Soon after my first anxiety attack, it was suggested by my doctor that I start practicing meditation. I brushed it off because let's be honest, I wasn't about to wrap myself in robes, light some incense under a bonsai tree and sit in lotus position while waiting for the secret of life. "It's 2001," I wanted to shout at him. "Give me a pill!"
He did give me some pills. They worked okay. They dealt with the symptom rather than the source of the problem. I didn't give meditation a second thought.
Years later, I developed Lyme disease, and between the neurological issues and constant pain, I felt like I was going crazy. I returned to the same psychologist, because with the exception of his crazy idea that I OM it out, he was actually the best doctor I've ever had.
His little office sat atop 20 or so stairs and on the day I arrived, he met me at the bottom and helped me walk up.The joints in my knees and hips were so painful that I winced and cringed with each creaky step. Ten minutes later we reached his office and I sank into the chair.
"I'm in a lot of pain," I breathed as the tears began to brim.
"You're not going to like this," he said with a smile. "But I'm going to suggest meditation again." He went on to explain that about a year ago he had been in a terrible car accident that required surgery. He was in excruciating pain, but he had a family vacation to Italy planned and he wasn't about to let "one little back surgery" get in the way of his life plans. Sitting and standing for long periods of time brought the most pain, he said, which was no good given the 8 hour transatlantic flight and hours of walking tours in Italy. But he called an old friend who was really into meditation and asked for some help. Through meditation he was able to control his pain and actually enjoy his vacation.
I was skeptical, but I had a great deal of respect for him, so I let him teach me how to meditate. I used it throughout the rest of my battle with Lyme disease, and noticed that it really did work.
When I went to Thailand for yoga teacher training we meditated daily, multiple times per day. It wasn't for pain management, but to quiet the mind, let go of stress and become more in tune with ourselves. It was difficult, but it was so beneficial.
So, to honor the doctor and teachers who brought meditation into my life, I'd like to share it with you in hopes that it helps you to let go of whatever's going on in your life that isn't serving you.
1. Let go of the preconceived notions. There are no robes nor bonsai trees. You won't do it once and suddenly find the meaning of life. You will sit there, it will probably be difficult, your mind will probably wander. You might get frustrated and question why you're trying. Just relax, let it go.
2. Create a space. Much like your home yoga space, set up a part of a room as your meditation area. Have a cushion or pillow nearby, some candles, incense, a small timer, prayer beads if you like, etc.
3. Commit. Integrate meditation into your daily life. Schedule a time each day to do it. Mornings are a great time to start.
4. Start small. Use a timer and start with three minutes each day. After a week, or whenever you feel ready, try five minutes. Then try ten. Then twenty.
5. Ensure you will not be disturbed. Turn your phone off. Make sure the coffee pot won't whistle. Do everything you can to be sure you will have that designated time to yourself.
6. Experiment. There are many different types of meditation. First, choose how you'll physically be. You can choose to sit cross-legged, or in hero pose. You could straddle a cushion, or sit on a pillow. You can even lay down. Do whatever works for you. Then, choose how you'll meditate. You can start with a guided mediation (there are a bunch on youtube). You can listen to music (preferably instrumental). You can listen to your own breath. You can use a mantra. You can use prayer beads. You can use visualization.
7. Create a closure. Do something that signifies the end of the meditation. You could ring a bell. You could chant an Om. You could take a moment to simply be grateful. Let that peace you feel at the end of each meditation carry you throughout your day.