When I quit my job three years ago to reinvent myself, meditating and mindfulness were topics I absolutely could not get my head around. Performance and life coaches continuously talked about it. Top athletes and leaders seemed to practice it and for some unexplainable reason pictures of a peacefully meditating Buddha kept on appearing in my Facebook and Instagram news feed.
I had to give it a try! Although my old, rather rationally thinking, self was not very convinced of the concept… now that I am in the habit of meditating, I thought that sharing my old misconceptions about meditation, my early struggles and lessons learned would be of value to you, so there you go:
Make it a habit
I understood that I had to make meditation a habit if I wanted to harvest the benefits so many individuals were raving about. And as every habit it is very inconvenient implementing it in the beginning. You will find a thousand lame excuses and other things you could do instead. I decided to make it the second thing in the morning. Just after working out, I sat down and meditated. First for 10, then 15 and today 30 minutes. Making meditation a daily morning habit is one of the best ways to make sure that you will stick to it.
Thinking about nothing isn’t the target
I tried guided meditations in the early stages. Furthermore, I tried listening to music and just sitting still with the intention of thinking about nothing. This created frustration in me. Until today “thinking of nothing” is a state I rarely find myself in – and never for the entire 30 minutes. And that is totally fine. Instead of judging myself like back then, I know today that meditation is about acknowledging a thought or feeling when it appears and letting it pass without digging deeper once you caught yourself drifting off.
Your mind is like a puppy
A cute little fluffy, blue-eyed puppy with huge paws that it can barely walk on without falling. It is curious by nature and loves to explore anything it sees. And you, when you meditate, try to train the puppy to sit still in the middle of a room. So whenever you find that puppy sniffing in one corner or starting to chew on something, do not get upset and yell at it. That will not help. Lift it up and place it back into the middle of the room instead. In other words: Learn to practice the art of self-compassion and observation.
The unconventional Think Natalia approach
I have also learned that your mind will do the following: It will very likely go back to the past and blame you for something you did or did not do. Regrets, shame, guilt – it will all appear in front of you. If this does not happen, then your mind will wander to the future: Will I ever earn enough money to afford an own villa? Will I ever find a partner that has a similar view on life? What is the next step in my career? Fears. Doubts. Stress. Sounds familiar? Welcome to the club.
After a few weeks I had enough of this self-torture and wrote everything down that seemed to bother me; and I faced my fears. I told my father what I never had the guts to tell him before. I met up with that person I had hurt and sincerely apologized. In addition to that I joined an association, which allowed me to polish the new skills I needed for my new life(style) and career. Yes, it was tough but I survived it. My relationship to my dad and the person I hurt are great since then; and both individuals do not pop up in my mind when I meditate anymore.
Find out what works for you
No, you do not need to do exactly what I did. I just shared what worked for me. Have the courage to find your strategies and techniques. Yoga for example could be an introduction into mindfulness and meditation. Some people are seriously convinced that doing their favorite sport (e.g. surfing, climbing, mountain biking, dancing) is their way of staying in the now and practicing mindfulness.
All in all we need to keep in mind that meditation is a journey not a target. There will be days when everything feels great; and there will be days when it is a tough challenge. Whatever happens, stay with your practice and don’t judge yourself. Life is an exciting roller coaster with ups and downs; and so is meditation.