I wanted to let you guys know before you heard it from someone else. I mean, there’s no easy way to say this…
I’m going woo-woo.
I’ve started meditating routinely.
Yep, sitting in one place with my palms up on my thighs, silently chanting whatever mantra I feel is right for the day.
Ok ok. Before you start on, “Amy, I thought you weren’t a meditator! I thought you use movement as your meditation like you said back in this post!”
I do still! I haven’t lost my love for running or yoga, and I still do some of my best thinking when I’m sweating it out, but I just have to write about the benefits that meditation is having on me these past few weeks.
Let’s start with a little back-stepping…
Sooo you may have gleaned that I’ve been fighting off the darkness for the last few weeks. I’ve been writing about overwhelm and stress because I personally have been struggling with it. In the past, these stressors have been triggers for depression in me, so I was looking for some fresh tools to stave them off…
About a month ago, when my stress was gaining momentum, a good friend reached out and asked if I would take Oprah & Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge with her. It was free, virtual, and I had always been interested in beginning meditation. I had heard from so many mental health professionals and yoga teachers that it could be a game-changer for me…
So I said, “Yes.” Because why not take on another challenge when you’re already crazy overwhelmed, right? ;)
When the challenge began, I was actually eager to see what this woo-woo-sitting-and-breathing-stuff was all about. I couldn’t wait to start feeling refreshed and stress-free immediately! I just knew that this would be my ticket to stress relief in no time flat.
The first few days of meditation, I was a bit disappointed. Not with the product, but with the results I wasn’t getting.
I was still stressed out. I was still shutting down. I was still sinking deeper.
I struggled with focusing in the meditations themselves (thanks, ADHD), and I didn’t feel the intense concentration that I do after a good workout. Bottom line: I felt a bit jipped and kinda like a failure. I mean, I should be able to do this kinda stuff. I’m all about mantras while I’m moving! Why couldn’t I concentrate on them while I was still?
But I stayed with it. I had committed and I don’t break commitments very easily.
It wasn’t until about week #3 that I started realizing that the 15 minutes I was spending whenever I could find them in my day, focusing on letting go, was encouraging me to do the same in real life.
I had been holding on to situations that at any other point I would let slide. I had been focusing on what I didn’t have instead of all the glorious blessings I do have. I had been letting this stress take priority in my life. I’ll admit, I fell a bit into woe-is-me territory.
The meditations were helping me to let go of all that I didn’t know I was holding on to, and center myself in what matters.
I started realizing that I was forcing a smile when I was with my friends, and that I no longer needed to do that because they love and support me even when I’m struggling. They deserved to know what was going on.
I felt like I would fail you all here if I didn’t post 2x/week, even if I stayed up until 1:00 am to get it out and had a 7:00 am client the next day.
Over the last week, all my barriers I was holding on to, all the harnesses I had fastened around myself to protect me from seeming vulnerable, released. I opened up to my fiancé and my friends. I said “No,” to new clients. I decided not to post 2 articles this week.
As I released, the meditations began getting easier and more fulfilling. I began carving out more time for them so that I could meditate longer.
I started looking forward to my meditations because they gave me time to reflect on what matters: love, health and service. These are my priorities in life, and if I am doing something that does not serve these priorities, I must have the courage to drop it (thanks for putting that into words for me, Pete :)).
This past weekend, I celebrated my bachelorette weekend with my nearest and dearest girls in Santa Barbara. Even then, I woke up early to venture outside so that I could stick to my meditations.
I’m making time for silence and stillness just like I make time for movement and preparation to eat healthy.
So, here’s where me-helping-you comes in. You know where I’m going with this…
Meditation has been around for centuries, but it has recently won some well-deserved attention for the role it plays in easing the naughty stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is culprit for many of our health woes today. Studies have shown that meditation can help with depression, weight loss, insomnia and even getting better grades!
But what does meditation have to do with getting stronger?
Even the simple act of committing to meditation, to carving out the time to spend on just you, strengthens your commitment to your health and wellbeing.
This is what I found to be true in my practice: By focusing on empowering mantras in consistent meditations, I got better at carrying that positive, invigorated feeling from my meditation with me throughout the day, re-affirming myself when negative thoughts started seeping in through the cracks. And it was effortless.
