Two things usually happen when people first try meditation.
1) It’s too hard. You tried, but you couldn’t stay focused. Your thoughts kept going and you decided that meditation just isn’t for you.
2) You tried it. It felt weird. You were able to get through the whole meditation. You may have liked it, not liked it or felt unsure that you did it right.
This is completely normal. No one ever sits to meditate for the first time and enjoys a long period of silent mind – it just doesn’t happen. So no worries, you’re doing it right.
If you are choosing a period of time to practice for and sit through the practice you are doing what you need to do.
Your mind will wander, but as long as you are catching it and bringing it back to the object you are focusing on (breath, mantra, body part, image, etc.) then you will reap the rewards.
You may want to try different types of meditation practices. Remember, you can do yoga, you can do a walking meditation, mindful eating, a loving-kindness meditation or a body scan – mix up your formal practices and see which ones you prefer.
There is one common mistake to look out for…
Marie was a client who came to me for therapy because she had a stressful job as a physiotherapist and she experienced anxiety on a regular basis. Marie had worked with a therapist in the past and learned many great skills, but she felt she needed more because she wasn’t feeling the joy she wanted to feel on a regular basis and she noticed she was beginning to turn to food to manage her anxiety again.
Marie had always been a high achiever, as had her sisters. She prided herself on the accomplishments she achieved and could be overly critical of herself if she made a mistake. But Marie had great insight and was willing to look deep within to see what she was thinking and feeling to try to work through it.
During our first session I asked Marie about her experience with meditation. She regularly practiced yoga and had periods in her life where she did have a sitting meditation practice. Marie told me about her recent experiences with meditating and I began to wonder if she had been using her sitting meditation time to think and explore her thoughts and feelings.
Marie agreed that she was rarely bringing her focus to her breath and that she was using that time to think things through. She decided to add time in her day to journal so she could explore her thoughts and feelings and then uses guided body scans to focus during meditation.
This is something that I hear often with people who are new to meditation. It’s important to give yourself time to explore your thoughts and feelings so that when you engage in a formal meditation practice you have free space to sit and focus.
What was your favorite type of guided meditation when you first began and why? Mine was the body scan because it taught me how to let go of focus on one area and move into another.