Guided Meditation - How to Start
How I started a meditation practice & why it keeps me sane.
“I can’t do meditation – my wind just wanders.”
“Meditation is ‘not really my thing’.”
“Meditation just makes me aware of all the thoughts in my head and makes me more stressed out.”
“I can’t meditate… I’ve tried and it’s just not for me.”
Sound familiar? They all do to me – because these are all things I’ve said before I was wise enough – correction, patient enough – to really find a way to make meditation a daily practice.
Ever have those nights where you just can’t sleep because you can’t shut off your brain, no matter how tired you are or how hard you trick yourself into not thinking about what you’re about? *Insert girl raising her hand emoji here.*
I used to hear, “…imagine yourself near a peaceful lake” and my mind would start imagining all mosquitos buzzing around me. Relaxing, grassy knoll? I could feel the ants crawling up my legs and that’s certainly anything but relaxing.
Now, I meditate every night before bed – because as anyone who knows me well will tell you – I LOVE sleep.
In addition to finding the patience and persistence – because it absolutely takes both – I was lucky enough to find really helpful resources (listed below) that actually taught me how to meditate, and now,
MEDITATION IS MY JAM.
Meditation has been extremely helpful for me in times of high stress and anxiety – and done in the middle of a “I don’t have time and I’m too busy to breathe” kind of day, it’s helped open up more time in my day, allowing me to breathe, re-focus, and be more productive. Meditation helps keep me resilient, thinking & acting in a positive light, and continuously improving.
Meditation has also been proven to help:
Lower Blood Pressure
Strengthen the Immune System
Lower Blood Cortisol Levels (hello, weight gaining hormone!)
Improve Blood Circulation
Reduce Excess Sweating
I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation and how it’s helped me, but since this isn’t an autobiography or a self-help book, I’ll stop myself.
So, let me tell you something I wish I would’ve told myself when I gave up on meditation time and time again:
Meditation IS for you. You CAN meditate. If you’ve tried and it hasn’t worked – you’re NOT incapable and you’re not lazy. You just need to be willing to take the time to practice and maybe a little guidance.
I’ll be honest; with meditation – like any other physical or mental practice, sport, or habit – you’re not going to be perfect at it the first time. Or the second, or the third.
You didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to write, draw, ride a bike or play a sport, and you didn’t come into this world knowing how to meditate.
Cut yourself some slack, and if you’re interested in incorporating meditation into your life to help with stress, sleep, productivity, anxiety or focus, here’s a few tips that helped me - and hopefully help you – get started.
How to Start a Meditation Practice – Guided Meditation
1. Decide why you want to meditate.
If you’re reading this, meditation has peaked your interest for some reason. Maybe you’ve heard good things and have always wanted to try it. Maybe you work in a high-stress job. Maybe you’re trying to be more zen or more productive at work. Whatever your reason – make the decision to start your practice and write down your “why”.
2. Make it easy to remember.
Once you’ve decided on your “why”, write down in a personal notebook or on a post-it note and keep it next to your bedside. If you’re exhausted by the time you hit the sheets, set a calendar reminder for 30 minutes before you go to bed, wake up 30 minutes earlier, or block out some time over lunch or during an afternoon break.
Remember, you’re only going to start with a few minutes a day – you spend that much time scrolling through your social feeds, so you can certainly commit some time each day to better yourself. ;)
3. Commit to practicing.
You don’t need to practice for hours on end. In fact, I recommend starting with 5-10 minutes a day. Have an honest conversation with yourself and set an amount of time that’s reasonable for you to commit to.
Do long term goals stress you out? Start with 7 days, then after 7, commit to another 7,10, or 14. Are you better with longer stretched goals? Commit to 21 days off the bat.
4. TAKE ADVANTAGE of free meditation apps
· When I made the decision to bring meditation into my life, I googled meditation apps, and after reading Headspace reviews and seeing they had a free 10-session trial, I signed up. The Headspace intro sessions were immensely helpful in easing me into the process.
What I loved about Headspace is that they make the beginning process really seamless, including helpful illustrated videos and short meditations. Andy Puddicombe is insanely helpful in helping you learn what to do when all of those thoughts start creeping up in your head, and rather than try to explain it here, I’ll let you discover it when you get there.
Insight Timer is one of my absolute favorite apps of all time – I have it nestled right next to my sleep app on my phone home screen. It contains thousands of free meditations from numerous contributors, and you can filter it by what you’re looking for (stress, anxiety, sleep, focus, etc.) and how long you have. You can also rate, bookmark, and download your favorites for those plane rides, car rides, or long commutes. I mostly use Insight Timer for guided meditations but I’ve enjoyed more than a few talks and they have music as well.
· One IMPORTANT caveat on Insight Timer is that if you try to dive right in without any prior practice, you may revert to those initial “I can’t meditate” statements and find yourself having a hard time with unwanted thoughts (please refer to my earlier mention of buzzing mosquitos and crawling ants). I recommend starting with Headspace and downloading Insight Timer once you’ve got some groundwork laid.
5. Be kind to yourself
You’ve made the decision to bring meditation into your life and that is already an amazing step in improving your health and overall well-being. If you miss a day of meditation, don’t beat yourself. You can jump right back on the feel-good self-care train the next day.
I am by no means a Meditation Expert, but I’ve now spent over a year meditating almost every day and it makes me feel so good – so I hope these tips help you to achieve the same feel-good effects.
Is guided meditation something you incorporate into your wellness routine? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!