By Diana Sanchez, Staff Writer
Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, you’ve probably heard of meditating by now. The benefits are both scientifically proven and numerous - so much so that many people are getting on board with trying out meditation for themselves.
The reasons why are clear. Meditation benefits include stress reduction, anxiety management, as well as enhanced attention and focus. It can also help manage the symptoms of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression, just to name a few.
Sounds great, right? It is also completely free and costs nothing but a little bit of time out of your day. There is seemingly no downside to meditating. “Great!’ You might be thinking. “How can I get started?”
While there is no downside to meditating, it should be noted that some people do have some difficulties learning to meditate. You might find yourself getting frustrated and you might be tempted to give up, but, like with any other skill, know that all it takes is a little bit of practice and it will get easier for you.
I began meditating years ago when I was going through multiple life changes all at once. My stress levels were through the roof at the time, and sitting down and trying to center myself was challenging - to say the least. I had so many feelings and worries and trying not to focus on them was nearly impossible- especially because I mistakenly thought that I was supposed to quiet my mind.
First of all, I don’t think anyone can do that. But through a little bit of trial and error (and a lot of research), I finally found something that worked for me and that is what I want to share with you. This is your very own guide to meditating which will make meditation easy for you to learn.
Note: When you start off, begin by meditating for 2-3 minutes and gradually increase the length of time as you go.
Guide to Meditation
Step 1 Find a quiet spot and get comfortable
This quiet spot can be anywhere. I have a large open closet in my bedroom, and I have my own dressing room, so this closet has been an extension of my bedroom space. I cleared it, strategically placed a few plants near the doorway, and purchased a meditation cushion (which is not required) to place in there. It’s a very relaxing space for me.
You can do this to just about any room in your house. You don’t need an entire room for it, just a corner will do. In fact, Pinterest offers some great ideas for creating your own meditation corner.
But to get started, you can meditate anywhere you like! No special corner or room necessary.
Step 2 Close your eyes and focus on your breathing
When you’re just getting started, focusing on your breathing can be a little more challenging than you’d think. There are plenty of free apps to help guide you but my personal favorite is Breathe on my Apple Watch. I like it the best because it vibrates on my wrist when it’s time to breathe in, which is a very subtle reminder that doesn’t pull me out of my meditation. Finding your breathing rhythm is key for centering yourself, and once you find your rhythm you'll feel a slow wave of blissful relaxation move throughout your body. There's truly nothing else like it!
If you don’t feel the wave right away - that’s okay! Just keep working on it. Go easy on yourself, be proud of yourself for trying, and try again the next day.
Step 3 Observe your thoughts - don’t try to stop them
The final step of meditation is so much easier when you realize you’re not supposed to eliminate all of your thoughts. You’re supposed to observe them. The best way to carry this out is by doing a thought experiment. I have two that I typically use: the train platform and a dock by the ocean. If you’re using the train platform, for example, while observing your thoughts picture them “boarding” the train, picture the train doors closing, and then picture the train speeding away. If you want to give the dock by the ocean a try, I like to picture my thoughts on a boat and then watch the boat drift away from me, getting smaller and smaller until they disappear. Continue to do this with all of the thoughts you observe in your mind until you feel ready to come out of your meditation. Initially, just a few minutes will feel like a very long time, but maintaining longer periods of meditation will come more easily to you overtime.
This can be challenging at first if your thoughts give you anxiety, or if you’re thinking about something that you’re having a hard time accepting. But accepting that you are thinking about something is key to being able to let go of those recurring thoughts you dislike. It doesn’t mean that you are okay with that thought becoming a reality - it just means that yes, you know you are thinking about it, and now you are going to let it go. It gets easier every time you do it. Often times I’ve found that if I approach thoughts that give me anxiety this way, after a few thought experiments, those thoughts actually stop occurring in my mind naturally.
Those are my 3 easy steps to meditating. If you happen to give them a try, let me know how it went. Did it help you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!