You might imagine that meditation can only happen seated beside a serene waterfall, soft linen garments billowing in warm breeze. Or that your mind needs to transform into a perfect blank slate, thoughts of to-dos or appointments completely banished. Or that someone like you could just never do it, that you’ll never be quite calm or relaxed enough to pull it off.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what meditation is or what it can be. We’re here to debunk a few of those and help you figure out if practicing meditation could be right for you!
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated
Meditation isn’t necessarily easy, but getting started can be. It can be helpful for some people to take a meditation class, use an app, or listen to a guided recording, but you can also keep it simple! Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and when your mind starts to wander, try to return to that focus. Repeat!
It doesn’t mean you empty your mind
When you first try meditating, you might also feel bored, distracted, or just uncomfortable. This is totally normal and perfectly okay: you’re not aiming to empty your mind of everything. Our minds are busy, so it’s no surprise that stillness might feel strange at first. The goal is really just to slow down and move toward greater awareness of whatever you’re focusing on — whether that’s a mantra, your breath, your body, or something else.
You don’t have to be completely still
Many people practice meditation on the floor, in a chair, or lying down. But maybe for you, meditation happens while you’re running, walking, doing yoga, or stretching. Maybe it happens at the end of a shower, during your morning commute, or as you settle in bed before sleep. Whether you’re still or in motion, it’s still meditation.
You don’t need to clear your schedule to find time
You don’t need big stretches of uninterrupted time to meditate. Grab a few minutes on your lunch break, in the car before walking into work, or after your kids are in bed. You can also carve out little moments in your day by setting a reminder alarm on your phone or a mini meeting on your calendar.
You might not feel the effects right away
Some people feel great after meditating for the first time, but many people don’t hit their stride until they’ve been practicing for several weeks. It’s a lot like working a muscle: the more you do it, the stronger you are. Some days will feel great, some less so, and you just have to respect the practice and have faith in the process.
You don’t need to eliminate distractions
Do what you can to get comfortable, and maybe keep some ear plugs on hand, but don’t worry about blocking all potential distractions or noises out. Meditation is partly about recognizing distractions, not resisting that they’re there. If you find yourself getting distracted, just shift your attention back to your breath, your mantra, or whatever you’re focusing your attention on.
There’s no one right way to meditate
Some days, repeating a mantra in bed at the end of the day might work for you. Others, you might want to go for a walk. If you’ve only ever imagined that meditation happens a certain way, you might feel like it’s cheating to meditate while cleaning or commuting or grocery shopping. But that’s meditation too — your practice is all about what works for you and what helps you stay more calm and centered. You’ve got this!
- Mindfulness to mantra: different kinds of meditation
- Seven strategies for getting started with a meditation practice
- Alice Boyes.“5 Meditation Tips for Beginners.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, March 18 2013. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201303/5-meditation-tips-beginners.
- Sue McGreevey. “Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks.” Massachusetts General Hospital. Massachusetts General Hospital, January 21 2011. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.massgeneral.org/News/pressrelease.aspx?id=1329.
- Lea Waters. “The Relationship between Child Stress, Child Mindfulness and Parent Mindfulness.” Psychology. 7(1): 40-51. January 2016. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=62741
- “Meditation for beginners.” Headspace. Headspace Inc. Retrieved February 5 2019. https://www.headspace.com/meditation/