Remember the last time you tried something new? What is one of the first things that you said when doing this new activity? For most us it's some form of 'am I doing this right?"
I think about the first time my Mom taught me how to cross stitch, I kept handing the material back to her, asking "is this right? Is this right? Is this right?" (She has the patience of a saint!)
Whether learning proper cutting techniques, how to emulsify or just simply rolling out pizza dough, the the most often asked phrase in my cooking classes is -'am I doing this right?"
When we take on new tasks, we have an inherent need to do it well and good and we want confirmation that we are.
I find this is even more prevalent when it comes to meditating. Clients and friends alike ask this when they first start meditating, or often cite 'not knowing how to do it' as an excuse for not trying it.
There is a reason it's called a practice. Much like yoga, there is always something more to strive for. To me, this is what sets it apart. There isn't really an end, not in the way you finish a foot race by breaking through the tape or crossing a finish line. It's a proactive, ongoing practice to experience growth. Let go of the label of 'doing it right' and just do it for you, your way.
Breaking it down, the goal is not to focus on nothing, but to become more aware and mindful. Its about getting into a relaxing, restorative state. It's also about an opportunity to receive the messages our body is giving us. Your mind may still be active (read: sidetracked or often called monkey mind) but your body can still reap the benefits. You don't have to ignore your thoughts, you can acknowledge them and set them aside.
Even now I hear your questions - "but how often should I meditate" and "for how long"? My response is do what is comfortable to you and then build on that. Perhaps starting with 10 minutes one day per week. But then make the conscious effort to add 2 days, then 3 days and then for 20 minutes. Just commit to something.
Here's a few tips for you that helped me get started and past the 'am I doing this right' barrier:
- Let go of the woo woo aspect. Meditation is only as spiritual or religious as you make it.
- Get comfortable, really. It's been said that sitting upright is better for the flow of energy. But when I started, sitting up was not a position I could really get into for any real length of time. Lay down if you have to (I did), but know that this is a risky position as it can signal 'sleepy' time for mind.
- This is a practice in which the best benefits really come over time; but expect calmness, better sleep and the ability to handle stress better to be the immediate effects. Sometimes people are able to be aware of the benefits immediately, some see them over time; either way make the commitment to stick with it. Often those around you see you changes before you do.
- Let go of the excuses. I'm full of them! Like if you think your too busy ... you will find that over time you will manage your time much better when you meditate than when you don't.
- Just breath and trust. If all else fails, focus on your breath. Slow intakes into the belly and even slower releases. And trust yourself that you are doing it your way and that is the right thing for you.
- Download an app to guide you. There are plenty of options out there, just search meditation in your app store.
Meditation has helped people with migraines, anxiety, chronic pain, lowering blood pressure and even promotes weight loss. But at the very soul of it, you are allowing your body to get into a parasympathetic state which gives the body a break from our every day stressors. Something every one of us needs no matter what.
Reach out and let me know how your meditation practice is going.