An Intro to Meditation

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It was 4:30pm on a steamy summer Thursday in the city. Like many days prior, I was saddled with what I perceived as an immense amount of stress.  I was trying to build a business, build a family and get the most out of myself physically. I needed a release. Deep in my email that day, I received a random marketing email from Deepak Chopra and Oprah.  It was an “invitation” to take part in their 7 day meditation challenge. I had always been intrigued by meditation and mindfulness, so I was open to the idea. Around that time, all sorts of research articles were coming out explaining the benefits that meditation has on the brain and overall wellness. This was my chance, I thought, to clear my brain of all the stress I was under. There was no way to know the journey I was about to undertake…

Here we are about seven years later and meditation is a daily ritual that I do not miss, no matter the circumstances. Among all my habits and routines, my meditation time might be the most sacred. My meditation practice has had an impact on so many areas of my life. Whether I am spending time with my kids, talking with my wife, diving deep into something at work or getting into the flow of a run, its impact is felt through my ability to be present in a way that I couldn’t seem to grasp before. In a world with an ever increasing velocity of dings, buzzes, alerts, and distractions, meditation has taught me how to pause, slow down and find focus. More than anything, it has taught me that my reaction to an event is what gives it power, not the event itself. A thought is just a thought, like a passing cloud. Whether I engage and follow it down the rabbit hole is my choice. This wasn’t a tool I had in my toolbox before learning to meditate.

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Twenty years ago, meditation was only for yogis and buddhists. Thankfully, meditation has gone mainstream and it couldn’t be at a better time. We are barraged daily with notifications and alerts from our social media and work. Studies have shown that while these things are meant to connect us, we feel more alone and stressed than ever. Media drowns us in negative news which only heightens our anxiety. There is no better time to take a pause, a breath, and a moment to create space.

Meditation is often misunderstood and many people are nervous to get started. I thought I’d share some misconceptions and some tips to get going. Remember, all habits start small and build to routine.

Misconceptions:

  • Meditation will get rid of my thoughts

    • This is what I thought when I got started. What I learned was that it wasn’t meant to clear me of thoughts, but rather to help me become comfortable with my thoughts. It is essentially a way to stop the spiraling of those thoughts.

  • You must meditate for hours to see a benefit

    • Meditating even 5 minutes a day will bring benefits. Build from there and before you know it, you’ll have a practice.

  • Meditation is only sitting quietly

    • There are many forms of meditation and most can be done anywhere. You’d be amazed at what a meditative experience it can be to just walk while focusing on your steps and surroundings.

Tips:

  • Start small

    • Set aside 5-10 minutes a day and download an app like Streaks to track your progress and keep your streak alive.  Can’t find 5 minutes? Next time you reach for your phone to check Facebook, set the phone back down and breathe for 2 minutes before picking the phone back up.

  • Download a meditation app

    • It seems counter intuitive to use an app to meditate, when the goal is to take yourself away from distractions. That said, there are some really great apps to encourage mindfulness and guide your practice.  These are my favorites: Headspace, Oak, and Waking Up

  • Do it first thing in the morning

    • Of course, the most important thing is showing up and starting, no matter the time. However, I have found it most beneficial to do it as soon as I wake. It’s now a part of my morning wake up ritual, that way it doesn’t get missed! Life has its way of throwing you curveballs throughout the day, so knocking it out ensures you get it done. It also will arm you with the tools you need to deal with whatever comes at you that day. In fact, if you can pair with a habit you have already, this is a powerful way to kickstart your habit. This allows you to say “every time I brush my teeth, I then meditate”, which gives you a trigger to start your habit.

There are many more tips I could share, so if you need help getting started, please reach out! I’m passionate about this because of what an impact it has had on me and I love doing my part to make the world a little more calm.




Liz WhittenComment