And how to start meditating even if you’re busy AF.
I’m a crazy busy mom and entrepreneur and just hit my “40 hours meditated” milestone on my meditation app. This only came after a consistent practice for the past year. I’ve managed to meditation 4-5 days a week for an average of 13 minutes and it’s been an incredibly transformative experience, positively impacting my emotional, mental and spiritual well-being not to mention my work.
What follows is everything I’ve learned about starting and maintaining a practice, and how to overcome all the excuses you’ve got for not having started one yet.
The first thing you should know: reading about meditation is not the same as meditating. So, food for thought, if you have time to read this article, you probably have time to just stop right now and go try to meditate. I myself used to spend a lot of time reading about the positive benefits of meditation and listening to podcasts like the (wonderful) recorded talks via The Insight Meditation Center’s Zencast, which are fine for a commute or an evening stroll, but don’t confuse the act of learning about meditation with meditation itself.
Next: use a guided meditation app. I personally use Headspace which has a fantastic guided “Starter” series, plus tons of sessions specifically dedicated to certain topics like Self Esteem, Appreciation, Productivity and Depression. The app also has shorter 3-minute sessions that I use frequently throughout the workday such as “Reset” and “Presentations” all led by the soothing voice of a British man named Andy. For me, a guided practice was absolutely essential and helped me understand some common obstacles that had stopped me from starting a consistent practice to begin with.
What I’ve learned this year:
To identify my unhealthy thought patterns.
It’s sad and humbling to realize the frequency that I beat myself up mentally. For example, I have a strange obsession with time, as in, “I’ll never find the time to work out,” “I don’t have time to go to that event,” and so on. Another one of my favorite ways to judge myself is to call myself lazy. Meditation has helped me realize everyday inner thought patterns and direct, spoken expressions of my self-deprecating thoughts that hold me back from living a happier life. This awareness has helped me learn be kinder, gentler and less judgemental of myself. In other words, I’m actually trying to love myself.
Thoughts don’t define my being.
When you meditate, you start separating your identity from the thoughts that emotions that naturally flow through you. My true self/conscious self/intuitive self is the part of my mind that is observing my thoughts.
Sounds kind of complicated but over time, I’ve begun to ignore my inner critic which operates from a place of fear, loathing and the aforementioned unhealthy thought patterns and begun listening to my inner voice– the intuitive, inspired voice that guides me toward my greatest passions.
The countless ways I’ve changed
The positive effects of the two previous insights are endless. The way I process emotions is shifting. The way I deal with confrontation, fear, anger and angst feels more manageable and my ability to experience everyday joy is improved. My work life and productivity feels more in control and manageable, and overall, I feel more aligned with my ability to make decisions for myself both personally and professionally by being more tapped into my own desires and intuition.
“Eureka” moments don’t happen during each practice.
Just like therapy, meditation is a gradual process and you will not experience life-altering changes in every (or any) session. The benefits of meditation for me have almost always been noticeable outside of the actual practice– throughout the day or when I’m facing a challenge. It’s only been a year and it’s so I’m sure that the benefits of meditation will only continue to come in waves as I continue forward.
Let’s address a few of the excuses that kept me from starting a practice that may be holding you back, too.
I can’t sit still for that long
Yes, you can. It’s 10 minutes, people. I started by incorporating meditation into my morning commute (on the train, not driving) but I also suggest working your practice into the beginning of your lunch break or right before bed.
I can’t stop myself from thinking
“Trying to stop yourself from thinking is like asking your heart to stop beating,” says Emily Fletcher of Ziva Meditation. The point of meditation is not to stop yourself from thinking, but creating “space” between your thoughts and your consciousness so you become more aware of your own patterns of thinking. It’s a wildly transformative peek into your own craziness.
I’m already super self-aware
If you think you’re already a deep-thinking, self-analyzing, emotionally intelligent person, guess what… you probably need meditation more than most.
I don’t have time to meditate
If you’re a high performing overachiever who juggles a million responsibilities, I have great news: meditation miraculously makes you more productive. Think about the “time out” as an investment of your time because it will actually you achieve more.
I tried meditation once and it didn’t work for me.
Remember that the true benefits of meditation aren’t felt immediately and are experienced over a consistent practice. Just keep going!
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