Everything You Need to Know About Guided Meditations
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Great news: you’re interested in meditation! You’ve come to the right place.
And understandably so: from Eastern philosophers to Western scientists to celebrities you know and love, meditation is in - and the practice of meditation has been shown to have amazing benefits, including but not limited to:
- Increased mindfulness
- Increased focus
- More skillful self-talk
- More ease in relationships with others
- Enlightenment (sometimes, anyways)
So, we know why meditation is powerful … now what?
For starters, here’s perhaps the most important takeaway for the practice of meditation:
You can’t do it wrong. You can’t. Do. It. Wrong. Truly! Anyone who tells you you have to meditate this way, should practice meditation that way … don’t listen to them. There really are no “gurus” after all - and meditation haters gonna hate. There are however, some great starter guided meditations out there to help you find your groove, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow their lead forever.
The dictionary, for example, defines meditation as “the action or practice of meditating.” Which means, simply by getting onto a meditation cushion (or a comfortable meditation position of your choosing) is, in and of itself, meditation.
I’ll say it again: If you sit down with the intention to meditation, whether it’s for 30 seconds or 30 minutes - CONGRATULATIONS! - you are practicing meditation.
Here’s a handful of tips to consider when you start:
- You are NOT your thoughts: meditation, at its core, teaches us that we have a thinking mind that is constantly feeding us thoughts about ourselves. It is a tool. Like our feet, or our beating hearts. It is a tool. “The brain is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” Consider that next time you sit to meditate.
Not to mention, the average person thinks around 80,000 thoughts a day, so no wonder we confuse our mind for who we are. Meditation teaches a simple truth: you are here having an experience. Your mind is like a 24/7 radio station commenting about that experience. And meditation helps us turn down the volume on that station, and from time to time, to turn the volume all the way off for a few moments.
- There is no “DOING IT WRONG": this is probably the most common refrain you’ll hear for anyone getting started with meditation, with “I am not good at meditating” a close second. To restart the above, if you are trying to meditate, you ARE meditating.
- Posture: maintaining a pose of awakeness - alert but not rigid, intent but not intense, is a great way to honor your meditation practice. Whether you like meditating on a cushion or a chair, finding a comfortable yet commanding presence in your meditation can help you focus on an anchor a little more skillfully, be it your breath, the sounds around you, or anything in between. Note: meditating lying down is totally cool, though it definitely risks turning your meditation into a sleeping practice (though that is totally cool, too).
- Choose an anchor: The Buddha’s instructions for meditating were simple - when you’re breathing in, know that you’re breathing in; when you breathe out, know that you’re breathing out. And your meditation focus can be as simple as that. Sometimes you can focus on the rise of your belly, other times the air going out of your nostrils. Of course, we have 5 senses - sometimes it can be fun to meditate with a focus on your breathing, other times, your hearing with a listening meditation. Play around with it. Have fun with it, even.
- Note what comes up: you are having an experience. Thoughts, feelings, resentments, what you’re going to eat for brunch. See and identify what comes up gently, the same way as you see water floating down a river. Imagine your meditation practice as one big river-watching meditative adventure, in silence.
Warning: meditation can be highly addictive. Meditation for many can induce a similar sense of calm and ease you might get from a bong rip - and we can start craving that feeling of peace.
Ease into it, and know that sometimes a meditation can serve like a gateway drug for other spiritual-ish practices. Go in with an open mind. Be kind and gentle with your practice.
There is no thing to get, there is no where to go, no one to become.
In life, we will never arrive. Contentment and understanding is simply a method of travel, not the destination.
Meditation and cultivating a consistent meditative practice on your terms is a wonderful way to keep remembering that simply truth.
Practice wisely, and enjoy the ride.