As a counselor, I have often suggested my clients try meditating for stress and anxiety, usually to no avail. I am met with several objections, most of which I have also thought about meditation. I decided it was time to find out for myself the benefits of meditation before I suggested it to anyone else.
A few months ago I decided to commit to one year of daily meditation. I am about four months in and want to share some of what I have learned.
- “If my mind is racing, I’m not doing it right.” It’s normal to have lots of thoughts running through our mind especially when we have no other distractions. It may feel like your thoughts are even more overwhelming when you first begin to sit quietly with them. These racing thoughts may feel frustrating but in reality you are successfully meditating because you are making the effort to sit quietly with your thoughts.
- “Meditation takes too long and I don’t have time to sit and do nothing.” Meditation is as long or short as you want it to be. Start with 3 to 5 minutes. Even this may feel like an eternity. In the beginning when there is frustration and self-doubt “Am I doing it right?” remove the pressure of a lengthy sitting period and start small with what seems reasonable to you.
- “If I can’t focus on my breathing, I’m not doing it right.” One form of meditation is to focus on your breathing. It is normal and expected that your mind will wonder away from your breath. Meditation is the practice of returning your focus back to your breath. This refocus may happen several times a minute or more likely hundreds of times a minute. It does not matter how often you refocus back on your breath meditation is the act of refocusing. So good news, YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT!
- “If I can’t clear my mind of thoughts, I’m not doing it right.” It is impossible to clear your mind of thought. Our brain wants us to think. Through meditation you learn how not to get pulled into your thoughts, to let your thoughts float by, just observing them.
- “I can’t sit still so I cannot meditate.” Good news you can meditate in motion. If sitting still for even 3-5 minutes a day seems impossible you can try meditating while you walk. You may choose to focus on your breath or steps. If you choose your breath notice each time you breathe in and each time you breathe out. If you choose your steps notice each time you step with your right foot then your left. Anytime your mind wonders gently bring your attention back to your breath or step.
After 4 months am I in a Zen like state when I meditate, in a word, no. I often still wonder if I got anything out of a meditation or if I am trying hard enough when I meditate. I can say however there are slightly longer stretches that my focus stays on my breathing while meditating. There are also times I feel calmer throughout my day when I would have otherwise felt more overwhelmed, angry, or anxious before beginning this meditation challenge.
My biggest focus has been to trust the process and avoid judging myself or my ability to calm my mind and instead accept my effort and my current abilities. This acceptance has been the only reason I have been able to continue meditating. I am using an app which provides guided meditation, OMG. I Can Meditate! If you have thought about meditating, give it a try, be patient with yourself, and trust the process.
Michelle Puster M.Ed. | Licensed Professional Counselor
Helping disconnected couples grow closer
Couples & Marriage Counseling Katy, TX