I started meditating in 2020 because I was dating someone who did it every morning. We’d sit in my morning light-soaked living room, coffee steaming on the table in front of us, and listen to the dude with the Australian accent tell us to inhale…exhale…and close our eyes.
When the relationship crashed and burned, at first I kept meditating because it was a life raft. The techniques I had learned during those five-minute sessions gave me the mental clarity and control I needed to redirect my emotional response—which was critical, as I was trying to make it through my sister’s wedding weekend without anyone knowing that I had just been magnificently dumped. Then, I kept meditating because it felt like a piece of that gilded time that I could keep. If you’ve been through the cycle of a relationship that burns fast—the magic followed by the hollowness—you get this.
Eventually, my meditation practice peeled away from its attachment to my ex. It became a part of my identity alone, and doing it every single day gave me a sense of control over my rituals and habits, which as we know are the building blocks of who we are to become. Now, the ripple effects of my meditation practice can be felt in almost every facet of my life.
Despite that, my meditation practice has actually been about releasing control. I used to think that meditating meant clearing my mind and practicing extreme, forceful focus on the now. That kind of mental practice is actually easy for me. What’s more difficult—and what’s at the heart of meditation—is maintaining the presence of mind to notice thoughts, then to let them go. Usually, I’m quite bad at this. I’ll go weeks where my five-minute meditation is basically a time to close my eyes and think about something I’m cycling on. Sometimes, though, it clicks.
Here are my recommendations for the meditation-curious:
- Use an app.
I love Headspace. There are a ton of other resources in the app to help you with any number of meditation-related goals and questions. And their illustrations are adorable.
- Start small.
You don’t need to do an hour of meditation each day or book a meditative retreat to be a person who meditates. You just have to meditate, even for just three minutes, every single day.
- Summon a visualization.
Daily meditation guides in apps won’t walk you through this, but I have several visualizations that help me stay present and aware of my thoughts during meditation. I imagine that I’m a sailboat anchored in gentle waves, my thoughts floating in the air above me, and when one gets stuck in my sail I simply release it into the wind. Sometimes I imagine that I’m floating the space above the clouds, and when I sink below and get stuck on thoughts, I just have to float back up above them. Others, I think of my meditation as bubble wrap that keeps me from pressing back into the past or into the future: it allows me to easily stay right here in the present.
- Identify a physical place.
Sit someplace, and in a position, where you only sit for your meditation. For me it’s on the edge of a chair in my living room with a pillow behind my back. Getting myself out of spaces where I usually do other things—my desk, my bed, my kitchen counter—helps to remove me from the thoughts associated with those spaces, too.
- Dabble with a mantra.
There’s a world of them out there. I tend to settle on one organically each month. Right now: “the only thing I have to do right now is to be here.”