It’s always fun to watch the reactions of people I coach when I ask them,
“Have you ever tried meditation?”
Their reactions vary from:
- “I love meditation. I have a daily dedicated practice.”
- “I haven’t tried it, but it does seem like a good idea.”
- “I tried it and it’s definitely not for me.”
- “I don’t want to try it Carrie, please don’t make me.”
And then sometimes I get the occasional:
“I don’t even get it. What’s the point of meditating?”
Before I get to the point, there are a few BIG things I want you to take away before you even begin to read this article:
- There are MANY different ways to meditate.
- Your mind does not have to be quiet the whole time.
- Meditation isn’t supposed to feel utterly blissful the entire time.
- You don’t have to meditate if you don’t want to.
People that “hate” to mediate usually fall into one of these camps. They either:
- Have misconceptions about what it is.
- Have misunderstandings about how to do it.
- Don’t see the value in it.
Let’s dive in and break some of this down.
What’s the point?
The point of meditation is to:
- Facilitate mindfulness and bring you into the present moment
- Create space between your thoughts, feelings, and actions
And the benefits of achieving those two things are abundant. There are many researched benefits of having a consistent mediation practice. Here are some that should pique your interest if you are an athlete:
It helps during competition:
- Improves ability to be creative
- Improves ability to problem-solve
- Improves ability to make decisions
- Sharpens and lengthens attention span
It will help your body recover more quickly:
- Reduces inflammation response
- Increases immune function
- Improves sleep
It helps with overall mental health:
- Reduces anxiety
- Increases resiliency to stress
- Increases positive emotions
- Increases compassion
- Increases emotion regulation
And this is NOT EVEN CLOSE to being an exhaustive list of the benefits.
The point of meditation isn’t to be able to sit quietly for 30 minutes, not have any thoughts come into your mind, and achieve a transcendent state. Well, that might be the point for some people, but meditation is also a tool for cultivating mindfulness, to help you train your brain to help you achieve all of the things listed above.
Why don’t more people do it?
Something has to become unacceptable to you before you will do something about it. That means, you have to see mediation as a tool that would directly benefit something that you desire and want to work towards. The challenge is that many these benefits aren’t tangible things you can see and hold, they are things you feel— and you might not feel them immediately. That’s why they call it a practice. To achieve these benefits, it can’t be a once in a while gig.
My current practice is a morning mediation for 8 – 10 minutes. I love traditional meditation, but I often change it up a bit. I enjoy my mediation practice and I have a goal to mediate daiy. Do I accomplish my goal every day? No. Have I don’t it long enough now that I notice a difference when I miss a couple days? Yes.
I meditate so I can be the calm in the storm. I meditate so that during stressful times I can feel my feelings, but I can also have clarity and find solutions instead of getting swept up in the overwhelm. I meditate so I can perform under pressure.
And I also mediate for some moments of bliss, but that bliss occurs between the thoughts I have while meditating.
It’s also OK if you think you hate it and do it anyway. You might not hate it after a while. And if you just can’t stand the idea of sitting down to meditation, try out the other two non-traditional options below.
It’s time to mediate
Start small. Set a timer on your watch, phone, or use an app like Insight Timer. Try out two-minute meditations for a week or two. Once you can do two minutes with ease, increase it to three, etc.
You can sit on the ground with your legs crossed or sit in a chair with your feet both flat on the ground and your hands resting on your legs. If you sit on the floor, try putting a pillow underneath your sit bones or fold up a blanket. You can also lie on the ground with your legs flat or with your knees up and your arms resting at your sides, palms up. Try closing your eyes and focusing on the sound of your breath. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your nose or mouth.
Remember that the point of meditation is not about always having a quiet mind; it’s about recognizing your busy mind and being able to detach yourself from your thoughts.
You are going to have some sessions where your mind is just more active than others. Each time you have a thought enter your mind, notice that you are having a thought and then let the thought go, and bring your focus back to your breath.
A walking meditation works best when you can find a place in nature or a set walking path to use. Choose a specific length of time during your hike or walk to meditate. Remember to start small. You might try five minutes in the beginning and then choose another five-minute block in the middle of your hike.
Like traditional meditation, you can still pay attention to your breath, and as you notice thoughts entering your mind, let them go and bring your awareness back to your mediation. One way to achieve this is to match your breath to your footsteps. Try inhaling to a count of your steps and exhaling to one count longer.
Once your mind feels settled, try to feel each footstep as you make contact with the ground. Feel your body as it is in motion. The swinging of your arms. Then shift your focus and notice the sounds you hear around you. See if you can pick out and isolate each and every sound you hear. Then see if you can hear them all at once like a symphony. Then bring your focus back to the motion of your body again.
There is some incredible research on the benefits of listening to music, and many of those benefits happen to be the exact same ones you get from meditation. Listening to music in this way also has the ability to bring you into the present moment. Try using headphones. It creates a nice barrier between the outside world and allows yourself to be surrounded with sound.
Get comfortable. You can try this either sitting on the ground, in a chair, or lying down. Close your eyes and before you begin, take a few deep breaths to slow down your thoughts and settle your mind.
Try choosing a specific song to listen to ahead of time and meditate by tuning into the music and focusing on your breath for the duration of the song. Another tactic is to do a search on Sportify or Pandora using terms like “meditation” or “zen” and set a timer for a specific length of time for your mediation.
Experiment with different types of music, you might be surprised at how you respond. Just remember that the point is to cultivate mindfulness. You can choose your dance party music for a different mental training exercise like this one 😉
Want more tips on meditation? Read my post: “I can’t meditate: How to Deal with Busy Mind Distractions”
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