Meditation And How It Can Improve Your Life
Meditation: A Tool Every LBF Member Can Use
If you’ve clicked on this blog post, chances are you’re at least somewhat interested in developing a meditation practice, and you’re likely wondering how to get started and/or how meditating can benefit you. GREAT NEWS: You’ve absolutely come to the right place! Although there are several existing articles online that discuss this topic in depth, I’m going to cater this piece to you – an LBF member (or potential member) who’s focused on self-improvement, one meal and workout at a time.
My Meditation Journey
First, I want to give you a little information about me and how I got into meditating. My journey began about six years ago when I started practicing yoga; my teachers regularly incorporated meditation into our asana (physical) practices, typically at the end, asking us to get into comfortable seated positions and close our eyes. They emphasized the importance of watching – not following – the thoughts and remaining physically still if possible. My 22-year-old brain was baffled, probably because I was used to near-constant stimulation via my smartphone, tablet, computer, TV, the people around me, etc. Sound familiar?
Initially, meditation was really hard for me. I fought the urge to move, wanted to look around to see what everyone else was doing and constantly worried that I wasn’t “getting anywhere.” Like, why wasn’t I connecting with my higher power? Where were my profound revelations? Why couldn’t I stop thinking about what I was going to eat later? Will this ever NOT suck?
But here’s where it gets cool. I didn’t give up; I kept coming to class and trying. Eventually, sitting still was okay, and I got tiny glimpses of a clear mind. Pretty soon, I was able to get my mind clear enough to receive messages (that I believe come from my intuition), both in the form of pictures and words – I know it sounds crazy, but I swear I saw an image of my wedding day before it happened during a guided meditation session, and that’s just one example. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Why You Should Meditate
You may be thinking, “Umm … Messages? Pictures? What?” And I totally get it. If that is too “out there” for you, don’t worry! Meditation doesn’t lead to that for everyone. Many people use the practice simply to relax, focus on their breath and find peace. My husband is a great example of this type of person; his meditation practice has taught him how to calm his nerves on command, which is something he finds incredibly helpful when it comes time to perform athletically or professionally.
In general, meditation helps people gain control over their emotional state, and I think that’s because it requires slowing down, tuning out the outside world and focusing your attention inward (something we ALL need a lot more of in our increasingly digital, externally-focused world). This has proven invaluable on my nutrition journey – when I’ve had a tough day and want to inhale an entire sleeve of Oreos or guzzle a bottle of wine, I have the “tools” to recognize that’s just my ego trying to self-medicate, and I can choose another course of action that’s better for me and aligns more closely with my goals. I’m not saying you must meditate in order to have such realizations, but I’ve noticed it’s easier for me to stay on track and remain mindful when I’m in a healthy, balanced mental state.
Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, meditation teaches you to watch your thoughts rather than follow them. What does that mean? Picture yourself lying on your back, watching clouds float by – noticing the clouds, acknowledging them and letting them pass without attaching meaning or judgment to them. That’s essentially what you’re doing, just with your thoughts. Trust me when I say this is an amazing tool to have in your life. It means your mental state does not hinge on every thought or idea that pops up; you have a choice. You get to decide. So, when you’re in the middle of a workout and a negative thought pops in (“You’re not strong enough,” or “You can’t do this”), you do not have to follow it down the rabbit hole. Instead, you can watch it pass and choose a more positive thought, like “This is tough, but SO AM I.” Are you seeing the value of meditation a little more clearly now?
How to Incorporate Meditation into Your Life
Now that you’re convinced, it’s time to discuss how you can add meditation into your routine. I highly recommend starting with a smartphone app like Headspace, which offers a free introductory series that includes 10 sessions lasting 10 minutes (after that you have to pay, but I hear it’s beyond worth it). Calm is another app you can try, and you can find hundreds of free guided meditations online – Google it!
While I suggest starting with some sort of guide, I actually prefer un-guided meditations at this point in my journey (please keep in mind that I’ve been doing this for six years now!). My practice currently involves sitting on the floor in a silent room with my legs crossed and my back pressed against a wall, eyes closed. I usually set a timer on my phone, but not always, and I begin to breathe deeply through my nose. I focus my attention on the space between my eyes (known as the third eye, which is related to intuition), and I watch my thoughts. Note: I call this a practice because that’s exactly what it is. Some sessions are better than others, and I do my best to go into meditation without ambition.
If you absolutely cannot get still or you think you are too busy to stop moving for 10 minutes (you’re not, but let’s pretend), you can reach a meditative state while in motion. For example, a walk or run can be meditative, as can tasks like doing dishes or folding laundry. It’s all about your mindset. Instead of focusing on what’s next on your to-do list, turn your attention to your breath and practice watching your thoughts.
Quick Tips for Beginners
- Please, for the love of God, PUT YOUR PHONE ON AIRPLANE MODE. Don’t let the sound of an incoming text or Facebook notification ruin a perfectly lovely meditation session.
- Practice meditation in a quiet place when you’re alone. Eventually, you might be able to go inward and block out spouses, kids, roommates, pets, etc., but at least in the beginning, you’re going to require peace and quiet.
- Set yourself up for success. Do not set unattainable goals because you’ll only get discouraged and give up; so, instead of saying you’ll meditate every day for an hour as long as you live, start small – like the Headspace introductory series. As Tim Ferriss says, rig the game so you can win.
- If you have the time, find an in-person guided meditation to attend (most yoga studios offer these regularly). I can almost guarantee you’ll learn a lot and discover techniques you can implement into your at-home meditation practice.
- Be patient with yourself. You probably won’t enjoy meditation at first because, honestly, it’s pretty tough to sit still without any distractions and watch your thoughts. Don’t judge yourself for struggling, and just hang in there. I promise it’s worth it.
I fear this is already too long, but I’d love to expand on these ideas or answer any questions you may have! Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.