In the last post, we talked about practicing mindfulness as a way to help you better achieve your NY’s resolutions.
Let me say at the outset that meditation is not for everyone. There are other ways that are just as good. It just depends on what works best for you. I’ll cover some of those alternate practices in the next post.
The Boston Globe published an article on January 3rd this year, entitled “How to Start a Meditation Practice”, (www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2019/01/03/how-to-start-a-meditation-practice). For all the hype about meditation, only about 8 percent of all US adults practice it, so don’t feel guilty if you’re one of those who don’t. Again, there may be other practices, yoga for instance, that may be a better match, and will still get you where you need to be.
The article’s author, journalist Jenna Pelletier, recommended that you do some research into the different styles of meditation by going on-line, doing some reading, or talking to others. Some of the styles include transcendental, Zen, vipassana, yogic, and loving-kindness. They can be quite different, so you want to see which ones feel most comfortable and are the best fit for you.If you noodle around the internet, you’ll probably find a video for at least some of the styles. Research what classes are in your area, and see whether you can try one class to see whether you like it or not. The teacher may also know about other types of meditation, and how you can find a class. Also be aware of the class size (large or small), and teacher’s style (individual or class oriented), and what works best for you.
Most people practice almost daily, usually at home, and periodically take classes to motivate or fine-tune their practice. Meditating with others often enhances, or increases the intensity of the experience, and is sometimes recommended doing at least on a periodic basis.
Find a quiet space, and though it may seem counterintuitive, a timer is useful. It frees you up so you don’t have to keep interrupting your meditation to check on the time. Start by inhaling to the count of four, and exhaling to the count of seven (remember, you want to exhale more slowly than you inhale, for most breathing techniques, no matter what the count is). Many meditation practices don’t focus on the breathe, so make sure to do some research if that doesn’t appeal to you.
Meditation is simply a way of helping you be in the present (not as easy as it sounds), without all the thoughts, feelings, situations and other distractions that crowd out what is happening in the present moment. When meditating, when you think of what your boss said to you earlier that day, that’s okay. Just gently bring your thoughts back to your breathing or other symbol that you’re focused on. Don’t expect you’ll get rid of all those thoughts – you won’t. That’s not the point of meditation. It only helps you become aware of when those thoughts interfere with you’re being in the present, and helps you focus on the present.
I had a meditation teacher who told us that when he first started to meditate, he went to a meditation center, where he was ushered into a quiet room, and left to practice. Someone had left a candy bar on a shelf in the room. It took him a full hour-and-a half to finally get that dumb candy bar out of his mind, and focus back on his breathe.
Meditation helps you live more in the present, for when you do, surprisingly, you’re not so up-tight. You’re not plagued by the situations of either the past or the future. There is only the now, without all the fear and aggravation. That is the goal of meditation, not that you’re emptying your mind of any thoughts, as it is often misunderstood to be.
One last thing that deserves mentioning. Meditation may not be a good choice for you if you are a trauma survivor, as traumatic memories could come up while you’re in the process of relaxing. Yoga, or another movement practice, might be a better choice.
You might want to check out Mindful magazine (www.mindful.org), which has may tips and some good articles. You can also find it at your local public library.
Best of luck!