Meditation can be a valuable tool in your self care tool-box. Research has shown meditation to be a powerful technique effective for lowering stress and anxiety, coping with addiction, and even in management of physical pain.
“Meditation” is a broad term encompassing many practices aimed to have the participant become still, focused, and quiet the mind. It is very often associated with spiritual connection, as well, and for many meditation is part of spiritual growth or practice in prayer. However, in it’s simplest context meditation means to sit, and just “be”.
In our busy, stressed, and over-stimulated lives, taking time to cultivate a practice of time set-aside to purposefully slow down and reconnect with ourselves and our bodies can be of the utmost benefit. When I bring up meditation, often times the first thing out of people’s mouths is “Oh, I can’t meditate, I get too distracted” and many people try it once and quickly give up. However, meditation is a “practice” meaning that you develop it over time, and continue to build upon your practice and build your focus, stamina, etc.
The good news is, what is needed for meditation practice is relatively simple. All that is required is yourself, and a place to sit. No need for special equipment, instruction manuals, or extra supplies. All you need is yourself and a place that is (relatively) low on distractions. The other good news is that even if you are only able to dedicate a short time (anyone have a spare 10-15 minutes?) to your practice is that you are still getting the benefits. Studies show that the benefit of meditation is cumulative.
Below are some thoughts on how to cultivate a regular meditation practice and deal with obstacles that may come your way. Adapted from Esther Williams, M.Ed, LPC, Therapy for the Mind, Body, Spirit.
- Create a habit: choose a regular time and place that works for you
- Attach the meditation practice to an existing part of your routine (i.e. right after breakfast, or right before bed)
- Set goals for meditation, put them in writing, and be sure to be realistic. Set a goal that you know you will be able to attain (example: 20 minutes, 3x/week) and just keep practicing!
- Mark your progress on a calendar or chart
- Setting up a comfortable area will decrease the likelihood of become distracted by discomfort (it is okay to lay down or sit in any comfortable position during meditation!)
- Using soothing music or a Guided Meditation audio are both ways to remain focused during meditation (meditation does not have to be done in silence)
- Surround yourself with reminders: put meditation on your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, or use a sticky note on your mirror
- If you forget or don’t have time to meditate for a few days, don’t give up! Start again as soon as you can
- Remind yourself of the benefits of regular meditation practice and how using meditation will help you achieve your goal(s) (reduced stress, increased calm, etc.)
- Get support! Find others who will encourage you or practice with you, attend a meditation meeting, group meditation, or class
Creating a new habit and a new practice takes time, whatever you do, don’t give up. I was told by a meditation teacher once that “the only thing you can do wrong is to stop practicing!”. Some days, it will be easier to sit and remain there, some days it will be more difficult. There will almost always be distractions, but mindfulness meditation means to acknowledge the distraction and then continually gently refocus your mind to the present moment.