When we think of meditation, something like the image above probably comes to mind. A blissed out hippie sitting crossed legged in nature, a monk in the mountains, a yoga class. In reality, millions of regular people meditate around the world every day. Meditation is a common trait among the highly successful, think Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins, Russell Simmons, Oprah, LeBron James, Ariana Huffington…
Meditation is something that I have dabbled with for a long time, trying different methods, especially when I was doing my yoga teacher training – it was a requirement of the course. I have read about the benefits and know that it is supposed to be good for you but I just could not stick with it. I would do it for a few days and then, bam, out the window. Bye-bye zen.
It went a little something like this:
Day 1 – sit down cross legged on the floor, close eyes, start to fidget after 2 minutes, scratch my nose, focus again, begin thinking about what I am going to cook for dinner, …..aaaaand I am done.
Day 2 – try again
Day 3 – too cold to get out of bed, I might just skip it today.
Spoiler alert: I skipped a lot more days.
Still, I knew that a lot (millions) of people managed to hold down a regular meditiation practice. I thought, if all these people can do it and it seems to help them, why could’t I? It was time to try again. This is how I started a meditation practice, and kept it.
To meditate every day for 30 days. My plan was to do it first thing when I woke up, for 10 minutes. I wanted to use an app and listen to a guided meditation. There are SO many meditation apps out there that are free and fun! A lot of them have elements built in to keep you accountable, like a chart showing your activity and building a streak, or sending you reminder notifications (or cute inspirational quotes).
I started with guided meditations on the apps A Smiling Mind and Calm, so it gave me something to focus on. Calm has a premium version with a lot more meditations but I have been fine using the free one. Once I got the hang of meditating, I swapped from guided to a timed meditation with background ambient noise and a bell sounding at time increments I choose. Other apps I liked are One Giant Mind (mantra based) and Headspace (guided and non guided).
I did it! Yes, I skipped a day or so at the start, but then I managed to get into it regularly and maintain a solid routine for 30 days. Here is what I noticed:
1. I wanted to do it
The more I meditated, the easier it was to do. I even found myself doing extra on some days (great for flights) or using breath techniques from various apps when I was feeling anxious or stressed.
2. My creativity increased
I noticed that I became a lot more inspired, creative thoughts that were not normally there started to creep in – things like ideas for writing or the answer to a question I had been thinking about. Having some silence and stillness in my brain actually created space in there, so when a useful idea or thought came through, it actually was clear in my head and not clogged up by everything else going on.
3. I became more observant
Same reasons as above, my brain had created the space to notice more. The act of stillness and being in the present during meditation translates to helping you feel more present in everyday life. I would notice on my walk to and from work I would see a lot more of what was going on around me – a sign in a window, money on the ground, an interaction between people I walked past. It was cool!
4. I stuck with it
It has now been 3 months and I am still going, every day. A miracle? Nope, I just found a method that worked for me and truly wanted to do it!
Meditation is a long journey, not a single insight or even several insights. It gets more and more profound as the days, months, and years pass. Keep reading and thinking and meditating. – The Dalai Lama
Find the method that is right for you.
Try different apps, methods and positions. Since I had attempted doing it so many times, I knew what didn’t work for me. I don’t like meditating in silence, so when I started I chose an app with background sounds and voice guidance. The voice gave me something to focus on so I would not get distracted as easily. I also meditate lying down in bed which is a big no no as that is meant to make you sleepy, but hey, it works for me so who cares! Also, it is Winter in Australia and way to cold to sit still for ten minutes Who knows, I might change this in the future, your practice is always evolving!
Make it a part of your routine
This was tough to stick to on the weekends or if I was staying at my boyfriend’s house – solution, headphones. That way I could listen and do my thing without interrupting anyone. Many people recommend journalling after meditation to note your thoughts and ideas, this can be a great time to add that into your routine if it is something you have been thinking about.
Tell someone you are doing it, the guilt will keep you going if you want to stop. Better yet, get a friend to do it with you and keep each other accountable. The Calm app that I use has a little calendar that measures your streak – or how any days in a row you have meditated for, I found that just the motivation of not wanting to break my streak kept me going on a few days!
Going too gung ho
Don’t start with a 45 minute practice, ease into it or it will be too big of a challenge to keep up. I started at 10 minutes and want to increase it. Starting at one minute is fine if it works for you! Just start.
Giving up straight away
Try it more than once, do not give up after one day. If you cannot connect with the method you have chosen, try something else, switch it up! One mistake I always made was thinking that it was a failure if I got lost in thoughts, but I am going to let you in on a secret:
Being distracted by your thoughts is ok, it is normal to drift in and out of concentration, the key is noticing when you are doing it and bringing yourself back to the present moment.
Doing it because you think you should
In the past when I have tried it was because it was something that I thought I should do, not because I actually really wanted to do it. I was also looking at meditation as some sort of quick fix to zen/happiness/insert your house here. Nahhht gonna work baby. Want it for yourself, with no expectations or attachment to the outcome.
Side note: The above tips can be applied to anything.
Want to know more?
This article outlines 23 (yep 23) different styles of meditation, what they are and how to do each technique. A really good summary.
A stack of articles about meditation, types, benefits etc. from the OG, Deepak Chopra. Hey, if it is good enough for Oprah…
Do you meditate? How do you stay consistent? Share with me in the comments.