It’s easy to say that meditation is ‘not for me.’
It can seem intimidating and weird to get started in meditation. Meditation seems reserved for super zen, enlightened people, balancing on the edge of a cliff and completely in tune with their own mind and body. We think we need to be surrounded by crystals and incense and beads to reach this elusive, enlightenment stage.
We all know why it could be useful. We might even think that knowing we should be more mindful or even implementing a few mindful practices into our daily lives is enough to achieve the same level of personal calm and joy that such successful see. But there’s something about taking the time out to meditate – even if it’s for a few minutes a day – can create positive changes in your life, and not just from the meditation.
What’s the deal with meditation?
While meditation has also been linked to many different religions and cultures for thousands of years, it’s secular importance has been propelled in recent years. The practice of meditation has been widely touted as an effective way to boost productivity, unleash creativity and improve healthy living. Its importance is increasingly backed by outrageously successful people like Oprah or Ariana Huffington.
Now, we see the influx of meditation guides, retreats and meditation practices throughout the world. Perhaps its basis in Buddhist tradition alienates a lot of people. Or maybe it’s the thought that we never have the time or don’t know where to start. Maybe we’ve tried it once or twice and didn’t really get the hang of it and give it up.
I was one of those people. Intellectually, I understood why meditation could help me. We can so easily get caught up in all our thoughts and I often looked at meditation wistfully for what it could do to bring calm and balance back to my mind. I thought I had all these other things in my life like yoga, or taking a self-care day that could help.
So, I went on a meditation retreat.
I don’t do thinks half way. Need some work-life balance? Quit work and focus on life for a bit. Want to get into meditation? Go on a meditation retreat.
A month into my journey of self-discovery and mindfulness, I joined a three-day meditation retreat. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was a little scared. That’s a lot of time to be meditating and I knew I wouldn’t match the other people around me in zen-ness or even in my belief of the practice of meditation. But I was determined to commit to the experience and see what I could get out of it.
Upon arriving in some ashram in the jungle of Bali, we checked in our phones. For three days, we would be living basically, spending the mornings in silence, following a schedule of yoga, guided meditation and free time for self-reflection. And to be honest, it was great.
The natural environment was calming. The fact that there was no way I could be online or be contacted was liberating. The whole world seemed to slow down; I started to slow down and I had all the time and space to just breathe. I realised that I had never given myself so much time away from all the expectations and things that I thought I had to be doing. For the first time, I let myself be bored and had to accept that I could do nothing to really change that but embrace the boredom.
I was exposed to different types of meditation.
Whether it was a walking meditation or sitting on a meditation cushion in an incensed room for 40 minutes, this was all meditation. Sometimes it was about the guidance of visualisation but sometimes it was just sitting in the silence.
And no it didn’t always work. Some sessions I was really distracted and I couldn’t bring my energy and thoughts back down to the level I needed. Sometimes, I even dozed off. But somehow, I left this retreat with a level of calm I didn’t expect to achieve; and even an emotional breakdown with the meditation guide that took me by surprise.
What I realised was that I had so many misconceptions about meditation.
I always thought that I needed to clear my mind completely. And as a classic overthinker, it sounded so impossible, I didn’t even try. But it wasn’t about getting rid of it all together – that may come in a few months, years or maybe never. But it was about not letting the thoughts have any control over my meditation or my life. Learning to let go of the dangerous cycles of thought – all the doubts; all the negativity and second-guessing – it was a release I did not expect.
Call me a convert but for the first time, I actually understood why everyone keeps banging on about meditation. And while the practice itself was fantastic, what was even more surprising that removing myself from distraction could leave such a profound impact.
I’d gotten used to the idea of always being connected and online – particularly as a social media marketer by trade. To remove all the directions and take a break from daily responsibilities and even talking to people felt like such a treat. I was finally here, present, in my own moment and with myself.
So if you are still making excuses for trying meditation, here are some quick tips to make it a little less scary to get started:
1. Start Easy
No one expects you to be floating on clouds in lotus position overnight. Start with just a little every day. Follow this little guide to meditation that integrates the principles of awareness into your practice.
Look at different avenues in – whether that’s through yoga and bringing those principles more and more into your practice; or trying an app like Headspace.
2. Experiment with Different Ways
There are many different forms of meditation that aren’t just about sitting there and removing all thoughts from your head. Try a guided meditation or find a group of friends or strangers to try it with. Maybe even go down my route and just commit to a meditation retreat and see how it goes.
3. Be Patient
It’s ok if it doesn’t come automatically to you. In all our busyness, it can be difficult to let go of all our thoughts completely. Release all the expectations of what meditation is or what you’re supposed to achieve through meditation and just allow yourself to feel what you feel. The more you do it, the more it will feel more natural and ultimately, beneficial.
4. Be Persistent
Remember, meditation is still a practice and it always takes time to get good at anything. Keeping it up on a regular schedule is the best way to get better and create a habit out of it.
And if you have one bad practice, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically bad at it and unable to do it at all. Try again. Try it a different way. Let go of the fear that it might not work and just try again.
Want some extra support? Why not schedule a call with Marjolaine and see how you can integrate meditation into your mindful practice?
I’m Tiff and I’m passionate about empowering people to tell their stories in meaningful and creative ways. Nine months ago, I quit my corporate job in Sydney, Australia to travel and pursue my own projects. Now, slow-travelling through Europe, I can’t imagine going back. As a writer, I love being able to share my stories and struggles with the emerging digital nomad community. I haven’t got it all figured out and constantly feel like I’m flying blind, but I’m excited to be giving myself the space to do so. You can find out more here.
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