For anyone, including myself who struggles with stress, anxiety, depression, chronic illness. Anything out of the norm, there is always a chorus of healthy people saying “try meditation!” Whether it is meditation, yoga, exercise etc, we’ve heard it all. I’ve been just as skeptical as you.
I have done the research, watched videos and read books. Everything says how much meditation can help and I want to believe them. Now I know it’s not a cure all kind of thing, but if it can help? Even just the tiniest bit, I’ll give it a shot.
Now when I first started my attempts at meditation they did not go well. I started about two years ago, but until this year had yet to be successful. Most of the time I just felt like I was going through the motions. Not actually getting anything out of it. I felt even more stressed afterwards which began to cause anxiety at the thought of meditation. I didn’t give up though, I took a break for a few months and tried again. This time I did things a little differently. A lot slower and in ways that any normal person who meditates might consider wrong. But there is no wrong way to meditate if it works for you. It is a growing experience, a learning curve.
First I took my strengths and weaknesses into account. My compulsive stress induced binge eating disorder, my stress, lack of concentration. My anxiety, time restraints but also my motivation and stubbornness.
I started out slow, five minutes in the bathroom at work, two minutes before bed. A few minutes before a bath or once a week for a few moments before a shower. I would stop, sit on the floor or counter in a comfortable position and breath. First trying just to clear my head and focus on breathing, no positive mantra. Just pushing out any negative thoughts that came and focusing on breathing, listen to it to drown out anything else. A few minutes here and there definitely helped. Not in a life altering break though like you expect these things to feel. I noticed whatever I had to face after I was calmer, and the little frustrations weren’t as frustrating.
Once I decided I wanted to go longer, try mantras and positive thinking, “proper mediation”. I looked into setting up space. I live in a very busy, very small apartment with my boyfriend, our roommate and three animals. So finding a quiet space away from everything isn’t always easy, so I planned for a few. I asked for a small corner of the living room to put out a mat. If the living room/ kitchen area near that space was too busy it meant the bathroom was free. Meditation does not have to be done in a field, over a mountain or in the perfectly quiet, serene room in your home. Sometimes meditation means drowning out the whines and noises, and working through the everyday noise.
I don’t use incense as it gives K a headache. But I know that scents can really help clear your head and help focus. So we worked together and found natural beeswax candles we both love. With a subtle smell that is relaxing to me and doesn’t bother K. This candle is small and movable so I can have it in my space in the living room. Or easily take it into the bathroom with me for a few minutes of meditation.
I know a bathroom is no ones ideal setting for relaxation, but sometimes, anything is necessary and we can’t always be picky. I know some day I’ll have the space as we save up for a better place, but for now I do with what I have and use those positive images of what I want as meditation fuel. That’s the next step, finding something to meditate on if you can’t clear your mind, so find something that you enjoy, a story in your head, a goal you are working towards or something positive someone said to you.
Once you have your space, your thought, your scent, and have worked your way up a few minutes of focusing on breathing you can start to focus on expanding your meditations, and know that no one way is best. For different kinds of meditations check out my post “Unorthodox Meditations”.
To feel like you are not just going through the motions, take your time, build up to meditation, and don’t be afraid to use those little help tools like pillows, mats and mala beads to enhance your experience. If you are really struggling try guided meditations to help you keep positive thoughts and steady breath. No matter what, when you start, it will feel like you are going through the motions, but it does get better, it gets easier and it starts to make sense.
I started and still sometimes use food. I know it seems like it defeats the purpose but it works for me. I’ll get into my space, with something light but that I need at the time, it can be popcorn or chips or a little dark chocolate. I sit and breath, I close my eyes, I let the negative thoughts come and I breath them away, try to think positive, and then I munch, I pop a piece of popcorn in my mouth or have some chocolate and think positive. Food has always been a coping method for me, and this helps the positive thoughts and feelings.
I eat mindfully, I only take a little breath in between and enjoy it. I find that not long in I am no longer looking for food but sitting quietly. Sometimes that is all it ends up being, just me sitting quietly, but sometimes I can slip into a steady breathing and focus on positive thoughts, I can breath and focus. I can meditate. IT’s not always for long, sometimes only a few minutes but it works! You do not have to follow what others do, don’t let anyone criticize what it takes for things to work for you. We all do things differently.
If you are still struggling to sit and meditate for extended periods of time, continue to take a few moments a day, two to five minutes here and there to just breath. Focus on your breathing and for every negative thought that creeps in, breath, say no and let it go away, acknowledge it and think of something positive or nothing at all. For only a few minutes.
It took me two years to get to a point were I was comfortable sitting down and meditating for an extended amount of time, and even now I struggle for more than ten minutes. Sometimes life gets too hectic, I am too tired or I feel like I am going through the motions all over again. So I get up, I shake it off and know meditation in that moment is not what I need, I just needed to breath and continue on.
I’m not giving up, and I plan to post the different kinds of meditation as I try them, from guided, candle, mala bead, sound, and so many more until I find the right one for me.