So, this hasn’t gone exactly as I had planned.
If you’ll remember, last week I posted about wanting to try meditation, and challenging myself to meditate for 21 days straight.
I was all super confident and excited until I hit post and thought to myself – what now?
What is meditation really, and how does one do it the right way? My mind began flooding with 1000 questions in a moment of what I can only think is the exact opposite of meditation. So, I began researching and read a lot of randomly googled articles that spoke of vague (and frankly, confusing) concepts and benefits but still didn’t give me a clear idea of what exactly I’m supposed to be doing when I meditate. I started to get the sense that perhaps this is just something I should learn by doing rather than reading.
So, I meditated. I got out a comfy floor pillow and dimmed the lights in my living room. I shut off my music and silenced my phone and sat crosslegged and breathed deeply. I sat there for a few minutes trying very hard not to think about what color nailpolish to paint my toes. And trying not to worrying about the blog and whether people will actually like what I write. And remembering that I need to make an appointment for a physical. And wondering if I was meditating the right way.
After a few minutes I finally felt like I was starting to get the hang of things, and of course at that moment, my laptop started making some godawful noise and the moment was gone. From what I gather, more practiced meditators are able to refocus after distractions like that, but practiced meditator I am not so instead I got mad and flipped on a rerun of Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23. Meditation time was decidedly over.
I was feeling frustrated, anxious, more confused than ever and really discouraged. I figured that I really do need to research this more thoroughly if I’m going to have any chance at all of success. I’ve said this before, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist and don’t fare so well if I crash and burn my first time out the gate. Usually at this point I’d give up and just move on to my next fleeting fad, but I made a promise to the blog that I’d give this whole meditation thing a shot. I briefly contemplated distracting you all with a page full of schnauzer gifs in lieu of a follow up post, but I suppose my conscience got the best of me. Here’s a consolation schnauzer gif anyway:
AHEM. Back to business. I yet again tried googling “HOW TO MEDITATE PROPERLY” like an internet n00b and was yet again overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data to be had. Finally, I had a lightbulb moment when I remembered my absolute favorite little hack for getting quality search results: add “ask metafilter” to any standard google search, and it’ll bring up any results about your subject from the website ask.metafilter.com.
For reference, MetaFilter is my all time #1 favorite website EVER, and Ask MetaFilter is the question and answer section of it. MetaFilter members can post questions while other members answer. It should be said that Ask MetaFilter, while similar in concept, is far and away the PhD student where Yahoo!Answers is a toddler learning to potty train. Metafilter is moderated and spam or off-topic comments removed, and it costs a one-time fee of $5 to join (which I imagine weeds through a lot of the internet’s riffraff). The community has grown to be a corner of the web that can be relied upon for their sane, practical judgment amidst the sea of crap and confusion that is the rest of the internet.
So, I googled “meditation ask metafilter” and this was my result:
So, where to start?
You’ll want to choose a type of meditation to read up on and practice. While I’m sure there are a million different ways to skin a cat, they apparently fall into two major categories: concentration and mindfulness. From what I gather, my (overly simplistic) interpretation is that concentration entails keeping your mind on one thing, while mindfulness entails allowing your thoughts to flow while observing them and letting them go.
The idea of mindfulness meditation appeals to me much more than concentration, simply because with as much as my thoughts tend to race, I feel like it would be really difficult to ratchet that down to just one thing, and I can see myself getting frustrated and giving up.
This obviously is different for everyone, and my advice would be that the best form of meditation for you is the one that you will actually do. Which may take some trial and error on your part. If after a few sessions you’re finding that something just doesn’t feel right, why not take a shot at another form?
The next step is to figure out what you’re actually supposed to be doing or not doing during meditation. There are so SO many different guides out there, but in my research, one that I found being mentioned over and over again was Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana, which is billed as being “…a ‘How to”…written for those who actually want to meditate and especially for those who want to start now.” It can actually be found for free here. I’m just starting to delve into it now, but so far so good.
A lot of people also recommend guided meditation as a good way to get your feet wet. There are youtube videos and podcasts and apps all OVER the place. I’ll let you all know if I find something in particular that I like.
For those in the DC area, the Insight Meditation Community of Washington leads all sorts of meditation classes every single day of the week in multiple locations across the metro area. My friend Meghan has been attending classes there recently and says that it has been life changing! I plan on checking it out for myself soon.
After all of that, I feel slightly better that I can answer my question of, “what now?”
And practice I shall. I think the most important thing I learned is that there is no right or wrong way to do it! So, I’m going to forgive myself for thinking about schnauzers while I meditate today because that’s just how I roll.
I’m going to keep giving updates on my experiences, and I do hope that some of you try this whole meditation thing along with me! Let me know what YOU think about while you meditate in the comments below!