I started meditating when I lived out West. A far way away from where I grew up in the Midwest. I was searching for something. As we all do in our 20s. But I had been struggling with my mental health for as long as I could remember. I wasn’t okay. And I didn’t know how to get better. I was completely lost. Both in my life and in myself. And meditation was the first thing that helped me find my way.
How My Practice Began
Meditation found me. I was walking home from a nearby flea market and someone handed me a booklet on yoga. Always intrigued by yoga but never having been exposed to it (this was in 2005; before yoga was everywhere), I accepted the booklet, made a donation and headed home curious.
Once home, as I began thumbing through the pages, I was a bit discouraged not to find pictures of the yoga poses I’d imagined. Instead, the booklet focused on breathing. On postures when sitting. On finding stillness. I was looking for any kind of guidance, so I took this as a sign that I should start meditating. And so my meditation practice began.
I made myself meditate every day. And considering I knew no one in the latest town I was in, I had a lot of time to practice. And I needed to practice. It’s amazing how hard it is to just sit. To sit in stillness and to focus. On your breath. On your thoughts. On your feelings. Perhaps that’s why we don’t do it as much as we should. For when you focus on your thoughts and feelings, you have to be ready to deal with what you think and feel. But I began to notice that meditation was slowing things down for me, helping me find a stillness inside myself that I desperately needed to find. Helping me feel okay.
I’d been anxious and depressed and dealing with suicidal thoughts for over a decade at this point in my life, and I was searching to figure out why. Meditation gave me my first glimpse inside myself. A glimpse that brought me joy and made me feel peace. A peace I had never known; one that I needed to feel. It gave me body awareness. Helped me focus my thoughts. And connected me to my feelings. To my soul.
Now, over a decade later, my practice looks much different than when I started. I find beauty in this as that’s how it should be — things should evolve, as life does. Because while we all need to practice finding stillness, we’ll go nowhere if we don’t move.
How to Begin Your Practice
So if you find yourself beginning your meditation practice, here are some basic steps to help you get started:
- Sit on a pillow or cushion on the floor. I’ve had the same one since I started. I feel that, just like my yoga mat, it somehow holds my energy. Try to sit in the same space too. Preferably somewhere where there’s natural light.
- Play hatha yoga music or something instrumental you can connect to. I listened to music when I first started my practice to help my mind focus, but I find I prefer silence now.
- Light a candle. To bring light into your practice. I use fragrance-free candles so I don’t overwhelm my senses.
- Set an intention out loud or write it down. If there’s a lingering question, if there’s something you’re trying to decide, if you’re lost, if you wish to help others — ask for guidance. Always make sure you follow up during the day by looking, listening and observing to find the answers.
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply, trying to get your breath to flow from your head to your toes. Repeat until you feel calm and relaxed. Keep your breath flowing fluidly throughout your body as you meditate. Be sure to resume your normal breathing before ending your practice.
- Find a mantra or chant you can repeat. I like to say it out loud a few times first and then to myself after. I use prayer beads to pace myself.
- Pray for yourself and for others. The clearer you state what you want, the more likely you are to see results. For example, I once said out loud in front of my Guru that I wanted to physically heal, and he corrected me that I should request to heal completely — so that my mind, body and soul all heal. Not just my body. A distinction that has helped me focus on my mind and soul healing in addition to my body.
- Incorporate meaningful objects to have with you as you meditate. I have statues, things that belonged to my ancestors, objects with spiritual meaning and rocks representing each chakra. There are so many possibilities. Be mindful about what you have near you and create a space that makes you feel good.
I wish you light and love as you begin your practice. May you find peace and joy in yourself. Namaste.