We’ve talked about the importance of resting, taking time for yourself, and allowing yourself to feel whatever emotions come up. Meditation is a powerful tool to help you do all of these things. There are countless meditation techniques, some extremely complex, but learning how to meditate doesn’t have to be difficult. There are simple ways to start, and you’ll experience some of the benefits of meditation almost immediately. Look for classes at your local community center or place of worship, or listen a beginning meditation CD from the library or a publisher such as Sounds True. While you’re learning, keep these tips in mind:
Meditation Works With Any Faith (or Lack Thereof)
Many people associate meditation with a particular religion, but most faiths, including Christianity and Judaism, practice meditation in one form or another. Learning how to meditate is a wonderful way to deepen your religious practice. Look for books or CDs about meditation techniques from your religious tradition, or ask your clergy member for recommendations.
If you’re not religious, meditation can simply be a way to rest, relax and know yourself better, with no theology or philosophy attached.
It’s Simpler Than You Think
Learning how to meditate can be as simple as letting yourself be still. In her book, The Joy Diet: 10 Practices for a Happier Life, Martha Beck’s first suggestion is to “do nothing” for at least 20 minutes every day. With this exercise, she’s really teaching her readers how to meditate. Beck points out that “doing nothing” can be different for every person. Some people can “do nothing” just by sitting still, and others can sit and count their breaths. Sitting still for any length of time is very difficult for many people, though, so Beck gives readers permission to do any mindless, repetitive activity, instead. Walking can be a form of meditation. So can weeding a garden or folding laundry. Experienced knitters can even meditate while knitting a simple pattern. The key is to find the technique that works best for you.
Let Your Thoughts Go By
When learning how to meditate, most people feel a flood of thoughts rush in as soon as they try to quiet their minds. Many give up on meditation because of this, thinking that, if they can’t stop their thoughts, they can’t learn how to meditate. Not so! The goal of meditation is not to stop thinking. People who have studied and practiced for years still have thoughts and emotions come up. The goal is simply to stop clinging to those thoughts and feelings. Let them come, notice, them, then let them go. Beck suggests visualizing yourself in the middle of an empty room, watching your thoughts walk in, walk by you, and walk out. If your thoughts and feelings come to fast for this image (as they often do if you’re upset or going through a major crisis), picture yourself sitting behind a waterfall of thoughts. Just let them all flow by.