It seems like everyone wants to start meditating these days. And maybe you feel like you want to get on board too.
But you have your doubts: you just aren’t the kind of person that can stop thinking.
I mean, how are you meant to stop all those thoughts that constantly run through your mind? There’s your to-do list, dreaming about the habit that the perfectly-disciplined version of yourself is going to start on Monday, thinking about what you’re going to eat next, rehashing an offhand comment a friend made to you four days ago – oh and you just remembered that link you need to send your best friend.
And that’s just the start of it.
But let me tell you the good news – meditating isn’t about not thinking.
You’re not the only one that has this problem of ‘thinking too much’. Almost everyone has it, including many people who’ve been meditating for years.
Meditation is a practice – which means you’re not going to nail it the first time you do it.
And, by the way, I think this whole ‘wanting to be amazing at meditating the first time’ thing is totally fascinating. If we’re trying a new sport, we don’t expect to master it on our first attempt – we know we’re probably going to suck and we’re not totally disheartened when we do. We know there’s a learning curve. But when it comes to meditating, we think we should be able to sit down and just ‘not think’ for 20 minutes. Totally fascinating to me.
But anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it’s a practice. And that means that the first time you sit down to try to start meditating you’re going to have thoughts popping up left, right and centre – and that doesn’t mean that meditating isn’t for you. That’s ok, that’s completely normal. Don’t get disheartened.
If you have any doubts about your ability to start meditating because you ‘think too much’, please put that baby to rest.
Why I love it
I find it hard to explain the reason I love meditating but let me give it a go.
I love meditating for the same reason I love Bikram yoga – it keeps me anchored. It keeps me together.
When life starts to get crazy, it’s the thing that makes me feel like everything will be ok. I feel in control. I feel empowered. I feel peaceful (as lame as that sounds). I just feel like I can figure shit out.
And I don’t have any kind of scientific explanation for it, but when I start meditating every day I am way more productive. And I’m also more aware of myself and my actions and when I’m reacting to something in a way that might not be healthy.
The point here is that I love meditation because of the way it makes me feel, and the way it makes me feel is completely amazing and incredibly in tune with myself (but just so you know, I didn’t feel like this after I did it the first time – it does take a little time to work).
How to start meditating
I’m no expert on how to start meditating and I don’t have any ‘foolproof’ tips for getting started – but I can tell you what’s worked for me and, just as importantly, what hasn’t.
Let me start with not what to do.
Don’t sit yourself down in a quiet room and set a timer for 20 minutes expecting to be able to start meditating like you’re god damn Oprah Winfrey. You’ll probably last all of 90 seconds before you check your timer because it feels like you’ve been meditating forever and then you’ll realise you’re only 90 seconds in and 20 minutes just seems like way too much and you just can’t keep going. And then you decide that meditation just isn’t for you and you give up.
Ok maybe a little dramatic (or maybe not), but don’t set a timer for 20 minutes and expect to just be able to sit there and start meditating like nobody’s business. That’s not how this works.
There are two ways to get started: using a meditation app or doing a very very small amount of meditation with no guide.
Option 1: Guided meditation using an app
Of the two options, I definitely recommend this one.
I think using an app is the easiest way to get started and I highly recommend Headspace – it’s really the only meditation app I’ve loved and that I’ve liked enough to pay for (plus I can’t really speak for any of the other apps because I haven’t used them enough).
Headspace has a free 10 day trial that introduces you to everything you need to know about meditating.
It’s definitely worth checking out even if you have no intention of ever paying for the app. Headspace really gets down to basics without dumbing it down and after the 10 day trial you’ll have a real feel for what meditation involves and are much more likely to have success with option 2.
And if you decide you want to pay for the app, there’s a heap of different meditation series that are aimed specifically at health, performance and relationships as well as a lot of ‘on-the-go’ meditations too so you’re sure not to get bored. Plus I also love that in your profile on the app it keeps track of how many days in a row you’ve meditated (which keeps the perfectionist in me motivated to meditate everyday so I don’t break that damn streak).
Also, Andy who does the voice for Headspace has the dreamiest British accent. I could listen to him talk all day long.
(I wish I was sponsored by Headspace to say this, but I’m not – I just love it).
Option 2: DIY
It’s no problem if you don’t want to use an app – all you need is somewhere comfortable to sit (where you won’t be interrupted) and a timer to start meditating.
If I’m doing it this way, I sit on a little cushion with my legs crossed and my back against a wall. I close my eyes and I focus on counting my breaths – in 1, out 2, in 3, out 4, in 5… all the way to 10. Then I go back to the beginning – in 1, out 2… (but mind you, I often find myself at breath 27 and realise I’ve just totally zoned out and have continued counting way past what I planned to).
I just focus on sitting and breathing, and not trying to beat myself up because I spend the whole time thinking about random shit.
If you’re doing this option, only do it for 2 minutes.
I know that 2 minutes seems like nothing and if you’re a perfectionist like me then you’ll want to do 20 minutes. But don’t. Don’t do it to yourself. Start with 2 minutes and work up to doing it for longer.
