Dr. Meagan Stanley
Q: Help! I’m bad at meditating! Any suggestions?
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
A guide to mindfulness meditation for beginners (or those with a beginner’s mind).
Meditation—a practice that has received so much attention in recent years, and I’m so glad that it has. But unfortunately, what I also hear very frequently is people claiming they are “bad” at meditating. This is just not possible! This article will help to de-mystify meditating but if you take one thing away, it is that meditation is challenging, but does become easier and more possible with practice. There is nothing wrong with you if you feel it’s difficult—it’s just our minds that make it that way.
There are many different types of meditation that stem from different schools of thought, belief systems, and ancient practices. Most often, in today’s culture, when we think of meditation, we are referring to mindfulness meditation. I utilize mindfulness both in my meditation practice, but also as a technique to help my clients live a more peaceful existence.
I feel very strongly about the power of attending to the present moment, and for good reason. I have seen how it has positively shaped my own day-to-day experiences and how much it helps people I work with. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, but one that may feel overwhelming, mysterious and strange at first. I’m here to help you get started, even if you have never sat for a meditation before. I promise it’s not scary and the process is a lot less confusing than you would imagine.
Why is it important to meditate?
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, helps bring your attention to the present moment as a way of heightening your state of awareness. Awareness is also sometimes referred to as consciousness, which is a big concept. Most simply, it means being or becoming aware and not judgmental of what is going on around you, as well as what is going on in your mind, in the present moment. This idea is simple in theory, but very hard to do in practice. This is why meditation is very helpful as an exercise to train your brain to focus on this moment, rather than following endless thoughts about all sorts of things. We are not taught how to do this or given explanations as to why this is important, so of course, anything new will be hard but it is very possible.
This process of training your brain has been proven to improve your mental and physical health. In terms of emotional wellbeing, I often explain depression is a function of the mind living in the past, and anxiety is when the mind lives in the future. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation help reprogram your brain to live in the now, which is by nature, a more peaceful place to be.
What do I do during meditation?
Meditation can be more active than people think. Mindfulness meditation specifically involves continually bringing your awareness back to the present moment, which may be something you have to do constantly at first. To help with this process, sometimes you can think of a mantra, notice your breath, or find an area and/or sensation in your body to attend to. Whatever works best for you. Again, the goal is just to refocus your mind on this moment, rather than allow it to follow your thoughts.
This is the most basic type of mindfulness meditation. There are many types of guided meditations that you can also add to this practice. When you introduce concepts or intentions in this heightened state of awareness, it is likely that you are more open to receive these messages. Without judgment or fear getting in the way, you may be more able to internalize what these meditations might be offering you.
How do I start meditating?
1. Find a position that works best for your body—you should feel comfortable but still alert.
2. Find a location that is relatively quiet. It does not have to be completely silent, but somewhere that makes you feel at ease.
3. You don’t have to “turn off your brain” or be free of thoughts. Thoughts may come and go.
4. If you do have a lot of thoughts, try to not judge yourself or become frustrated. This is part of the process.
5. Be gentle with yourself when bringing your attention back to the present moment. Use your breath, a mantra, a sensation in your body, or whatever helps you bring your awareness back to this moment.
6. It’s okay to start off slow—1-2 minutes can be challenging at first. Work your way up to longer.
7. Routines help keep consistency in your practice, but don’t be afraid to take a few minutes to meditate throughout your day if that works better for you.
There is a lot of information here, so come back and revisit when you need to. I will also continue to post on meditation as more questions come up. Happy meditating.
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