I wish I had some awesome story of self-discovery where I met the Dalai Lama and discovered the keys to inner peace, but I don’t. I got into meditation because I couldn’t fall asleep at night. Insomnia and overthinking left me googling healthy ways to get some shut eye. Note to reader: never Google after 1am. Your mind is irrational enough to believe you’re gonna die of some incurable sleep disorder or age like Benjamin Button.
While googling, I remembered that I downloaded an app I saw on Twitter called SmilingMind earlier that day. One of the main reasons I downloaded it was because it had an adorable cloud icon and touted being easy to learn. So, really, an adorable cloud icon introduced me to meditation.
Here was my inner dialogue during my first few attempts to meditate:
“Alright, meditation time…”
“I wonder if I’m doing this right…”
“Dammit I’m thinking…”
“Ok don’t think…don’t think…”
“Shit I’m thinking about not trying to think”
“Ah my leg itches!!”
(You get the idea)
Convinced I would get better (I credit sports analogies for keeping me motivated) I kept using the app and reading more about mindfulness. I learned about different meditation techniques and eventually fell in love with it. Here are a few myths/concerns/questions about mindfulness that I want to dispel in the hope that you’ll give it a try too!
What Is Meditation/Mindfulness?
I like to think of meditation as thinking on purpose. Your mind is like an untrained puppy. It hops from thought to thought. It might focus on something for a few seconds, then jumps to another thought. Meditation is the Cesar Millan of untrained puppies. It’s learning to be present without becoming attached to any particular thought. Anyone who has a dog knows that when you try to train a puppy to sit, it’s literally the hardest thing for it to comprehend at first. It’ll kinda sit… but then reach for the treat…sit for two seconds… then move again. But eventually it learns to sit. Meditation is a lot like that. The better you get at meditating, the better you’ll be able to train your dog of a mind to sit and stay there.
I’ve Tried It. I Just Can’t Do It.
So maybe you’ve tried it a few times with little success, try again. No, you don’t suck and yes, you can meditate. Everyone can. And everyone has the same thoughts when they first start. Namely, “I don’t have the brain to meditate,” “I’m not good at this,” or “this is really weird…I should be doing something else right now.” Learning to meditate is like running a marathon. You can’t just wake up one day out of shape and decide that you’re going to run a marathon AND come in first place. You gotta train son! It’s the same thing with meditation, so be easy on yourself. There are so many techniques and skills to try before you give up. You can do it!
But I’m Not Buddhist
That makes two of us. You don’t have to be Buddhist to meditate. You don’t have to be any type of person to meditate. You just have to be your awesome beautiful self. While meditation has roots in various spiritual traditions, being mindful is simply learning to pay attention. Learning to pay attention extends beyond religion. It’s simply learning to appreciate life moment to moment. Even politicians are getting on board.
I’m Not Into Woo Woo Hippie Stuff
If veterans suffering from PTSD are giving meditation a try, maybe you should too. Just sayin.
The long-term benefits of meditation outweigh the question of whether mindfulness is just a fad. I bet you still have one or two Beanie Babies that you kinda love and you’ll still love meditation long after the fad ends.
This All Sounds Good But Where Do I Even Start?
Shameless Plug: I’m teaching group meditation classes on November 13, November 20, and December 4 at the Emergence Community Art Collective. I personally love group meditation. I found it much easier to meditate in a group when I first started. To sweeten the deal, enter “trymeditation14” for a $5 discount.
Here are a list of resources that helped me when I first started meditating or that I’ve found useful in building a consistent practice:
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo
365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao
Why Mindfulness is Better Than Chocolate by David Michie
Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain
The Art of Meditation by Matthieu Ricard
The Power of Patience by M.J. Ryan
These days I fall asleep a lot faster. I love meditation and I’m totally convinced you will too. So give it a try. What do you have to lose, other than insomnia.