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musings on meditation


Though I've read over and over about the benefits of meditation -- an easier time being present, better sleep, more mindfulness, a greater sense of peace, a more calm demeanor, improved health, etc, etc, etc. -- I'd always been hesitant to even give it a try. With a mind that's often going a mile-a-minute, I didn't think a mind like my would ever be able to be calm enough to sit in peace for any significant period of time. But a few weeks ago I finally gave it a try... 

My boss, my coworker, and I went on a department outing to a local yoga studio that also hold private meditation sessions. Not quite ready to be seated on the floor for a full hour of guided/silent meditation, my coworker and I opted for chairs while my boss and the meditation leader (guide? is there a special name for them?) sat cross-legged on braided blankets. I was oddly nervous, wondering silently if I might pass out from sitting still for too long -- or, worse yet, have some sort of panic attack from attempting to silence my ever-racing thoughts. 

I attempted to calm my nerves by listening intently to everything our guide was saying. I'd only been in a meditation situation once before -- in high school -- and all I can remember about it was giggling and acting childish only to late feel guilty for mocking the teacher who was trying to expand our young, closed minds. This time, I wanted to act like an adult, to really give it an honest try. And that meant listening -- an act I'm sad to say isn't my forte. I'm much more of a give-my-opinion, raise-my-hand, share-my-thoughts kinda girl. But I remained quiet, only speaking when she asked us what our goals were for learning to meditate. 

"I'd like to be more present in my life," I told our guide and my colleagues. "I always find that I'm thinking about what's next, in a rush to the next thing, and I want to be able to stay more in the moment." She nodded understandingly and I felt hopeful, like maybe she might actually be the one to help me slow down my racing thoughts, to finally make me one of those people who is fully, completely living in the now. 

Getting Started

Our guide started us off with guided meditation before allowing us to sit in the silent kind of meditation (are there more specific terms for these things?). The guided meditation was oddly familiar to me. It was a tactic I used frequently when I'm having trouble sleeping -- focusing on all five senses to distract myself from my racing thoughts. Doing it on a wooden chair in a room I'd never been in before guided by a voice that was not my own was a bit of a challenge at first. It was hard to let go of my thoughts about the new environment, my hopes that I'd really be good at meditation, and the nagging notion that I might be missing something happening in the world of my iPhone. 

With a little effort, I find myself more and more in the moment. I found myself getting just a little bit better at steering my thoughts back to whatever sense we were supposed to be focusing on. As we moved on to the next part of the meditation -- paying attention to various parts of our bodies -- I felt more relaxed. I was using some of the breathing techniques we'd learned at the beginning of the session. I wasn't able to completely focus on the now (I desperately wanted to know how much time had passed), but I was making a valiant effort.

Third Eye Meditation

In the last stage before silent meditation, our guide taught us third eye meditation. This was the kind of thing I'd always been a little be wary of (mostly because the idea of a third eye kind of grosses me out). This was the stuff that was crossing into what I thought would be unfamiliar territory. However, it ended up being the part of meditation I liked the best. We were encouraged to close our eyes and focus on the spot in the middle of our foreheads. There we were to imagine a movie screen and playing on it were our thoughts. Any time we had a thought, we were supposed to visualize it on the screen and, rather than judge it or try to get rid of it, we were encouraged to watch it as an observer. 

Watching my thoughts on the tiny screen on my inside of my forehead was something that, while it sounded odd, was actually quite interesting. Instead of judging myself for being distracted, which would only result in more thinking, I was able to see the thoughts objectively and let them go. This didn't mean they didn't keep popping up on the screen, but I was able to look at them in a different way and not cling to them as I typically would. I was able to let them go. 

At the end of the session I found myself more relaxed. I wasn't completely present-moment focused yet (my mind was already wondering what I'd missed in the hour I'd been away from the office), but I was happy to have some new tools to use when I found myself unable to focus on the now. Though I haven't meditated since that day -- it's so much harder to be motivated to do it without the guide! -- I would gladly do it again. It helped focus on the present moment without external distractions and it taught me a few new tricks for learning how to deal with my internal distractions. 

