I'll give a shout out for Headspace too.. The series is on Netflix.. it makes it easy and explains things.2
Nice to be here1
I started meditating a year ago. Most days, it's just ten minutes of focusing on my breath -- nothing too exciting. I started when I found out that I'm slightly claustrophobic (MRI) and decided to start meditating to manage the anxiety. The results seemed to be good enough to be going on with.
As far as strategies to keep me on track, anything mensurate (steps a day, minutes spent on an activity, that sort of thing) instead of the "Don't Break the Chain" strategy, I just set a goal for the month. So, let's say I want to meditate an average of ten minutes a day. My goal for this month is 280 minutes. Most days, I meditate ten minutes. Some days none, some days fifteen minutes. It keeps me on track while allowing me room for when Life Happens.
I came up with that when I started setting step count goals for a month. 10,000 steps a day as measured over a month, ya know? In practice, I average 10K steps a day and have for over two years. But, if there's a day I can't get in 10K steps for some reason, I'm not annoyed about the broken chain, ya know? Not as long as I got in (days in the month) * (10,0000).
It's a way to keep on track.
I use the Healthy Minds app, recommended by the New York Times. It’s free and provides lessons and guided meditations. From 5-30 minutes. It’s amazing. I found that making the time to meditate had to be the first step in reestablishing a practice. So I do it first thing in the morning.2
I started nearly three years ago when I was suffering with some of the worst anxiety I have ever dealt with. My practice hasn't been consistent during that time, but it's never been far from my thoughts! I use the Calm app, I occasionally attend a group meditation session run online and I've read a few mindfulness books now which have helped cement the idea (and the practice). Like meditation, if you break from it, the important thing I've found is to keep coming back to it. I used to do more yoga and I m iss that, but meditation has been more effective in altering my mindset. Whilst trying to lose weight I find I don't have enough hours to do all the activities I want.
I can recommend Tara Brach's podcast - lots of mindfulness lectures all free, from the last ten years. She's a therapist and mindfulness teacher. There's some really great wisdom in what she says.2
I "practice meditation" daily. I am happy with missing (try not to), and only doing one ten minute session a day (as a rule). I listen to an app called CALM. Free app to me. Came with my insurance. Give it a go and it really is "a practice." Good luck and keep us posted as to how it is going.1
I was really resistant to trying meditation but once I did I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for me...I almost never feel like I have as much time for it as I want. It's hard to integrate into my routine, I'm a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers. I started out with 20 minutes at home once a week and going to a breathing class weekly. Now I put Mister Rogers on for my kids and do it at home almost every day for 20 minutes at minimum, sometimes I get 30-40. If I go 48 hours without it I start yelling at my kids!
My main advice is to not be hard on yourself, not to try to perform or achieve some goal, accept that it's different everytime and will be useful no matter how long you get of real concentration/clear mind during your session. I always remind myself to "See what happens" because if I strive for results or to empty my mind completely I end up getting much less out of it.
If you have access to in person instruction it's pretty rad. The breathing class I'm taking has helped a lot with making me endlessly curious about and in awe of my inner workings. Seems to me that once the subtle things going on inside you are made interesting you can sit as long as your back will let you.2
I use the Think Up app (you can gift the full version to yourself-cheaper than a subscription) and have affirmations recorded in my own voice on loop with Native American flute in the background during morning showers. For a while, at times when I would get anxious, I would close my eyes, breathe, and think the affirmations in order from memory and that worked like magic. I also like brief guided meditations, like compassion/kindness and equanimity meditations and have quite a collection now 😀3
I have been practicing meditation since the 3rd week of January when I returned from a trip to New York, and have missed only a handful of days in the last 2 months. The last time I practiced meditation before that was for a few months in 2020. I've been in and out with mediation for a few years, but I'm hoping that this time, it will stick.
The kind of meditation I do is simply to focus on my breathing and try to hold my concentration there with no music or guided recordings going on, because from what I've read that is the kind of meditation that helps train your focus and can assist you in learning how to divert your focus away from things you'd rather not think about to things you would like to think about and/or things that will produce more positive emotions (or at least help thwart negative ones). I find that I can focus on 2 aspects of my breathing at once, but not 3. So it's between the feeling I get in my nostrils as air comes in and out, the expanding of my diaphragm, or the sound my nose makes when it is inhaling and exhaling.
What I hope to achieve through meditating is to keep my mood from dipping, and even though I find meditation difficult and not enjoyable, I do it anyway because I have read countless books and articles that talk about the benefits of meditation as it relates to combating depression.
I started with 5 minutes of meditation per day and I try to increase the time by a minute each week until I come to a stopping place where going beyond that time is extremely difficult, and then I hold it at that time for as long as I need to. Right now, I am up to 11 minutes a day. I would eventually like to reach 20 minutes. To me, 20 minutes twice a day is a very ambitious goal.
From what I can tell, it does seem to be helping, if only marginally, as I find myself ruminating on negative thoughts less than I did before I took up the practice. I have recently read several books on the topic of neuroplasticity, or the ability to train your brain to make new neural connections (which has a lot to do with the thoughts you think and the feelings you feel), and they all have talked extensively about using meditation as a tool to help you take more control over your mind and what it spends time thinking about.
Right now, I am reading a book called Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain by Patt Lind-Kyle, and in it she describes different kinds of meditation to induce specific brain-wave states such as beta, alpha, etc.
Eventually I would like to start reading more books about meditation and the various types and what their uses are. I'm basically sold on meditation now because dozens, if not hundreds, of psychology professionals, neuroscientists, and spiritual teachers can't be wrong.
The only advice I would give to anyone who is starting out with meditation is to totally ignore any instruction that says, "empty your mind." This is a useless and damaging way to think about what you have to achieve in meditation, as the nature of the brain is that it's a thought-producing machine and as you try to focus the mind will inevitably come up with thought after thought, which will only lead to frustration if you think your mind has to be empty to "do it right." The best advice is to continually turn your concentration back to your breath (or the guided recording or whatever aid is helping you) the moment you become aware that your mind has wandered off and that your thoughts are running away with you.
Now, after meditating consistently for almost four months, I am just beginning to discover that the time between each incessant thought flitting into my head is getting longer and longer and I am enjoying more "silence" during my meditation.1
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