If you’ve done any research (and by research I might just mean googling) about mental health, you’ll probably have seen the advice to ‘do meditation’. You might be aware that meditating regularly can really benefit us in many different ways, and you might want to enjoy some of these benefits yourself. But – like so many things – it can feel really difficult to actually get started. As well as getting started, you might also have the idea that to meditate you need to sit in quite an uncomfortable position for absolutely ages. If you have ever tried to meditate, the experience might have left you feeling that you didn’t do it right, that it was too hard and something ‘not for you’.
I’m sharing this post because I recently had a bit of a meditation breakthrough around whether meditation should be difficult, or uncomfortable – or both.
I recently did a short five day meditation course that came free with the Yoga With Adriene app. Yoga With Adriene is free on YouTube – you’ll find hundreds of yoga videos there, and there are also some meditation videos too. I pay monthly for the Find What Feels Good app (it’s about £9/month), which offers me some videos that don’t go on YouTube. Paying for the app is a way for me to make sure I do yoga more regularly, and to support the fantastic free resources. In July, the additional resources included a short meditation course with the teacher Light Watkins. He introduced me to a different attitude to meditating, one where you sit as comfortably as you can, and where you really enjoy the meditation! He says that it’s ok to fidget, or need to scratch an itch, or to find your thoughts going all over the place. He explains it briefly here.
Having had this breakthrough myself, I wanted to share with you some ideas that might support you to start meditating.
In my experience, the main benefit of meditation is the experience of a quiet mind. If you sometimes feel anxious or have anxiety, meditating might offer you just a moment’s peace – and in the middle of a busy mind, just a moment might feel as valuable as gold. And if you can experience one moment’s peace, perhaps in future you’ll experience two moments, and maybe it could grow from there. Meditating is also great practice for focusing on yourself. If you’re someone who’s always rushing around doing things for others, meditation might be your gateway into putting yourself first – again, perhaps for just a moment. And if you take care of yourself well, then you’ll have more resources available to care for all those other people in your life.
If you decide to give meditation a try, you might want to start by listening to a guided meditation. This is where you listen to someone talking from an app or a podcast or YouTube. I’d recommend you choose something that’s 5 minutes or less to start with. Get yourself comfortable and cosy. Close the door and put your phone on silent. Tell the people around you that you are not to be disturbed. For some people, doing this in the bathroom might be the only way you are guaranteed to be left alone! If that’s you, do make yourself as comfy as you can. Then plug in your headphones, and off you go. And you don’t have to worry about sitting still, or fidgeting, or thinking about other things. Most guided meditations will explain that of course you’ll think about other things – when you realise that’s what happening, you can just re-focus on the voice again, or pay attention to your breath again. However you turn up in your meditation is welcome. You can’t go wrong – however you do it, you are doing it right.
If you don’t want to listen to a guided meditation, again, get yourself as comfy as you can, in a private space. Set a timer for a really short time – 3 minutes? 5 minutes? Sit comfortably, and pay attention to your breathing. And just do that until the timer goes off. When your thoughts wander, no problem, just pay attention to your breathing again.
Below are some resources that might be helpful to you (- but this is not an exhaustive list), and a short meditation from Goodful on YouTube. Good luck with it. I hope you enjoy meditating.
And if you don’t enjoy it – simply don’t do it: go for a walk, call a friend or do something else nourishing for you instead.
the Headspace app
the Calm app
information from the charity ‘Mind’
NHS bedtime meditation