Throughout my 200-hour teacher training, we were asked to attempt meditation. We started small with one-minute increments, and then worked toward longer periods of stillness. In those moments, I didn’t appreciate the activity and I certainly didn’t think I had the time to sit still. If I’m being honest, part of me still doesn’t think I have the time—but when a friend mentioned an app that provides guided meditation from a world-renowned yoga teacher, I was intrigued.
The series consists of six guided meditations focusing on all of the common excuses that people make as to why they don’t meditate. It’s pretty cleverly curated, if you ask me. It takes our every-day excuses, shifts our perspective on them, and turns them into tools we can use to meditate more effectively.
I came back from Memorial Day weekend with quite a bit of anxiety (like, the Sunday Scaries on steroids), so I figured there was no better time to start. I frantically cleaned my living room and kitchen before I sat down for my first session--so, clearly, I was starting from a very calm place.
The first three sessions focused on how my body feels in space, my thoughts, and external sensations. Then, the remaining three sessions worked me through guided breathing and put together the rest of the pieces.
One of the hardest parts of my first few sessions was finding a comfortable place to sit and a room where I could feel focused. I tried sitting on my couch, at my dining room table, and in a common area within my apartment complex. I actually found that my couch was the most comfortable because I could sit upright without straining my back, and my tailbone was comfortable on a softer surface. Once I was able to get comfortable, I could actually begin meditating.
Focusing my attention inward was far less uncomfortable than I anticipated. I really enjoyed the fact that the meditation was guided because it removed a lot of variables for myself. What was I supposed to think about? Am I supposed to be thinking at all? What if I have an itch? My app’s yoga teacher, Jason Crandell, answered those questions for me.
I thought that the first three sessions were going to be nearly impossible. They addressed the exact reasons why I’d never attempted to meditate before. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite was actually true. The sessions were almost easy. Yes, I had a few to-do lists flicker in and out of my brain. And yes, I did have an itch or two (and I did scratch them), but I never felt like I was breaking character when that happened. I simply allowed myself to notice the distractions and then let them go.
My favorite session was the guided breathing. Focusing on air grazing your nostrils or your lips is far more calming than anyone would think. It sounds a little odd, but giving my brain something to truly focus on really helped eliminate any anxious thoughts or movements.
Now, I'll answer the important question: Did it work?
To reap the benefits of meditation, you need to put in the work. I avoided meditating because I didn’t have time, I couldn’t sit still, and I couldn’t quiet my thoughts. Turns out, I actually do have time, I can sit still, and I can quiet my thoughts--sometimes. Meditation is a process that deserves no expectations, just genuine openness. When I unlocked that piece of the puzzle, I felt lighter, airier, and just a little bit happier.
I learned that meditation doesn’t have to be this spiritual 90-minute session of silence and stoicism. It can be the first or last ten minutes of your day. Or even the first or last five.
I’m not visibly different than I was six sessions ago. I am, however, inspired, patient, and appreciative of this new found hobby of mine. It gives me hope that I can set aside time for myself more consistently, and with that consistent practice, become just a bit more content and present within the spaces around me.
I do plan to continue meditating. If nothing else, it’s a small gift of stillness to myself. We never allow ourselves to slow down because we tell ourselves some other task is more important. Learning how to meditate showed me that I was more important than any task that needed to be completed, and this new mindset is very special to me.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t the mindset you’re in during the actual practice, it’s the mindset with which it leaves you.
Have you tried guided meditation?
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