Zen masters have reminded us for centuries that mediation is a challenge worth conquering. Despite their warnings, I couldn’t quite grasp the difficulty of sitting still in a dim room with my eyes closed for a few minutes. I do that for eight hours a night— what’s another five or 10 or 20 or 60 minutes more?
Turns out, the Zen masters know what they are talking about (shocking, I know). Meditation is a practice— one that involves technique, skill, and, well, practice.
Every day for the past 30 days, I rolled out my yoga mat, lit some incense, dimmed the lights, and spent as little as five minutes and as much as an hour practicing the art of mediation. Here’s what I learned:
Start small. Build slowly.
No one expects you to run a marathon on your first day of training, nor does anyone expect you to meditate for 40 years in a cave on your first day of meditating.
During my first two weeks—I hardly ever broke 15 minutes. I started with five minutes, and I found even the transition to 10 minutes was taxing at first.
Your changes can be incremental but should be intentional. Focus less on the time you spend, and more on building proper technique. Once I built a rudimentary dictionary of techniques, I began to tailor my sessions to support my needs for the day.
Think of a guide like your personal trainer. They walk you through the motions, ground you when you waver, and expedite your learning curve.
There are plenty of apps you could download, podcasts, and YouTube videos to get you started.
For my practice, I found following along in a beginner course where each lesson built on lessons previous provided me with the most benefits.
Self-forgiveness is powerful.
When I delved into my mind palace, I often found myself falling outside of my practice. I thought about groceries, or chores, or heck—even what to write about for this article.
Yet one of the most powerful techniques I learned throughout my 30 days is that wavering outside the lines is okay. Acknowledge it and move on. The more I practiced this during meditation, the better I was able to apply this to other aspects of my life.
Which brings me to my last point…
Your practice doesn’t stop when you open your eyes.
I’ve applied many techniques I’ve learned during my guided sessions to my daily life such as forgiveness, self-awareness, and acceptance.
When a stressor impairs my attitude, I close my eyes and put the stressor into perspective. This has been the biggest benefit of meditation for me— learning how to let go.
To my honest surprise, meditation has drastically improved my mental health. I intend to meditate for the next 30 days, and the 30 after that—until maybe I’m ready for 40 years in a cave.
I hope you’ll try it, too.
This article was written by Melissa Pelowski.