Everyone and his dog meditates now, don’t ya know? What started off as an esoteric practice associated with gurus and hippies has now become so cool and commonplace that you can carry it around on your new shiny iPhone and talk about it freely on a night out.
Many scientific studies have proven that regular meditation can actually change the physical brain, and it’s touted as a solution for stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, sleep problems, anger issues, creativity blocks and more. And don’t get me wrong – it works. OH HELL YES.
But despite the cool apps, the corporate classes (eek) and the celebrity endorsements – everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Katy Perry to the Huff Post’s own Arianna – meditation has still got a massive PR problem.
I’m a certified self-esteem and love coach, and people tell me about their most personal fears and experiences, but when I broach the subject of meditation as a solution to negative thought spirals and crap self-esteem, they’re still skeptical AF.
All the young women that I speak to have heard of meditation, but a fair majority still think it requires sitting still for hours while saying OM, and cultivating – stone-cold sober – the kind of chilled mood previously only seen last Friday after three G&Ts.
They nearly all reveal that they tried it a few times, but then couldn’t seem to stick to it, and now they don’t reckon it works for them.
Basically, they think they’re sh*t at it.
They get put off it for years, if not forever, and they go all squirmy and weird when I ask them about it. Sound familiar?
This is a massive, sobbing shame, because I know firsthand that creating a successful meditation habit is one of the best ways to stop negative and unhelpful thoughts in their tracks, deal with pain and heartbreak, unpick recurring mind spirals and endless rumination, and cultivate a healthy and honest relationship with your own brain, so you can make your mind a nice place to be, rather than a dark and scary shi*thole.
In short, to stop throwing your own pity party and start feeling a whole f*cking lot better.
Tried it and decided it wasn’t for you? Try these 3 super-simple tricks and give it another go. You won’t regret it, I promise.
1. Start small
Die-hard meditators will swear blind they meditate for 20 minutes’ a day, twice a day, but with respect, f*ck that sh*t. If you’re new to the practice, give yourself a break and start with 5 minutes. I started with 5 minutes (blinked and it was over), worked up to 10, and now I can quite happily zen my way through 15 minutes without too much trouble. Set yourself a timer or find a free online guided practice (try my no-BS one here and below), and just sit down and try.
2. Do it at the same time everyday
This was the key for me to stopping “thinking about getting back into meditation” and actually just doing it. I made it part of my morning routine – in fact, I did it on the commute to work. Yes, surrounded by douchebags wearing rucksacks and not enough deodorant on a packed tube train – and in later years, at the beginning of my epic 90 minute commute out of London, – I put my headphones in and closed my eyes, and breathed in and out.
Believe me, if you can successfully meditate while surrounded by people and noise and smells and train announcements, then you can meditate anywhere. And, doing it every time I got on to the train made it a regular habit, like clockwork. Now, I don’t have a commute, but I still do it at near enough the same time every day. Don’t think about it, just do it.
3. Realise that “being sh*t at it” is THE WHOLE DAMN POINT
After years of meditating, I still have days when I sit down, close my eyes, and 10 minutes later open them again and think, “Well, that was a total f*cking waste of time”. But hear me out.
Yep, the thoughts that come into our head when we try to be still can be almost disturbing in their randomness, and you might find yourself fidgeting like a three-year-old, and arguing with yourself about why you’re not better at this.
Often you’ll drift off into a thought spiral of such epic proportions that you totally forget you’re supposed to be meditating in the first place. Sometimes amazing thoughts come into your head simply because this is the first time you’ve given yourself permission to just BE and THINK all day.
And you know what? That’s the the whole damn point. You’re trying. You’re doing it.
Meditation is a practise. It’s not about emptying your mind (that’s largely impossible), it’s about OBSERVING it. It’s about seeing the thoughts, without following them or agreeing with them, or getting sucked into their meaning, or, really, doing anything with them at all.
It takes time. It takes some good days and whole lot of crappy days.
It takes continual patience with yourself, bringing your mind back to your breath, and trying again. In time, you’ll find that you’re more aware, less agitated, less anxious, kinder and more trusting to yourself, and you’ll stop beating yourself up every time you wander off with a thought about what you should have said to that backhanded compliment your b*tch of a colleague said in front of your boss last Tuesday.
And, breathe. Think you’re sh*t at meditation? Nah. That’s a sign you’re doing it right.
Want a guided meditation track that’s BS-free and will help you get back into the habit asap? Download my free 10-minute audio (+ 5 more tips on how to get the most out of it) now and get on it today
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.co.uk