EM Guide to Meditation: For Health, Clarity, and Sanity

***Ed Note: One of the most important components of Early Mama is to not only embrace motherhood and marriage with confidence, but to support each another as individuals— as women, people, independent of our titles and responsibilities. To remind younger moms that we have our own personal development in the works, and to take care of ourselves. One topic that I've been meaning to explore is meditation, only because I've experienced the surface benefits through my long-ago yoga practice, and meditative breathing techniques have been a big part of my recent stress-relieving efforts. And one day when I was flipping through an Oprah magazine, I read an article from Dr. Oz, in which predicted that doctors will soon be recommending meditation in the same way they recommend exercise: as a vital component to overall health. (I guess he features meditation on his show sometimes, like this clip with Deepak Chopra.)

So let's all put aside our preconceived ideas of meditation and take a note from EM contributor Heidi...

By Heidi Oran

A few years ago I started to read up on meditation. Every news outlet from The Huffington Post to Time Magazine was covering the subject, noting its impressive health benefits to both body and mind. As someone in the midst of a quarter-life-crisis, I was sold on the idea that a regular meditation practice was a quick path to peace. Or so I thought...

It took a while before I even attempted it, and when I did, it was a brief affair. Like most things in life, when we know little about a subject it can be intimidating — and meditation certainly fit into this category.

Weeks and months passed, and although I knew it was good for me and it was a critical element to inner growth, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It just seemed like work that wouldn't pay out, and I eventually convinced myself that there was another way. There had to be another way to achieve stillness and quiet without meditation, and I was determined to find it.

Then one day it hit me; I was a walking irony. I had been completely resisting exactly what I really needed while using the tools that were the root of the problem. Too much thinking. Too much solving. Too much discovering.

Albert Einstein was a wise man. He once said,

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Amen.

Today I'm sharing some very simple and attainable tips to help you get started with meditation:

1. Set the mood

I'm not one for frills when meditating, and I recommend the following:

- Find a quiet spot in your home, preferably not your bed because it might encourage you to fall asleep.

- Cue up the sound of falling rain, the ocean, or — if you prefer — complete silence. (There's an App for that.)

- Add a little mood lighting such as a candle, which can double as a focal point for you when your mind wanders.

- Sit and make yourself comfortable with a cushion supporting your back. You'll be able to comfortably sit up straight for a longer period of time.

 

2. Take Baby Steps.

Have you ever heard of the Couch to 5K App? The idea is that you start from scratch and over time build your way up to running 5K. It's a healthy way of building your tolerance for exercise over a period of many weeks. Now think of meditation in these same terms — your mind is unaccustomed to peace and quiet and must slowly be trained.

If you've read about meditation at all, you may have come across the "rule" to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day — but think of that as equivalent to the 5K. Let's start small.

- Week 1 - Set your timer and meditate for 3-5 minutes per day.

- Week 2 - Set your timer and meditate for 6-9 minutes per day.

- Week 3 - Set your timer and meditate for 10-13 minutes per day.

- Week 4 - Set your timer and meditate for 14-20 minutes per day.

 

3. Breathe & Witness

The ultimate goal is to clear your mind, but you'll inevitably be thinking for many of your first sessions without even realizing it. Maybe you'll be going through your to-do lists, or wondering if you're meditating right — the thoughts aren't important, but it's important to catch them as they take over. Once you do catch them and recognize the noisy chatter in your brain, you've officially become a witness to the thoughts. That's your inner stillness — your inner being. That is a huge step in the process.

The next step is to accept the thoughts and let them go. You can do this by imagining them floating away, focusing on an object, or even counting your breaths. All three of these will bring you into the present moment — and that is the goal in these beginning sessions.

Before you know it, the timer will go off and you will have completed your session and prepared yourself for the next one, moving closer to that stillness.

 

4. Journal it.

Grab yourself a notebook and jot down a brief (or lengthy) recap of your meditation sessions right after you complete them. You will be able to look back at your accomplishments, epiphanies, and witness patterns that may emerge in your thoughts.

 

5. Take meditation off the pedestal.

As I mentioned above, meditation used to intimidate me. The different types, practices, and all of the hype left me feeling like I was a big meditation failure. I wasn't doing it right. I wasn't doing it for long enough. I wasn't practicing consistently.

But things really changed for me when I took meditation of the pedestal. It's not a mystery — it's simple and attainable and there is no wrong way to do it. So don't fear it; accept it as an important tool and leave it at that. Let go of all of your ideas about what it should be.

***

Read more from Heidi at The Conscious Perspective, and right here on Early Mama.

Do you meditate? Are you hesitant to try it? Share your experiences and opinions below...