How to Start Meditating
I recently received a request from a person who follows me on Facebook. She said she has been reading my posts there about meditation/mindfulness, and would like to know how to get started with it in her own life. People ask me this frequently, so I thought I’d post publicly the response I wrote to her. Obviously there are an infinite number of ways to get started, so this is simply one person’s recommendation. You might do just as well googling “how do I get started with meditation.” But if this can be helpful for anyone, that’s awesome.
I use the Calm app. There are tons of meditation apps, and what they have in common is most of them allow limited access for free, and most of them are somewhere between $80 and $100/year to purchase. Calm is easily one of the best.
What I recommend is that you download the Calm app for your mobile device. Install and open it. Go to the Meditate tab at bottom and start with 7 Days of Calm. Tamera will guide you and tell you exactly what to do (and yes, you’ll probably have to close a million windows asking you to subscribe and a million other questions before you can access the Meditate tab).
When you have worked through 7 Days of Calm, I recommend you complete 21 Days of Calm.
By the time you get done, you’ll have completed a whole month and you’ll be starting to feel comfortable with doing it and like you know a little about what you’re doing and why! You will likely feel like you are starting to see some of the benefits and unique struggles of a meditation practice.
My recommendation from there would be to begin completing each day’s Daily Calm. But I believe you have to purchase a subscription in order to do that, so you’ll want to make a decision about that as you get close to the end of your 21 days.
The 7 Days of Calm, the 21 Days of Calm, and all of the Daily Calms are 10 to 11 minutes each. Once you get a subscription, you have access to everything and the app is huge. It has so many different things. Music, breathing exercises, topical things like meditations for anxiety, productivity, focus, night time, there are even sleep stories which are 10 to 15 minute stories that are specifically designed to lull you to sleep at night. It’s a huge meditation playground, really, and the sky is the limit, but I suggest making it a goal simply to complete your 10 to 11 minutes a day at least for the first few months. If you want to do more, fine, but don’t feel obligated. Go easy on yourself, try to approach it with a sense of lightness, see it as a favor you are doing for yourself, and don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day here and there.
Think of it as a journey you’re starting out on, and right now you’re getting the lay of the land and exploring a little. Let go of any expectations you might have for what your sessions are supposed to accomplish. Sometimes you will feel fidgety and your mind will wander the entire time. That’s okay. Other times it will seem blissful and relaxing, and you will emerge feeling refreshed. Other times you will struggle simply to sit for the entire 10 minutes, and will find yourself driven to want to get up, run around, attend to things, etc. Set only one goal, and that is to show up daily, and sit for the full 10 minutes. The practice itself will lead you from there.
Don’t judge yourself or get frustrated when it doesn’t seem to be “helping.” Meditation is almost entirely about seven words…
Returning to the breath again and again. No matter how restless you feel, how many times your mind wanders, how bored or distracted you feel, simply keep returning to the breath again and again. Every day, Tamera will teach you a little more.
Above all, do not try meditation practice a few times and conclude, “I’m lousy at meditation, my mind wanders too much.” Meditation is precisely how you learn to find peace despite your constantly-wandering mind. In other words, nobody is good at meditating and no one meditates to get good at meditating, just like no one practices anything simply to become a good practicer.
Think of it more like working out physically — sometimes it’s easy and feels amazing and other times you struggle like crazy just to make yourself do it and you hate it the whole time. But fortunately, you get the same benefit from working out whether you loved it or hated it on any given day. This is true with meditation, although you may actually “benefit” more when it’s difficult than when it’s easy! So just ignore all of that, and focus on showing up daily to your practice, and returning to the breath again and again.