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  • Riley

Beginning a Meditation Practice

Meditation has gained more and more popularity in western society over recent years, but it may still feel unattainable. I’ve met many people who have tried it a few times, but conclude that they can’t meditate because they have too many thoughts that come up. That image of a cross legged person on a mountain with an empty mind, focusing on nothing, just isn’t achievable for them.

I love talking to these people if they’re still open to trying meditation because I have some exciting news for them. Noticing the thoughts that pop up during a session is the point of the whole thing! I’m a strong believer that meditation is for anyone who desires to try it. I first started meditating six years ago after accidentally signing up for the best class I’ve ever taken. In it, we were instructed to meditate daily for however long we had time for. It could be 5 minutes, or 45. It could also be sitting or walking meditation, the main point being to just find awareness in the present moment. The flexibility there really helped me stay consistent. Even when I missed a few days or fell out of the routine, I was motivated to pick it back up again.

One of the most helpful things we learned as beginning meditators was that the goal isn’t to have no thoughts at all because that’s an impossible goal, especially at the beginning of cultivating a practice. Instead, we celebrated when we noticed our mind had drifted off in a thought during meditation! The fact that we noticed our mind had drifted off means that we’ve brought awareness to the present moment, and that’s the goal of meditating in the first place! So, if you’re just starting a practice, as you sit to focus on the ins and outs of your breath, when a thought comes up, notice it, congratulate yourself, finish out the thought, and then let go of it so that your focus can shift back to your breath.

Six years later, and I’m still going through this same process. Some days my mind is more quiet and focusing on my breath comes more naturally and others I have many thoughts to congratulate myself on noticing. A big aspect of full awareness in the present is accepting whatever is happening in this moment. If I am frustrated at myself for having so many thoughts, then I am automatically worrying about things that have happened in the past rather than being in the present moment. Remember to accept your thoughts and realize the victory of being aware of them.

My meditation practice has ebbed and flowed, and it’s been far from perfect. I’ve fallen off the habit of doing it for months at a time. Yet, I keep coming back eventually. The structured practice of being in this moment through meditation helps me stay more present throughout the rest of my day, even if it’s just a little bit. It’s one of the most impactful forms of self care in my life. If you’ve never meditated, decided it’s not for you, or used to and have just fallen away from it, I strongly encourage you to build up a routine, even if that just means 5 minutes a day. Stay open to wherever your mind goes and whatever benefits meditation might bring, and you may just find a new favorite practice.


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