I don’t think I can overstate the role meditation has played in my life. It’s given me a lot of peace and hope. It’s honestly one of the healthiest things I do.
But meditation has NOT been easy to get into. And it has NOT been easy to continue doing.
Recently I wrote about 7 Ways Meditating Has Helped Me, from stress relief and managing anxiety to learning compassion and being present. When I published that post I offered to help anyone who was interested in meditation to get started. A few people have talked with me about it since then, so I decided to go ahead and put together a starter kit.
I love a number of types of meditation, but I’ve found mindfulness meditation to be especially helpful and accessible for just about everyone. So in this blog post, I’ll recommend resources and ideas for getting started with mindfulness meditation specifically.
Getting into meditation can be confusing and there is SO MUCH material out there that it can be hard to know where to start. So here are some ideas. I hope this helps!
BEFORE YOU START
“Meditation. It’s not what you think.”
I thought I should pass along Jon Kabat-Zinn’s warning before I go any further.
Meditation is not some weird ritual that brings you other-worldly feelings. It’s also not this quick exercise that rids your life of pain and frustration. If what you’re looking for falls at either of those extremes, meditation might not work for you.
In fact, meditation might not “work,” regardless. Actually, that’s kind of the point. One of the points, anyway. True, as meditation becomes a consistent part of your life, I’m sure you’ll find that stress, anxiety, and mind-numbing distractions hold less control over you than before. But one of the strengths of meditation is the opportunity it provides to daily practice acceptance of your whole self just the way you are and of the world just the way it is. In other words, meditation isn’t really about changing your life. It’s about accepting your life. Which, ironically, can be life-changing.
That means, if you’re going to give meditation a shot, don’t look for it to work. Don’t assess its effectiveness at the end of a session. Don’t check to make sure it’s changing or fixing you. Don’t expect it to feel good.
Actually, do expect that you’ll feel like you’re really bad at it! Do expect to feel like it’s “not for you.” Do expect to feel like giving up, to get bored, to get distracted, to feel like it’s hard work.
If you’re okay with all that, then let’s get started:
TRY IT OUT
Spotify has an album from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre called Mindfulness Meditations with Mark Williams. Its tracks are very simple, basic guided meditations. These are hands down the best guided meditations I can recommend for getting started.
Don’t try meditating for too long your first time around! That can lead to discouragement. Here’s a great one to try first: 10 Minute Sitting Meditation
LEARN ABOUT IT
Anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Books, lectures, interviews.
Start out easy. He has abridged audiobook versions of two books that are ideal for mindfulness meditation:
3-hour Wherever You Go There You Are. Start with this one!
And 3-hour Coming to Our Senses.
Reading the full books is also a great idea! Wherever You Go There You Are is a pretty easy read and a fantastic introduction to mindfulness meditation, geared towards a western audience–not too “weird.” I like his book Coming to Our Senses even better, but fair warning–it’s a biiiiig book.
MEDITATION FOR SKEPTICAL DOWN-TO-EARTH PEOPLE WHO FEEL LIKE IT’S TOO WEIRD AND ARE LIKE A LITTLE BIT INTERESTED IN IT BUT ALSO WOULD FEEL SUPER AWKWARD MEDITATING AND WOULD DEFINITELY NEVER LET THEMSELVES BE CAUGHT TRYING THAT WEIRD BUDDHIST MUMBO JUMBO
If meditation just sounds way too sketch for you–too weird, too silly, too spiritual, or just–yeah–totally weird. . . . don’t worry, you’re not alone. A lot of people find their interest piqued but are either too weirded out or too self-conscious to try it.
If that’s you, check out the podcast 10% Happier with Dan Harris. The name of his corresponding App says it all: “10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.”
This is an oddly specific suggestion, but if you’ve ever heard the comedian John Mulaney (or if you haven’t), Harris’s conversation with Mulaney is a really good example of how meditation works in the lives of really normal people for whom meditation doesn’t come naturally. If you’re having a hard time picturing this weird mindfulness thing as a regular part of your life, give this one a listen. You can also browse his podcast for other names you recognize. I think hearing how meditation has worked for others can help make it more accessible.
Another great episode to start with is his interview of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who also leads a short meditation demo.
A FEW TIPS TO HELP ALONG THE WAY
Don’t check whether it’s working.
Don’t try too long at first. Short and frequent is the best start.
Don’t get too caught up with finding just the right thing to listen to, or just the right place and time to meditate. Imperfect and unexciting meditation is meditation.
Don’t be afraid to listen to the same guided meditation again and again. Find what works for you.
You’ll get worse at it after you get better. Some days you’ll be antsy and bored and skeptical. Other days you’ll feel like a badass yogi. It’s all okay.
You WON’T be “good” at it, and that’s okay!
If you give it a shot and would like some more ideas, let me know! And I’d love to hear your meditation story, too!