I meditate nearly every day. Sometimes for 40 minutes. Sometimes, when time is limited, for just 20 minutes. (I like the longer sessions best.)
No, I don’t get bored.
Yes, my mind still yammers on like a barfly trying to get laid. But still, I meditate.
I started my practice by just starting. No books, no studying. Just meditating 5 minutes a day for one whole month. I used a timer. (See below.)
Then, the over-achiever bossy boss in my head told me I needed to do 10 minutes a day.
Luckily, I know this crazy overachiever well. And I know from experience that she is also a saboteur. So instead, I chose to meditate for 6 minutes a day for 30 days.
Then I went to 7.
Then I made a leap to 15 minutes. The over-achiever had quieted substantially at this point, and I dove deeper into technique and began studying certain teachers like Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, Sam Harris and Adyashanti.
On my birthday that year, I went for a whopping 40 minutes.
Soon after, I went to my first 7-day silent retreat. I continued to meditate for 30 – 40 minutes daily if possible.
What I can tell you is the meditation has been a game-changer. I don’t need to walk you through the brain science and data. You’ve heard it all before. You don’t need more facts. You just need to do it.
So I’d like to share how I got started. Take what works for you, and leave the rest, okay?
Before we begin, let me simply say that I’m guessing that you and I are a lot alike.
1 – I’m guessing that you are a bit of a perfectionist.
2 – I’m betting that you like it best when things are bright shiny. (Like, maybe you secretly believe that Jesus himself should show up during your first session to give you a “thumbs up!” for being all holy and shit.)
3 – I’m also betting that you’re a high achiever. You’re thinking you’ll “kick meditation’s ass!” or something of that sort.
Okay cool. All good.
With that out of the way, let’s begin with my NOT TO DO’s when you start a meditation practice.
Christine’s Top 3 Meditation Not-To-Do’s:
1 – Don’t try
I don’t know who said this first, but it’s true: You can’t “achieve” your way to peace. “Trying” makes mediation much much harder and a lot more painful.
2 – Don’t silence your thoughts
Imagine I came to your house, stuffed a pair of gym socks in your mouth, and slapped a giant piece of duct tape on top. Then I tied up your hands and told you to sit there all day.
Would you have quite a bit to say to me when I returned and unbound you?
Well, that’s how it works with your mind.
When you try to push down, repress, tie it up, shut it up… it responds by working harder. The mind makes thoughts. That’s what it does.
Meditation is so uncomfortable at first because you’re suddenly consciously aware of exactly how insane your thoughts are.
That’s just thoughts. You don’t have the control. Let them be there.
3 – Don’t be “spiritual.”
The word “spiritual” is so heavy. It’s such a demanding thing.
And what I learned from being a songwriter for 15 year is that a practice – any practice – means you show up.
In the case of meditation, not because you’re so spiritual.
You show up even if you feel like shit.
You show up even when you’re a grouchy horrible person.
You show up even if you’re thinking hateful thoughts about your next door neighbor and his stupid leaf blower.
You show up even if the mind is saying things like, “You’ve meditated 5 minutes a day this week – how come your aura isn’t glowing yet?”
You show up because it’s just what you do.
The demand that you somehow be a “spiritual” person is WAY too much pressure. It’s part of the perfectionism trap. Let it go.
Now, let’s walk through the simple steps that helped me get started…
5 Steps to Starting your Meditation Practice:
1 – Download a meditation timer app.
My fave is “Meditation Timer.” Get the paid version so you don’t deal with ads.
Fuss with the settings, bells, times and other features. This will trick your left-brain that you are “being productive” and that this meditation thing is turning out to be quite interesting!
2 – Set a goal for five minutes.
Why 5 minutes?
Because what we’re going for here is a PRACTICE. And we start a practice by simply showing up.
Even when I was most resistant, I said to myself, “It’s five minutes. Come on. You can do anything for five minutes.”
If you start with 30 minutes, (or even 10 minutes!) you will not do it. Trust me. I know you. (You know you, too.)
3 – Schedule a time.
Decide what exact time you will meditate each day.
Do not say “in the morning.” Do not say, “Sometime in the afternoon.”
Pick a time. Set an alarm. Make it non-negotiable.
4 – Show up.
Do it. Sit there.
Eventually, you may want some guidance for how exactly to sit. Here’s a good video by Yoga Journal for how to use a chair for meditation.
5 – Provide Dopamine Snacks for that funny little brain of yours.
Dopamine Snack #1: Check it off a list.
When I started meditating, it was a task on my list. When I checked it off, I got a dopamine snack.
Sometimes I felt guilty for treating meditation like this. But at first, I needed that. It got me going.
Dopamine Snack #2: When hit your first 30-days, high-five yourself.
Call a friend and share the good news.
Then, check in with yourself. Do you want to add any time to your practice? Yeah? I suggest no more than 2 minutes. That’s because…come on…your inner achiever is itching to take over. It’ll say, “Yes! Let’s double it! Ten minutes!” And this beautiful blossoming practice will now become a little too much. Maybe not next week or the week after – but it will become too much. I recommend that you add one minute, maybe two minutes.
Do you meditate? Got anything to contribute that will help someone else like you get started? Share below please!