Meditation 101: Meditation for Beginners

images-3.jpgHave you always wanted to meditate and did not know where to start?  If so, then you are certainly not alone.

Before my mindfulness journey, I believed that meditation was just for Buddhists and monks in monasteries in some mysterious far away mountain.  I also held this misconception that people who meditate generally exude this aura of unshakable calmness and serenity and at any moment, they are going to say something transcendental like…”Do or Do Not.  There is no try” (Yoda).

images.jpg

In reality, meditation is not as complicated as I made it out to be.  In fact, meditation can be done with just a mat/chair, an attitude of openness, and your breath. Meditation is actually a simple yet life changing practice that can reduce stress, increase the feeling of calmness and promote happiness.  Anyone can do it and the benefits are endless.

In this blog, I offer you simple steps to start a meditation practice that hopefully will serve you during the good times…and more especially, the more turbulent moments.  I have also included some tips I call “Get Real” based on my experiences since I can’t be perfect all the time…..

The Basics:

1.  A quiet time and place

If possible, have a dedicated space exclusively for your daily sitting.  It also helps if you set a regular time to practice.

Get real:  However, if you are like me and you set an intention to always meditate in the morning but somehow end up sleeping in or got busy preparing lunch for Olivia and getting her ready for school…don’t worry about it.  I learned to just “chill” and just meditate at night or on the train on my way to work.  The important part is actually realistically committing to meditate at some point during the day.

2.  Posture

Sit cross legged on a meditation cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Don’t lean back.  Instead, sit with a dignified yet relaxed pose.  Place your hands, palms facing down on your thighs.  Let your eyes close, or if you prefer,  keep your eyes open, softening your gaze.

Get real: 
I started my meditation practice sitting on a chair.  I initially thought “aren’t I supposed to be sitting on the floor in a lotus position?” and “should I go out and buy a meditation cushion (zafu)?”  Nope.  Basically, you have to throw out all the misconceptions you may have heard or read about meditation.  Go with what works for you.   If you don’t have those pretty zafus and zabutons, or you are not able to do a full lotus (or a half lotus, for that matter), or if you want to close your eyes rather than keep them open (my eyes feel really dry so I keep mine closed)…it’s ok.  Work with what you’ve got and what you are comfortable with.  There is no right or wrong way to meditating.
images-5.jpg

3.  Notice your breath…AND FOLLOW THEM.

Place your attention on your breath as you breathe in and out.

Get real:  “Wait, what? How do you do that? “–that was the question exploding inside my head when I first started.  It had to be explained to me that if you pay close attention, you will notice how cold the air is as you breath it in or how your belly goes up and down.  You don’t have to force anything or think about how you are breathing.  Just notice……

Did you also notice the smallest of pauses between the in-breath and the out-breath?

4. Notice your thoughts….and DON’T FOLLOW THEM!!!

At some point, you will notice that your mind will wander and your attention is taken away from the breath.  Just acknowledge that you are “thinking” and congratulate yourself that you have caught yourself ….and once again begin on focusing on your breath.  No need to judge or belittle yourself.  Just say ” Oh, I’m thinking.”..and begin again.

Get real:  I congratulated myself a lot.  I still do.  I find that in the first few minutes, my mind is really on overdrive and there is a lot of chatter.  Sometimes, on really stressful days when there are so many thoughts that are clamouring for my attention, I scream inside my head… “SETTLE DOWN!!!”.  Interestingly enough, this works for me.  Figure out what works for you.

Remember….be kind to yourself.  No need for be so hard or angry with yourself when your mind starts to wander.  You can always begin again.
main-qimg-5102ab4711403146d1e9caeaec9cd95b-c.jpg

5.  End your session

After your allotted time, you can consider your meditation period complete!  Congratulations!

Get real: I started with a 20 minute meditation practice.  However you can start with just 5 minutes a day and you can increase as you get more comfortable.  I also chose a little gesture that gave me closure…I take a deep breath, put my hands together in front of my heart and say “Namaste” quietly.  Find one that resonates with you.

Congratulations, you just finished meditating!

In future blogs, I will cover other aspects of how to improve your meditation practice using helpful tools like what apps and meditation accessories I found useful (and those I did not!) and questions that I had such as “how long should I be sitting?” or ” am I doing this right?”.  I’m thinking you would probably have the same questions I did!

As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to join me in my journey of healthy and mindful living….don’t forget to click on the link and follow me!!!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

A Lesson on “Distribution Lists”…

Yes, I have gone back to work. I have been back for two weeks, in fact.

“How am I?” you must be wondering ….

It is good to be part of the working population again.

Yet…

Also not so good to be back with the working population again.

I was telling a good friend and colleague of mine that this time, I came back a little more  jaded compared to when I first went offline a few years ago.  I was reminded that when I came back after being diagnosed with anxiety back in 2012, I came back to work full of enthusiasm and energy.  I had all these ideas on how to make work more enjoyable, less stressful, more fun.  I looked forward to going to work; I was quicker to forgive and make concessions and excuses when something or someone pushes too hard.  I felt connected and optimistic that things will be ok.  It’s all uphill from here on in, I used to say….

“It’s ok, she is just having a bad morning”…or “he does that to everyone so don’t feel too bad..” or ” Let it go, it’s not such a big deal…”

However, I realize now that these little things, these little concessions here and there, were  silently and relentlessly chipping away at my enthusiasm.  It’s like waves crashing on the shore…mental and emotional erosion.

