I remember my mind constantly racing. I was never able to turn it off or quiet it down. I was always worrying or over-analyzing about what I would ‘have to’ do or ‘should have’ said or done. When I was not worrying about the past I was stressing about the future. Trying to predict everything that could happen and plan exactly what I had to do to achieve my goal. At one point I remember asking my father, “is this normal?” Does everyone have thoughts always coming through our minds? The answer was yes, which made me feel normal. Unfortunately, he did not have an answer as to HOW.

What I Wish I Knew 

When I first attempted to meditate, my mind continued to be flooded with thoughts. On top of the ‘to-do lists,’ my brain kept telling me how ridiculous it was that I was meditating, “This is silly, how is sitting and doing nothing helpful? You are wasting your time; you could have completed this or that by now.”
 
I thought I could not meditate. I did not realize that this was part of the process and a process to retrain my brain. 
 
Your mind has two main priorities: keep you safe and use the least amount of energy possible. What this means is that it loves habits. Habits are anything that you do not have to think about because it is embedded into our unconsciousness, like brushing your teeth. Not only do they preserve energy, but they are also safe and familiar. It is something that is recognized and routine or anything you have seen or done before is perceived as secure. 
 
What this also means is, anytime you try something new, you are going to meet resistance from your mind. Does not matter what it is, if it is familiar and therefore comfortable, no matter how much you want to change the behavior you are going to meet the resistance of your mind until it becomes a new habit.  Once you do have the new habit established, your brain will welcome it as being safe and efficient. 
 
The goal of meditation is NOT to be void of thoughts. Meditation is more about acceptance and non-judgment.  Let the thoughts come in and let them be released. Do not dive into the thought and entertain it, just let it go by.  Eventually, the practice promotes mindfulness, being in the present moment.  That is the real goal, to be present with yourself at that moment. 

Getting Started

It can be overwhelming when you are trying something new for the first time. Especially with such an individualized experience, it can be difficult to know how to start. Some tips on how to get started: 
  • Remember that it is a skill that you develop over time.
  • There is no judgment, no right or wrong way. 
  • There are many kinds of meditation, so if one does not resonate with you, try another!
  • Wear relaxed clothing, especially around the waist.
  • Choose a space where you can be comfortable.
  • Ensure you are free from distractions (you may want to put your phone on airplane mode)
  • Sit in a position and ensure your spine is straight and in alignment. If you are on the ground, you may want a bolster to assist your comfort in this position. If you are in a chair, make sure your feet are flat on the floor. 
  • Start small- it is okay to start with only 3 minutes a day. Believe it or not, the small subtle shifts you make daily over time will lead to massive change.

Basic Breath

An easy, and most effective way to start is to start with your breath. Your breath is immensely powerful! It is energy, your life force, and connection with the environment. Many of us breathe very shallow breaths and our breathing is usually done unconsciously.  When we make our breaths conscious, we can increase our energy, increase our awareness (by making the unconscious act conscious) and initiate many physical healing benefits. Most notably, it helps to move your body from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) response. The breath’s dual functions of voluntary and unconscious control enable us to move our nervous system into a more restful state through conscious breath. This is where healing can happen, decreasing stress, tension, and toxins with an increase in calmness and oxygenation.
 
After you bring yourself into position with your spine straight, put your hand on your abdomen.  
  • Take an inhale through your nose. As you initiate the breath, first your abdomen will fill with air and push out. 
  • As you continue to breathe slowly through your nose the air goes up into the middle lungs as your diaphragm drops down, and finally up to the top of your lungs, lifting the upper chest. 
  • Slightly draw the abdomen in at the highest part of the breath and retain for several seconds. 
  • Then, slowly exhale maintaining the straight posture with the abdomen coming inward. 
 
This breath consists of a 2 second inhale (that can be worked up to 5-10 seconds) and a somewhat longer exhale. This may take some practice and, starting with 3 minutes a day is a great place to start, and then can work your way up to 11 minutes. 

Individual Experience

I expected that over time I would become more relaxed and less stressed.  There is plenty of information in the literature that discussed those outcomes.  What I did not expect is that over time and with consistency, my anxiety resolved.  Next, I was able to focus more and even became more confident. The confidence came as I was able to quiet my mind, I was able to hear more of what I truly desired. I became less influenced by other people’s thoughts and opinions as I was able to hear more of my own inner voice. 
 
Your experience may be different from mine. That is okay. What is important to remember is that meditation is a way to communicate with yourself.  You will receive what you need when you need it, and there is no right or wrong. It is your experience with yourself.

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