with meditation and yourself. With each exercise, you will grow closer in understanding.
Cara Jacobsen is the Director of Clinical Operations for DataDog Health developing Mindset, a biomedical technology that manages and measures physiology and mental state toward personalized therapy. She has a Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) from St. Louis University, and writes mindfulness meditations and content for Mindset.