If you are someone who spends her days plugged in, thinking quick, and on the go, sitting down for a meditation practice might feel like a fantasy. (Or, in some cases, a nightmare.) In many ways, meditation—sitting still in silence, closing your eyes, slowing your thoughts—is the opposite of how most of us live our daily lives. It can even feel awkward or unnatural, at first.
“I’m totally doing this wrong,” you might think to yourself, as thoughts continue to race across your mind.
“I’m just not someone who can meditate.”
But if the idea of meditating has you totally turned off and tuned out, the science-backed benefits of silent stillness might give you second thoughts. Studies show that meditation promotes emotional health by reducing stress and anxiety, improves physical health by decreasing blood pressure, supporting sleep, and even reducing sensitivity to pain, and can lengthen attention span, improve focus, and promote self-awareness.
From the magical and shamanic point of view, I often say that meditation is the gateway to all magic. Without a consistent, dedicated practice of meditation or stillness, you can’t expand your intuitive gifts or connection to the divine with the guidance, clarity, healing we seek. Whenever I get a client who is seeking mentorship through their psychic or shamanic expansion, the practice of meditation (or prayer as I call it) is always the first step.
Still, meditating can feel intimidating, frustrating, and even painful at times—both for newbies and seasoned practitioners. The good news is it doesn’t have to be! If you want to start or struggling to keep a regular practice to experience some of many benefits of meditation, here are some tips or hacks to help you.
- Start small. (With even as little as three minutes.) If the thought of sitting in meditation for twenty minutes a day or more seems downright impossible, then DON’T. Some of the key benefits of meditation—like reduced stress and decreased blood pressure—start to kick in after just a few minutes of stillness. In fact, some early studies on meditation have shown that the benefits of a practice peak between minute 20 and minute 45, meaning more than that isn’t necessarily better or necessary.
- Consistency is key. Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to building a meditation practice and reaping all the yummy benefits. In other words, it is far more beneficial to sit for five or ten minutes a day most days, versus sitting for an hour one day each week. Practicing meditation is like weight training—except in this case, the muscle you’re building is your brain!
- Find a quiet place. While it’s best to find a quiet place to meditate—one where any interruptions will be minimized or eliminated—there is also no need to aim for perfection, here. It’s easy to get caught up in all the “stuff” you need to meditate: The perfect space, the right lighting, cute cushions, wall tapestries, crystals, candles, essential oils. All these things can be beautiful enhancements to a meditation practice, but at the end of the day you really can meditate anywhere. (Okay, maybe not while you’re driving or operating other heavy machinery—but most anywhere else.) If that’s your office in the middle of the day, with the door closed and phones ringing down the hall, that works. If you can grab three minutes in your car before your morning commute, take ‘em. If it’s ten minutes to sit in a public park with children’s laugher echoing from a nearby playground, that works too. After all, the purpose of meditation is to quiet your mind, not the space around you.
- Get comfortable—whatever that looks like for you. The key in getting comfortable for meditation is that you want to be relaxed enough that there won’t be any physical discomfort to distract you from your practice, but not so relaxed that you lose your ability to stay alert and wind up sleeping through your meditation instead. While sleep has its own amazing health benefits, sleep is not meditation. You want to take a posture that is supported, promotes attention, and allows you to soften your body and relax.
- Don’t substitute another activity for meditation. If you tell yourself activities like running, journaling, drawing, or knitting are your form of “meditation”, think again. While these hobbies can get you into a flow state and share similar benefits to meditation, they are not the same thing. Meditation is about turning inward—without anything to distract you from tuning into YOU. Keep up with the awesome activities that provide you enjoyment and present moment awareness but understand that meditation is a practice unto its own.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Don’t expect magic the first time—or every time. It’s easy to find stories about the instant clarity, divine guidance, and healing that come from meditation, but even the most seasoned practitioner will tell you that magic is often elusive. Those moments of awakening and transformation can be rare, unexpected, or fleeting. If you expect magic the first time, and every time, you’re going to wind up disappointed, frustrated, and might even start to think you’re meditating “wrong”. Don’t go into your meditation practice expecting something to happen. Allow yourself to just be and embrace what does (or doesn’t) come.
- Don’t make your practice harder than it needs to be. If you find yourself believing that the more structured, rigid, and challenging you make our meditation practice, the better results you’ll get, it’s time to pump the breaks. Meditation is not supposed to be just one more thing you succeed at. It’s not going on your resume, there isn’t a quiz at the end, and nobody is keeping score. Resist the temptation to “perform” your meditation or treat it like a chore, project, or sacrifice. Instead, focus on making it as simple, easy, and natural a practice as possible.
- Tap into support as you build your own practice. Remember: There are SO MANY resources to guide you on your meditation journey. There are plenty of meditation apps you can install on your phone, guided meditation and audio recordings available for download, live-streamed classes from your favorite yoga or meditation studio, and so much more. Tap into any and all of these resources as you begin to build your own practice, or if your regular practice needs a little pick-me-up. As you start to learn and grow in your own meditation style, try to focus on establishing a personal, self-guided practice as well. Nurture your practice until you discover a quiet space between you, your higher self, and the divine universe.
Long story, short: Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult, uncomfortable, or painful. It’s a practice designed to support you and your own health and well-being, so don’t risk missing out on the benefits just because it’s unfamiliar or your practice isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be. The more you sit, the more benefits you will discover—and the more you’ll find yourself looking forward to that still silence, just between you and the universe.