Starting a meditation practice

I started meditating regularly at the beginning of 2019. It took some getting used to, but it’s become a part of my daily routine. Taking some time out to be alone with my thoughts has been peaceful, relaxing, and enlightening.

I’ve found it to be especially important given how busy and frantic day to day life has become. We are bombarded incessantly with ads. The news cycle never ends. Our devices make us constantly available. The distraction of the internet is only a click away. Our personal and professional responsibilities are always pulling at us. It makes taking time out for one’s self more important than ever.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a meditation practice but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few suggestions that helped me.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Meditation is not about trying. It’s about doing. I could tell you what my experience is and what I’ve learned.

But guess what?

What I’ve learned and what others tell you they’ve learned doesn’t matter. Meditation is a personal experience. What you learn and experience will be different than anyone else’s experience.

Trying to research and figure out what meditation is and what you’ll experience beforehand is a worthless exercise. The point of meditation is to do.

So don’t overthink it. If meditation is something you’re interested in, make the commitment and just start doing it.

Use a coach, or an app

Getting started can be intimidating. There are so many questions you may have. How do I know if I’m doing it right? Should I sit quiet for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour? Can I do it lying down, on my knees, or cross-legged on a mat? Do I need to have complete silence around me? Is my mind supposed to be totally blank, or is it OK to have thoughts?

I’ll admit starting out was strange. I tried on my own for a few weeks, and it was a struggle. Since I had never done it before, the practice never felt right. That’s when someone told me to use an app.

Game. Changer.

Having a coach made all the difference for me in my meditation practice. I use Headspace, but there are plenty of other apps out there that can help you get started with your meditation practice such as Calm, Ten Percent Happier, and Simple Habit.

I’d suggest sampling a few and picking the one that works best for you. You can always switch later, which I’m planning to do at some point. While I love Headspace and its content, I’m interested in picking up some tips from some teachers, too.

Set No Expectations

Perhaps the most important, but the hardest part of starting a meditation practice, is to start with an open mind.

It will be hard. You probably want to meditate to relieve stress, lower anxiety, improve focus, or sleep better. It’s uncertain whether you will achieve any of these goals when you start meditating, but there is one thing I do know for sure. If you set a hard expectation when you start meditating, such as sleeping better, then you will only become frustrated when it doesn’t happen right away. It will likely lead to trying harder, which will only make it more difficult to achieve your goal.

Meditation is a practice that just is. Every day is a different experience, which is one of the beauties of the practice. More importantly, it’s the regular practice that eventually leads to change, which is usually incremental. In other words, you will experience change. It will happen at its own pace, and you won’t notice it overnight. It’s one of those things that you notice looking back over time.

My advice, don’t set expectations. Instead enjoy the journey. Outcomes shouldn’t be your goal. The journey is the reward. Learn and grow, and enjoy every single day.

There’s a lot one can learn from meditation. I wrote about the 10 things I learned after my first year of practice, which still hold true for me today. What you learn will be different. It’s another one of the beauties of meditation. It’s a personal experience, and one that is different for each of us.

If you’re still undecided, I would highly encourage you to get started. What you learn along the way will enlighten you, and it may even surprise you, too – in a good way of course!

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