I first came to meditation out of desperation. As a sophomore in college, I had been struggling with a challenging course and was filled with anxiety and having minor freak-outs ahead of each class session. I remember feeling like I had to do something to take care of myself or I wouldn’t make it through the semester.
So every Wednesday morning before that class, once my roommate had left our dorm, I would sit my college-issued desk chair in the middle of our common space, close my eyes, and take a few minutes to breathe.
The result: I was calmer and less nervous about the class. I think I may have even gotten an A. When the semester ended, I wasn’t so committed to meditating each day, and my pittance of a practice fell by the wayside.
It wasn’t until the following summer when I attended a couple of residential meditation retreats that I decided I wanted to make meditation a more consistent part of my daily routine. In the decade since then I’ve gone through spells of time when I’ve been less than consistent in my daily practice. But on the whole, since I first made that commitment during my retreat, I’ve kept at it. Along the way, a few suggestions have bolstered my practice and kept me coming back (to the breath).
If you’re considering starting a meditation practice here are a few things that will support you.
1. Make a commitment, set your intention, and make it do-able. First thing’s first, you have to decide you want to do this, and it will help if you’re reasonable in your expectations. Don’t start your meditation practice by forcing yourself to sit for at least three hours a day, each day. Chances are, you’ll get sick of it and will quit before you even see the magic that meditation can work on your life. Set yourself up with a goal you’ll be able to keep. It could be as small as five minutes for five days a week a day at first.
2. Create a space where you can practice. These days I have my own altar and meditation area; but when I started out, it was the middle of the dorm room, the top bunk, and eventually a corner in my bedroom. Find somewhere conducive to taking a few minutes alone that you can reserve for just this practice (so not near a TV or where people gather in the house to chat).
3. Set a consistent time to meditate each day. I like to meditate first thing in the morning before my head gets filled up with the day. Maybe it’s easier for you to set aside a few minutes of your lunch hour each day. Or perhaps bedtime will work better for you. Put it into your calendar like any other appointment, and I bet you’ll soon appreciate the value of having an appointment with yourself.
4. Find a community to support you in this effort. It can be challenging to stick to your commitment when you’re alone in it. When I first committed to meditation practice, I was lucky enough to find a sitting group that met twice a week on my college campus. These days, I meditate with friends online once a week, and have a group I meet with in person once a month. Having even just one other person to be accountable to, to share your experiences with, and support you in this endeavor will make a huge difference in helping you keep your intentions.
5. Be gentle with yourself and stick with it! While somewhat simple and seemingly easy, meditating, and sticking to a commitment to meditate each day, can be very challenging. You’ve been wiring your brain a certain way for your whole life, so it’s not surprising that the rewiring that comes with consistent meditation practice may not happen overnight. It can sometimes be discouraging when it feels like meditating is nothing more than glorified worrying or list-making with your eyes closed. But do not fret! The simple act of setting your intention and following through each day is enough. Being kind to yourself during your meditations and about your meditation practice is imperative for it to have a chance to take root and eventually blossom.
6. Lastly, remember, you can do this!
You CAN do this! And if you’d like, I can help!
You're invited to join me during the month of October when I’ll be posting 15-minute guided meditations online each day. You can sit with me!
If you’ve never meditated before, or perhaps you’ve dabbled but not yet committed to a daily practice, or perhaps you just want to see me each day, then now is your opportunity! In addition to providing you the basics of mindfulness meditation, those of us sitting together each day can support each other as a community (see #4!), plus I’ll be kind to you (see #5) and will cheer you on the whole time (see #6). As an added bonus, you can reach out to me with any questions or concerns you're having with your practice. I'm here to help!
Set your intention (see #1) and sign up to “Sit With Me in October.” I’ll send you all the information you’ll need to jumpstart your own mindfulness practice.