Let me quickly address the universal feelings we suffer through when we start a meditation practice:
I’m not good at this… how am I this bad at just sitting here trying to think about nothing?… yep, this isn’t for me… how does my nose itch again?
Notice I said, “the universal feelings”? That’s because we all share some version of those initial experiences. We decide to give meditation a try, find it impossible to clear our minds, need to pee, and give up deciding it’s Just Not For Me. So, let me be super clear – right here, right now – YOU CANNOT MEDITATE WRONG. That’s not a thing. If you sit still, get quiet, take a couple of breaths, and relax you are meditating. And you’re doing great. Literally, perfect. Like a boss ass pro. Of course your mind will wander, that’s what minds do. That’s normal and fine. Of course you’ll feel jittery or antsy sometimes, that’s normal and fine. Of course you’ll stop in the middle of it sometimes because it’s hard to ignore a hungry cat (see below). Totally normal. Totally fine. Just keep at it. Refuse to feel like meditation isn’t for you. It is. Yes it is.
Step One to cultivating a strong meditation practice: put it back on the list.
If you think that I heard six billion reviews on the benefits of meditation, decided to go for it, and then dug right in and Zenned my ass off – you’d be 2/3rds right. (See that optimism right there? Not 1/3 wrong, 2/3 right. I’m going to chalk that positivity up to meditation.) Like everyone with a connection to the internet, each new podcast and blog post had me deciding that Today Is The Day and Here I Go. I fully believed that meditation was for me. I assumed it did the things the Super Zen claimed. I wanted a calmer mind, and better brain waves, and to be totally healed(?) – I just couldn’t get myself to fucking do it. You get it. So one day I decided that I was going to put it at the top of my to-do list every day. Period. If I didn’t follow through, fine, but it was going on there again tomorrow. And there it sat… on my to-do list… day after day… boldly and rudely uncrossed off.
So each day it went back at the top of the list.
Apparently shame and guilt and psychology work, because one day I accidently sat down and meditated and crossed it off my list. Super proudly. Then it sat on my to-do list ignored for a few more days. What? -_-
Step Two to cultivating a strong mediation practice: Find a way to challenge yourself.
In those first few weeks, I just couldn’t seem to gather enough steam to maintain consistency. During my first several sessions I struggled with all of the aforementioned Universal Feelings. It was hard to be consistent and stay positive with all of that negativity crowding out my Zen. It was then that the Universe smiled down, or took pity, or got bored and I stumbled across a 30 Day Challenge. I like 30 day challenges, don’t you? They seem so doable. Knowing that I could do anything for 30 days and deciding I wouldn’t be defeated by something as simple as sitting quietly, I dug in, didn’t miss a beat, and crossed it off my list… every *clap* damn *clap* day *clap*.
–Again, super proudly.-
Step Three to cultivating a strong meditation practice: Develop your goals (or expected outcomes).
In the beginning, I just wanted to experience the hype. I had no goal apart from the 30 day challenge. That was plenty. The result of being consistent – and I’m by no means an expert here, I’m just sharing my early experience – has been a calmer, more easily focused and relaxed, Baseline Laure. Now I notice out of sync emotions and run away thoughts immediately and it’s easy to settle back into calm. It feels incredible. It feels free. My goal now is to keep being able to center myself in any situation. Plus if it cures a secret cancer I have or I become a sage philosopher, bonus.
So, if you’ve decided to give it a try there are a million places to start. I won’t address that here except to say that I did The Meaning of Life app and moved on to the paid version of the Calm app. I use the Daily Calm feature most days. The app also has other features I use a lot: music, backgrounds, quick breathing exercises, and sleep stories. (Sleep stories are bedtime stories for adults and they are HEAVEN.) If you use a different app that you love, share it in the comments so I can try it out.
Regardless of what path you venture down to get started (YouTube is also great), just START. Today. Don’t wait for Monday – that’s not a real thing either. It only takes a few minutes, you don’t have to achieve Level 10 Zen, and then you can mark it off your list with me!
Here’s a picture of my cat (you’re welcome).
She’s a super great meditator.
She’s also super great at interrupting meditators.
She’s a double-threat.