I had trouble with this when I first started out too.

Oh yes, the trials with meditation and staying focused! This is not going to be me telling you why you must meditate and all the sweet benefits that come with it. Although, I may be guilty of sprinkling the message through. I’m a huge advocate since it guided me with my own path for bracing me in my own mental health. This post is more for those who already know the blessings in doing so and want to gain from the benefits, who’ve tried a few times but have given up for whatever reason and really determined to start their practice again. For some, this may aid in learning different techniques in staying focused. To my fellow meditating friends, what is some advice that you would like to share that helped you in your practice, knowing it can help others? Remembering when you started out and what you now know that could make it just a little bit easier for them the next time they sit in stillness. (Write in the comments below.)

I don’t go around telling everyone that I meditate, but when it comes up in a conversation that someone does, I get excited in this discussion with my fellow meditators. I want to ask them what their practice is like and some of the strategies they’ve learned to quiet their mind? How and why, they got started? And what their life was like before and after they started their meditation journey, because there is a major shift that happens. I love hearing the different strategies that people have in their routine because it’s certainly helped me in deepening my own practice over the last few years. So, come right out and ask someone, don’t be afraid if it’s weird. There are so many people that are willing to help and in the same space as you, especially more so now than ever! To this day there are times I need to change it up because of the state I’m in or I’ve learned to get in my own way. I never skip a day because sitting with the intention to meditate is far better than not doing anything at all. If I don’t take a little time, it leaves me frazzled and all out of sorts on the lower end of the emotional scale. I no longer find myself doing or saying careless things or a catch myself well in advance before I do.

It saddens me when I hear people say, I don’t meditate, I don’t have time or I can’t quiet my mind long enough. Meditation should be a part of everyone’s day like brushing your teeth, showering and putting on your shoes before you leave the house. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. It’s kind of like consuming a healthy well-balanced diet. With the basic knowledge of eating well, not every lifestyle diet works for one person. You will hit plateaus in your practice as well as experience the highs and lows. No one can ever go about it the wrong way and once you start and maintain a routine, you will notice a significant difference. No need to chant, burn sage, sit cross legged in a cave with your hands in chin mudra and burn candles. But if that floats your boat, go for it! Just remember, try not to rely on the assistance of a meditation props or rituals “to help you” with your practice for too long. All you really need is a place without distractions, a place that’s comfy and it’s alright if you sit or lay down and just being aware of the feelings or pains in your body. Sitting at the same time of day and place seems to be best. Start with 1 minute of completely quieting your mind and feeling your own awareness within if that is all you can do and add the extra time each session as you go along.

My story with how I got started, I set the intention back in 2016 that it would be nice to take the time, 5 or even 10 minutes a day for myself to get still. My emotions and mind were all over the place and not connected with my heart. Every well-grounded individual seemed to have their stuff together and I wanted that for me too. It took a few months until I got the urge to finally set my alarm early before work and gave it a try. It took a while because the snooze button looked really nice and was way easier to push for the next 3 months rather than get out under from the warm sheets into the cold air. My desire became stronger. The first time I sat down and tried, I remember the thoughts in my mind were so loud. I would chase one thought pattern and then the next and then the next, next, next. I was re-centering every 1 to 3 seconds. It was like I was in a crowded noisy room filled with voices of multiple conversations competing to be heard with no one there but me in it. I knew I needed some help to start out and I couldn’t do it alone. Since I’m a thinker, if I’m not careful, a full five-minute session would be about planning my day and never get to a state of peace and relaxation. I needed to listen to guided meditations or something with soft music that would not distract me.

Then magically it appeared in my email box, notifications from Deepak and Oprah on their 21-day meditations. This was exactly what I needed to kick start my new habit. Those guided meditations are so beautiful and profound. It’s been five years since I remember those cold dark mornings, getting up early and start something new. Like anything when you first start something new, there is a lot of stop and start until it becomes natural. There was working with my confidence in making sure that I was doing it right, self-discipline to care about myself enough to maintain and shape my mental health and being patient with my mind which it wanted to work quickly in achieving the process of stillness. I’ve tried it all and some of the great suggestions included: staring at a candle flame in a dark room or visualizing my favorite calm relaxing place, counting backwards from 300 while focusing on my breath. I’ve used mala beads and chanted OM. I even breathed in the feeling of ease and exhaled anger or whatever negative emotion I was sitting with. I purchased so many books and audios. All of these are really great practices to quiet the mind but in my case my mind wasn’t connecting with any of it for long. I finally have it working for me and no longer depend on background music.

I sit twice a day for 20 minutes. First thing in the morning and again right before bed. Both times, I imagine myself, sitting in a void or a dark room with no lights muting my five senses of taste, smell touch, seeing and hearing. With my eyes closed, I will look to my right and left and imagine a space of infinite darkness before and all around me, floating through space with no time. I let myself sink into the seat that I’m in. I re-center by focusing on my breathing 4-6 long breathes in and out if I need to. I then focus on the space around my heart. I once heard someone say to do it this way especially for those whose thoughts get away from them and focus somewhere else than the place that could distract you the most. I liked what I heard and have been using this technique ever since. You can also focus on the space between your eyebrows, around your body, above your head. If I am on vacation, and I’m too excited to sit for that long, I will meditate when I’m in the shower, focusing on the feeling of the water hitting my neck and back for as long as I can.

Don’t give up and go easy on yourself when you don’t make the time to sit still. You may not have the luxury of time to sit for more than 5 minutes, do what you can. Meditating is a marathon not a sprint. If you want know more about any of the meditations mentioned because you think it may resonate with you, feel free to email me at danielle.wood.smith@gmail.com for more insight.

Portland, Oregon – September 2019

There is a magic in meditation. Meditation doesn’t solve all your life’s problems or makes you better than others. However, it does help you become resilient when life throws you a curve ball. People with resilience understand there are going to be challenges but remain flexible, open and willing to adapt to change. They catch that curveball when it comes. It prepares your body and mind at a new set point, to frequently experience the higher emotions more often. Your intuition is stronger and having that super power is one thing I’m not willing to let go.

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