When I was 15, I was angry. Somehow, and I don’t remember exactly who or what or when, I learned some basic meditation techniques. When I was a teenager, I used them specifically to calm myself down when I was pissed off, but only then. So, I used meditation as a tool, during specific moments, as a remedy for overwhelming and nasty feelings.
There were great chunks of time when I didn’t meditate during my 20s, but when I started doing yoga, I was reminded of the benefits—and instructed about how meditation could be used as preventative mental “medicine” of sorts. Instead of using it as a tool to deal with anger after I had already experienced it, I could meditate to be able to become more calm and mindful.
It sounded good, though frankly, I had no idea what that actually meant. In fits and starts, I meditated. I got more into it when my 7-year-long relationship ended and I was single again at age 30. I didn’t know exactly what meditation was doing, but I knew I felt better after doing it. Like exercise, or a shower, it didn’t seem all that transformative until after I was done with it.
I kept at it (not every day, but often enough so it was a regular thing), and it got easier. I could sit for 15 or 20 minutes at at a time. And then I started noticing that my general anxiety levels were decreasing. Though nothing in my life had changed, I felt more comfortable in my own skin. I had just dealt with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (and even panic attacks) for years, and I noticed that the more I meditated, the less those nervous feelings attacked me, and when they did come, they were lighter, less intense.
Image via Flickr User Jamesy Pena
Meditation worked for me. Eight years into a regular meditation practice (I do it almost every morning) I am more calm, and happier. I still have ups and downs, but they are less intense. And stuff that would have made me blow my top (I had a temper!) before, just doesn’t anymore. This past weekend, I moved from Oregon to California and several things went wrong, but I didn’t get upset or nervous. I was able to just let traffic, no-show movers, and other silly stuff just roll right off my shoulders. I could see the long view—that my partner and I would get our stuff into the house somehow and that in a week, none of the details would really much matter.
That kind of realization is called mindfulness; being able to see the situation for what it is, as opposed to reacting to it emotionally. Meditation helped me get to the place where I can do that, and so, it has changed my life.
My rules for meditation:
—You can meditate anywhere (I meditate on planes; while I walk—here’s more on that; floating on my back in the sea; sitting on the floor at home).
—You can meditate however you like—while chanting a mantra, in silence, while listening to music, outside, in bed, or while being guided by a video or recording
—You have do to it every day (or almost every day; don’t let one or two missed days keep you from getting back to it!)
As you can see, I don’t really have any hard-and-fast rules, except that you have to DO IT.
How do I meditate? The same way I have for years.
How I meditate:
Simply find a comfortable position (sitting in a chair, on the floor, whatever). Then, close your eyes, and count to 3 as you breathe in through your nose. Count to 5 as you breath out through your mouth, so your out-breath is longer. Keep doing this for a set time (6 or 8 or 10 minutes). Dismiss any thoughts that come into your mind, and just breathe. Keep dismissing and returning to your breath. That’s it.
Some days all I do is the breathing part—which is fine, no judgement. Other days I feel like I want to sit for longer and stop focusing so much on my counting and just be. Other days I take mini voyages inside myself, or ask a question and see what comes to me. I’ve only done the latter things in the past couple of years, now that I feel comfortable with meditation, but it took years to get to the place where I felt like I could “explore” while in a meditative state.
Some more of my suggestions and ideas are included in the slideshow below! Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments about my meditation practice and I’ll be happy to answer them.