If You’ve Never Meditated Before, Read This
I never thought I would be one of those people who sat down and just breathed for 20 minutes.
Honestly, it seems boring. I like to move fast; go to new places, eat exotic foods, and skate or bike around. And if I’m not doing that, I’ll sit on the couch for hours and play video games. Why would I just sit and breathe when I can explore virtual worlds and conquer my enemies?
About 10 years ago I had my first experience with anxiety. Who knows what number of things brought it on, but it hit me hard. I didn’t understand what it was, why I was feeling this way. I was convinced I was physically sick, that something was wrong with my brain.
I tried medication and therapy and both did help me, a little. Once I was able to understand the symptoms and the root cause, I was able to control it a little better. I stopped taking my medication and dropped therapy, feeling more comfortable in my own skin.
But my mind would still race. I would still have moments where I needed to take myself out of whatever situation I was in and focus every ounce of my energy on just calming down.
I was able to go on like this for a few years and function at a pretty high level, for the most part.
During this time I learned something that changed my life; anxiety is normal.
As I began to travel more and interact with more people, I discovered how many people are similarly affected by anxiety. It floored me. I couldn’t believe that such a large percentage of the people I knew, both directly and indirectly, were struggling like me.
I got older, started to pay attention to things like my diet and exercise. Both of these things definitely helped, but I still felt like I should have a better handle on my mental health.
When I had tried therapy all those years ago I was introduced to topics like mindfulness and meditation. My preconceived notions of both caused me to quickly disregard the techniques as “not for me.”
But, in 2019 after a stressful move across the country and starting a brand new life I felt like I needed something to sharpen up my mind and give me better control over my thoughts.
I discovered “Waking Up,” an app designed by neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris.
“Why not,” I thought, “It’s not like it can hurt.”
I liked the way Sam approached meditation and mindfulness logically. He didn’t mystify it or claim he was a master or guru of some sort.
One of his thoughts, in particular, struck me: “Your mind is the basis of everything that you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train it.”
I started his beginner course and discovered very quickly that I was not good at it. At all.
My mind would wander dozens of times, just in the first few minutes of a basic meditation.
It was frustrating and made me think I was right about the technique all those years ago. I wanted to quit and try something else.
But as I kept learning and talking to others, I realized something; meditation is hard for everyone. That’s kind of the point.
Noticing when the mind wanders and bringing it back into the present isn’t failing; that is the practice.
A Beginner’s Mind
I’ve been meditating every day for a little over a year now. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve gotten much better at it.
But other things have gotten much better. My ability to regulate my emotions, control my anxiety, communicate with my loved ones, and focus on the present moment.
I am most certainly a beginner as far as meditation and mindfulness go.
Sitting down every day and focusing my awareness on the present moment is hard and most of the time I really don’t feel like doing it.
I don’t think meditation alone cures anxiety or alleviates depression and other ailments.
But what meditation does do is allow you the space to learn and be curious about your own mind.
It has trained me to look at everything with a compassionate closeness, a uniquely kind awareness.
If you’ve never meditated before, I can’t recommend it to you enough. It will be difficult, frustrating, and you’ll probably want to quit.
But, if you can find it in yourself to keep going, I can promise that you’ll benefit from it.