In my first week, I resolved to integrate slowly and stick to the plan.  Come in, turn on my computer, change my shoes, walk to the washroom and wash my hands, say hello to everyone I see, and come back and start my work day, taking little breaks here and there.  Good safe plan.

Catching up was easy as I was not gone that long and all the issues that may have come my way had already been dealt with.  The team I work with is comprised with very smart people…our little world continues even when you go offline.

I thought I was doing okay…well, until someone from another team came to my cubicle and “scolded” me sending out an innocuous email and including someone who he thought did not need to be copied.  “Scolded” does not seem to capture the moment.  I knew he was upset as his posh corner office was on the other side of the building and he actually took the time to walk to where I was sitting.

My brain was reeling.  “Upset over the distribution list?!!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!”

He talked to me through gritted teeth…a passerby would have mistaken it for a smile but the tone was clear “Don’t mess with me, I’m more senior than you.”  However, with an open concept office, voices travel and people hear.  They knew that something was off and were curious.

At any rate, I recall that my cheeks started to burn for holding up my forced sunny smile while my lesson in choosing my distribution list continued.  All I could say was “Noted”. It took a Herculean effort not to add “JERK”.

He was gone as quickly as he had come.  I had to shake the negativity off.  I felt dirty to have seen such rage over such a petty thing.  Good thing it happened on a Friday afternoon and the idea of going home was like a lifeline.  I had to tell my boss what happened as some people heard and may have been drawing their own conclusions.  I sent a quick email saying I had to leave before I do anything stupid…like copying his boss. Shock-horror!!

On the train home, the concessions started….my practice on compassion and loving kindness came to the fore as I searched my brain for my mantra when people irritate me (although, it did have a rocky start)…

“May this JERK be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease”.

Ok, try again.

“May this silly person be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”

Again?

“May he be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”

Better….

I repeated this mantra several times and by the end of my train ride, I was feeling ok.  It was the weekend, anyway.

What stayed with me throughout the weekend was not that I should be mindful of who I copy (that’s garbage…I’m smart, I know who I should or should not copy to get things moving!), but rather that I felt I had given a small concession once again.  My boss used to tell me if someone was rude to me, to be rude back.  Dish it all back.  Sigh.  Perhaps I need a lesson on Confrontation.  I just find it so hard.

No.  Can’t quite bring myself to be like that.  I would probably botch the confrontation anyway and end up in more of a mess than when it started….

So, I resolve to build thicker and higher walls so I can slow the erosion.  I will have to.  My field of expertise is full of people like that…full of overinflated egos and insecurities and I have to learn how to walk through the minefield, taking care not to blow myself up.   I think it is the same in all other professions.  We just have different ways of dealing with our own erosions…. That’s just how it is, I guess.  My first mindfulness teacher would say, “Accept.  It is what it is.”

But, this episode has hardened me.  I feel it.  I came out jaded.  I broke my rose coloured glasses.  It was probably a good thing.  A good reality check that however hard you try, you cannot control everything…people, most of all.

Anyway, I had a good break from the stresses of the world.  I am grateful for this little respite.  I wish everyone had this opportunity….I guess that is what vacations are for….of course, without visits to the doctors office.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Debbie.

Today…

I woke up angry today.  Mental forecast–stormy and threat of thunderstorms….

Not sure why exactly.  Just angry.

Angry at how cold I felt even though I was under the blanket all night; angry because it was already morning and I still felt exhausted; angry at not being able to go to work like the rest of the world; angry because I did not know what I was going to do today.

I felt lost. Lost.

I did not know what I was supposed to do to help myself.  Even after a week, I was still struggling to find some peace or at least some eureka moment that would propel me to feeling better.

This past week has been a roller coaster ride for me.  I meant what I said about not losing hope.  From my mindfulness journey, I know I will get better….I painted, I visited my best friend, I gardened, I meditated…but somehow it does not feel enough.  Not this time.

I wanted to lash out.  I have always considered myself to be a “good girl”.  I read all the instruction manuals before I put things together, I always tried to follow the speed limits or at least the speed of traffic, I always returned the carts when I go shopping, I am always polite, I watch what I eat, I exercise, etc….

So, today, I rebelled.  I did not meditate.  I ate a jumbo size Snickers bar for breakfast, bowls of chips for lunch, had 2 glasses of wine  at dinner instead of my usual one glass, I sat in front of the TV and watched Netflix episodes of “Lost”.

I knew I was not in a good place. I knew I was sulking. My family knew I was not in a good mood.  However, I could not help but feel sorry for myself.  I have not felt like this in a long time and I did not know how to cope.  I just want to crawl into a cave and never see the light of day.

It’s past midnight and I am off to bed again.   As I settle in for another night, I have a stomach ache, a headache, and worst of all, heart ache.  Being angry and feeling helpless takes a toll, physically and emotionally.

However, I realize that today was not such a total waste.  I realize that I don’t want to spend another day like today–angry, helpless and feeling like a disappointment. Definitely not me.

So, tomorrow is another day.  Tomorrow, I will go back to my usual routine…meditate, exercise, eat right, be mindful, be patient, etc…Perhaps, tomorrow, I will feel better.

Let’s hope that the forecast is sunny and optimistic…..

Debbie.