Many of you are already in the middle of the Get Clean Challenge, so if you are, don’t worry about adding this on top. If you’re handling it pretty well, however, feel free. It may even help stifle any cravings, obsessive thoughts or resistance you may be having around the challenge.
What I’d like to suggest to those of you who are interested is to try meditating this week every single day for 5 minutes.
I’m not gonna leave you in the dust without any guidance! You know me better than that…
Below, I’ve written up a simple guide to take the guess and check out of meditation for beginners. No more excuses. No more judgements. Commit to giving your mind some space to refocus and stop effing stressing so much!
You ready? Let’s get our Om on…
1. Find a quiet spot
Ideally, you want to find a spot in which you can be alone with as few distractions as possible. It makes it easier to focus.
Got roommates? Go into the bathroom with your phone and some ear buds.
Taking care of a family all day long? Sit in the parking lot of the grocery store for 5 minutes before you go in.
That said, if you can’t find silence, it’s not a deal breaker. If you live in an apartment like I do, you probably don’t ever have peace and quiet. We can save our gripes for another time. ;)
It’s completely possible to meditate in a busy environment. Your priority is just doing it over making sure it’s completely quiet.
2. Get rid of expectations
Your meditation probably won’t be like you expect it to be when you first start. That’s ok!
Try to go into this first week with no expectations. Just let it be what it becomes.
3. Music or silence?
I really liked the guided meditations from the 21-Day Meditation Challenge largely because of the relaxing music in the background. I seem to be able to focus more intently when I am listening to music, so I prefer to have ambient tracks on when I’m meditating.
If you choose music, try to choose something that has no lyrics. It may be easier to concentrate if you opt for melodic instrumentals that put you in a relaxed state. Shop around a little.
You may enjoy one of these guided meditation apps featured by The Huffington Post. I know I’m going to check them out!
If you are not using a guided meditation, set a timer for 5 minutes.
Cool to sit in silence? Sweet. Let’s wrangle an intention…
4. Focus on a mantra
The key for me to get the most out of my meditation is to set an intention in the form of a mantra. If you’ve been around SIO at all, you’ll know that I’m a BIG fan of mantras as a way to strengthen from the inside out. They help me through tough workouts and through, well, tough life. It’s fitting that I bring these affirmations with me into my meditation.
Your mantra does not need to be the same every time you meditate, but I do recommend choosing only one per meditation.
Choose a simple word, phrase or chant that speaks to you on a deeper level. Maybe even one of these. Go into your meditation with this mantra as your guide.
5. Get comfy, close your eyes & breathe
Sit comfortably however that is for you, and place your palms upturned on your thighs or knees.
Take a deep breath and close your eyes.
Start focusing on your breathing, inhaling into your belly, and exhaling all the stress with every breath you take.
Relax your body. Relax your face. Relax the tiny muscles around your eyes.
If you feel your mind starting to wander, gently redirect your thoughts back to your mantra.
State it clearly in your mind.
Breathe into it.
It is completely ok if your mind wanders. Mine definitely does. Don’t beat yourself up when this happens. Just gently bring yourself back to your mantra, back to this moment.
For 5 minutes (or more if you wish), take this time to breathe and BE.
7. Stay consistent
Just as it took me almost 3 weeks to start seeing the benefits of meditation, it may take you a while to get the lingering good vibes from it, too. Your best bet as a beginning meditator is to make the commitment to sticking with it for at least a week.
Every one of us can find 5 minutes to sit in silence. If you “can’t,” you probably need it that much more.
Think of it as a commitment to yourself, just like eating healthy or working out is. Make the time for it.
It’s been almost 4 weeks since I started meditating daily, and I am so very grateful to say that the darkness has released its hold on me again. You’d think he’d learn by now…
Would you join me in this state of peace, focus and strength?
In the comments below:
Tell me if you’ll be joining me in meditating for 5 minutes every day for the next 7 days.
Either way, I wish you peace and strength. Here’s to your health, inside and out.
With hope and fire,
pic by RelaxingMusic