And check out this great post on Zen Habits about how to meditate daily.
Also just as a side note – I love putting Rainymood.com or some other rain/storm app on when I start meditating. So obsessed.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s important not to think you’re going to be a pro at meditation the first time you do it..
It’s disheartening when you fail to meet the crazy high expectations you set for yourself. And if you think you’re going to start meditating like a Buddhist monk the first time you try to do it, then you’re really just setting yourself up for disappointment.
So set the expectations low – you’re a beginner after all.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to be good. All you need to do is sit your ass down on that cushion and stay there until the timer goes off. It really doesn’t matter if you’re ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when you start meditating and you just spend the whole time thinking about your to-do list, just sitting on that cushion will start to bring in the benefits.
And be curious. Give it a try because you want to do it, not because you feel like you should. Play around with it – try different apps, different lengths of time, different times of day. Just be curious and try take pleasure in the process, not just the outcome.
What do you think?
Do you want to start meditating or do you already do it? I’d love to hear about your experience with meditation in the comments below!
Oh what a lovely post! I’ve been trying to get into meditation after I realized how hard it was to just lie down after my yoga practice for a few breaths. Like, no, how can I just lie and only breathe when there are so many things to do :’D
Your guide sounds easy and I’ll definitely try some of your tips – thank you very much love!
Hey Kerstin 🙂
Haha I had exactly the same thing with yoga. I only started to get into meditation after I started to get into yoga, it really gave me a taste for it and I’ve loved it (and yoga) ever since. At first it’s so hard to stop that feeling that you should always be busy and running around but it’s so nice to let go of that and just enjoy where you are for a bit.
Love your blog btw!
When I first started meditation I used guided tours from youtube. Personally, that’s what I prefer because it helps me get centered and feel like I have a purpose, I lack the ability to sit down for a few minutes and listen to nothing.
It definitely helps relieve stress and hone in on your emotions. It’s especially useful around exam time!
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Ooh I hadn’t thought of Youtube – I’m definitely going to check it out! I definitely agree about sitting down and just listening to nothing, it’s way harder!
Thanks so much for your comment and your recommendation of Youtube!
Meditation is such a nice thing to do for yourself. I haven’t done it for some time but I know I can always do it if I feel the need to. It helps me to let go of the stress and just be in that excat moment. I recently did an article about yoga and meditation and how you can use it all through your day – it’s really amazing how much it can help you in your daily life!
I can relate – I definitely go meditation in waves. Sometimes I’ll be super into it and sometimes I just don’t do it for a few months – I just go based on what I feel like I need (though I would like to do it more consistently so that I’m not just using it when I’m stressed haha)
I just had a look on your blog but I can’t find your post about yoga and meditation (maybe I am blind haha) could you please send me a link to it? I’d love to read it!
Hi Sam, the article is in Danish. It wasn’t for the blog – it was for my study. I study journalism so it was a school assignment. But I’m thinking of doing a post on yoga and meditation on my blog though! 😊
Oh haha you should definitely do one for your blog I’d love to read it!
I tried meditating with the app, Calm.com (which is a good app for beginners who want to dip their toes in the water if they’re interested). You choose the background setting, whether you want it to be guided or not, and the time limit. It’s great!
I liked how it helped me empty my mind and re-gain my focus. It’s a very good thing to do before bed if you can’t stop thinking. I like it but another activity that makes me feel like you described is Pilates: it really helps me feel strong, focused and relaxed. I think Pilates and Yoga are also meditative activities in themselves too. Great post!
I love everything you’ve said! I agree, meditation is totally not about not thinking. I fell in love with headspace when you’re told to listen to whats around you instead of trying to block it out. Love this post!!
I admit I’m not a meditator (yet!), but I’m def not opposed to it. I just want to share two things 1) Jonathan Fields said in interview that mediation helps remind him that we’re never going to be good at something when we first start out. It teaches him to value the learning process and not expect to succeed right away. I think you touched on that, when you talked about managing our expectations. 2) the muse headband. OK it’s $300 and I can’t afford it. But it’s a pretty neat idea. It lets you know by playing different sounds when your mind is active and when it’s calm, so you can learn to recognize those states and what triggers them.
Your posts are always so thoughtful Sam, thanks for sharing your insights!
I love the app ‘simply being’. I actually get stressed by apps that try to get you to imagine things or feel light flowing down your body etc cos I get frustrated when I can’t imagine it right and I feel like I’m ‘doing it wrong’ which makes me more tense and totally defeats the purpose! (I’m a bit nutty, I know lol) Simply being just has calm relaxing words telling you to just to relax and not to push thoughts out or worry too much. I use it to get to sleep when my mind is particularly busy or as a ‘nap’ or rest when I need a quick recharge as I find it too hard to go to sleep quickly enough because of my busy mind making actually naps useless. It is a super basic app that used to be free. I think it’s like $1.19 now and totally worth it, I really need to put it on my new phone 🙂
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