Today’s blog article was written by guest author Ashley Josephine Herzberger and was inspired by her new book The Unconventional Beginner’s Guide to Yoga, an e-book introduction to yoga practice for those who are wary of stepping on the mat. Ashley also guides an online community for busy women looking to relax, release stress, stretch and connect at http://ashleyjosephine.com.
These days, the benefits of meditation grace the pages of scientific news journals, national newspapers, thoroughly researched magazine articles and entire books. Meditation is indeed becoming mainstream as more and more doctors start to prescribe the practice as a remedy for anxiety and its host of symptoms. But with the mainstream, comes the propagation of a myth that meditation must be done the “right” way for it to be as effective as the medical journals say it can be.
The Downfall of Meditation
As any curious yoga student, I had been hearing enough about meditation to believe that I could benefit from its wide array of soothing solutions. A few years back, I decided I should probably start a meditation practice. I didn’t know much about it, but the several silent moments I’d spend in yoga classes every day quieting the mind seemed to me as good an introduction as any.
The hardest part was finding the time to do it. Once I decided I would spend 10 minutes before bed every night quietly contemplating nothing, I was ready to start practicing.
Except I kept looking at the timer, convinced that I had forgotten to set it or that it had somehow malfunctioned and I’d actually been sitting for hours instead of minutes. I couldn’t slow down my mind and my thoughts wouldn’t disappear, no matter how much I willed them to go away.
And then there were some nights I was just so tired…so my meditation practice fell by the wayside.
A month or so later, I’d try again, but the same things kept happening. I got frustrated and decided meditation wasn’t working.
Then I met a teacher. He gave me a personalized meditation practice but that still wasn’t enough.
What I came to learn through personal experience and through teaching beginning students is that meditation can be a formal practice but it doesn’t have to be.
The myth of meditation is that it must be done a certain way. The name confers a practice, when in fact we engage in contemplation every single day in our own unique way.
How To Find Your Own Meditation Practice
To find your own meditation practice, you need not look for special teachers or particular practices.
To start building your own meditation practice, look around in your life and see what it is you already do to reflect. Consider the following activities and ask yourself if you can perform these with more intention, awareness and focus.
- Writing in a journal
- Drinking coffee or tea
- Preparing meals
- Taking a walk
- Working out
- Going to yoga class
- Listening to music
- Reading a book
- Working on a project you love
- Playing with your kids
Notice how the activity changes and how you feel when bringing more focus to it. Notice the relaxation qualities and the struggles to maintain focus.
Let go of the need to practice something formal all the time. Be compassionate with yourself if you skip a sitting session for whatever reason.
Now that you know meditation isn’t so scary, formal and pretentious after all, email this post to a friend or two who has complained they don’t have time to start something new.