Have you meditated before? What did you think?
Any tips/tricks for someone just getting into it? 


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First, you are too adorable. Some of this cracked me up (third eye thoughts, maybe passing out while meditating) - I can so relate to the, how long has this been going on and always thinking of the next thing and how to fix it or how will it go mentality. I've tried it a couple times and have not been very good at doing it consistently (not my strongest suit with some things) though the times I've tried I enjoyed it. I try to really keep judging or try not to judge the thoughts that come but also clear my mind of any negative thoughts saying to myself I can at least do that for 5-10 mins and give my mind a little rest from what feels like a constant habit. I will send you a link to an online site that has seasonal meditations - I think it's the Chopra Center but will send in case you'd like to share it with your readers.

Where I've been the most successful with meditation is while doing yoga. Now with that I've been pleasantly surprised that my mind doesn't wander to many excessive worrisome thoughts and I take that time for me to just be. It helped that I also felt a connection to the instructor-really noticed that was true when I took a class led by another and could not get into the same flow. Sometimes I was surprised to see I would be brought to tears from a reading that was read and connected with me while my mind was clear to receive such a welcomed gift I didn't even expect. I really need to get back to that because I know deep down it would really help me in dealing with very recent events that have been quite trying for me.

Sorry I think this got crazy long - thanks for another great post.

I tried meditation last year at college. It was part of an one-week-event there. I've been very curious cause I never tried it before and all I can say is, that it was a great experience - unfamiliar - but great. We tried the third eye meditation, too and I had some trouble with it. I prefer the body-scan-meditation; it's so relaxing :)

Saggleo - Thanks so much for your great comment! I'm glad you enjoyed my silly musings on meditation. It was a great, but different, experience for me (as I imagine it is for everyone the first time they try it). It sounds like yoga is a great way to enhance meditation. And thanks for sending over the Chopra Center link!

Sandra - I agree that the body scanning meditation was much more relaxing, but I suppose it all takes practice. As you said, even though it's unfamiliar, it's a great experience and worth giving a try!

Yes, I meditate, too.
My advice?
Just do it every day, 20 minutes, no matter what. If you think it's not helping, do it anyway. If you think it's a waste of time, do it anyway. If you like it, do it anyway. If you hate it, do it anyway. This is what helps me. (And no, I don't do it every day. This is more a reminder for myself than anyone else!)

Tim - That's EXCELLENT advice. I think, like most things, meditation requires lots and lots of practice. In addition to your great advice about doing it every day, I think it's probably a good idea for people just starting out to build up to 20 minutes in 5 minute intervals.

Even 10 minutes a day is good to start. Don't turn it into a big project, just sit with yourself and pay attention to your breath. Stop, slow down, stay. You are working on developing a friendship with yourself, being friendly and present, so relax, sink into the moment, into reality as it is, no forcing it to be something it's not or hoping to be somewhere else, it's no big deal to just be here, now. There isn't a right way to do it, so let go of that. Showing up and breathing, being present, that's it. Incredibly simple, but really, really hard--workable. And remember you are practicing, not perfect, p r a c t i c i n g. Relax. Have a sense of humor. Kindness. Not too loose, not too tight.

Jill - Great advice! I really like the part about developing a friendship with yourself. In essence, that's what meditation is and it's something that often gets neglected in our busy lives. Thanks for sharing these great ideas!

Meditation was tough for me at first. I had trouble with mind racing. Took a minute to calm things down. Good information. Enjoyed browsing your site.

Cheryl - I think I had the same experience you did. It was hard at first, but much better once I settled my racing thoughts. Thanks for stopping by Positively Present!

I loved reading this! For years I've tended to go in cycles with meditation, although I'm much more consistent about it these days. I also use several types of meditation (guided meditations, silently counting breaths, listening to a drum beat, various things like that) because I've found that switching things up works best for me, in terms of sticking with it. But when I *do* stick with it and meditate consistently - it makes such a positive difference for me!

Gin - That's a great idea, switching it up. I think one of the reasons people might struggle with meditating is that it seems boring, but there are so many variations on it and they can all make a positive difference.

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