I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard about meditation. Everyone from your crazy Aunt Barb to Oprah is preaching about it these days... and rightfully so. I too am a firm believer. But, I'm not here to convince you of its benefits or talk about the history of it all. I simply want to share my experience/mistakes with it so far to help you on your journey...if meditation is something you'd like to learn.
I spent the first 21 years of my life a victim to my thoughts. Guilt, shame, judgment, jealousy, and fear were just a part of who I was. Sure, I had happiness, joy, and compassion.... but I didn't know the difference between the good thoughts and the bad thoughts. I didn't even think of them as "thoughts." They were just a part of who I was. I let the voice inside my head tell me that I needed to lose weight, start arguments, and avoid social situations.
It wasn't until i started to meditate that I was able to intercept some of these negative thoughts before I acted out in my typical compulsive reaction. When we can sit in silence for 5, 10, or 20 minutes a day and allow our thoughts to come and go without getting attached to them, we start to realize that we can spend our whole 24 hours that way.
For me, meditation is a two-stage process. The first stage is mindfulness. Simply being able to recognize and detach yourself from your thoughts. The second stage is the spiritual component. Being able to connect with your intuitive voice/god/whatever you believe in. It's not silence...it's a clear message. The second stage is what really helped me in my transformation, but we can't get to the good stuff (stage two) before we tackle the hard stuff (stage one).
So, let's start to talk about the first stage. Mindfulness.
A lot of people have the belief that meditation is simply quieting your mind. And it is, to some degree, but it's really the practice of hearing our thoughts and being able to detach from them...because we can't get to a quiet place by telling our minds to be quiet. That was my first mistake. I would sit down, listen to some guided meditation I found on Youtube and by the time came I was supposed to sit in silence, my brain would go into overdrive.
"Why are you thinking about lunch? It's time to meditate." or "Oh my god, I suck at this and my leg itches. Can I just itch my leg?" I was spending so much time fighting the thoughts that I was missing the big picture. Because the arguments I had against the thoughts are just thoughts themselves. I was fighting thoughts with thoughts. Stay with me here.
The point of meditation isn't to get upset when thoughts come into your head. It's to look at the thoughts, from a birds eye view. Maybe get engulfed for a little bit. Then, when you realize you're in a thought, just slowly back out and let it move on. There's plenty of metaphors for meditation, "watching a movie on a screen" or "watching clouds pass in the sky." The important thing to remember is that you are watching. You're not engulfed in conversation with them. You're not fighting them.
Once you're able to let the thoughts come and go without getting attached, that's when you find silence. We can't find that silence if were berating ourselves for thinking or wishing we could just do this meditation thing better. That's adding fuel to the fire. Let yourself have thoughts. Then let them pass.
Important note....this is MUCH easier said than done. It literally took me a year to understand this. But, hopefully you can remember this post the next time you try and meditate and remember to allow any and all thoughts you want to have, without fighting them.
Another important note....this shit isn't easy. Meditation was one of the hardest things for me to "learn" and I'm still learning. I don't say that to discourage you...I say it so you can understand that you're not going to just get meditation. You can't sit down for one day, one week, or one month and expect to be a pro. It takes practice, patience, and compassion.
So here's a couple tips for those who are just getting started....
Ya gotta believe. Take some time to learn about meditation via a spiritual or scientific approach. Read books and listen to podcasts that touch on the subject so you can hear some of the evidence behind mindfulness and/or the spiritual transformations that have been caused from it. You need to believe that meditation is a worth-while practice in order to stick with it.
Make it part of your routine. I'm ALL about moderation and doing what you want when you want... but with meditation.... I do think you need to nudge yourself a bit until you realize its benefits. Start slow, maybe 5 minutes in the morning. Then add some time, add some sessions, do whatever feels right.
You don't need to be sitting. Another huge thing I missed out on when starting my journey. I thought I HAD to be sitting in silence or listening to an audio track of birds chirping in order to be mindful. But, the truth is, you can meditate whenever you want throughout the day. Mindful walking and mindful eating are a huge part of my practice. Its simply taking the time to be invested in the moment. To feel your legs move, to taste your food.... Note: you WILL have thoughts during this, but you simply let them pass, as you would if you were sitting in meditation.
Find a mentor. Meditating isn't easy...especially for beginners. It's easy to let our ego's tell us that we'll never get it or it's not worth it. That's why its a great idea to find a mentor to keep you accountable and give you some shifts in perspective as needed.
Reflect, Reflect, Reflect. Journaling and writing is obviously a huge passion of mine, but I never really wrote about my experience with meditation. Once I started to keep note about how I felt before/during/after meditating, I started to realize common thinking patterns, realizations, and ultimately how much meditating was helping me.
I've been meditating on and off for about two years, but it wasn't until I really tapped into the second stage, the spiritual stuff, that my true transformation happened. Don't get me wrong, the first stage is amazing. It can really help you combat anxiety, depression, and any other problem in your experience. And we can't get to the good stuff (stage 2) until we tackle the hard stuff (stage 1). So, more on that to come. For now, give stage 1 a try. Or not. Either way, I love you!