Over the past few years, I’ve written around ten stories about meditation. What might happen if you start meditating, an introduction to mindfulness meditation and a guide to chakra meditations, among others. And every time I wrote one of those stories, I would think to myself, I really have to try to get into meditation—this time will be different. And reader, let me tell you, each subsequent time was not different…it was exactly the same. I’d redownload a meditation app, wake up 30 minutes before I needed to and try to quiet my mind. Like clockwork, this would last two maybe three days before I decided meditation just must not be for me.
That was until about a month ago. With the one-year anniversary of the pandemic quickly approaching, my own mental health was on my mind even more than usual, so I made a goal: I will meditate every morning for two weeks. No excuses, no quitting. Read on for the expert tips I leaned on when I felt like giving up, plus five things I learned from meditating every morning—and whether or not I’ve stuck with it.
5 Things That Made My Meditation Practice Easier
Back in September 2019, I worked with Michelle Zarrin, an inspirational speaker, meditation teacher and spiritual guide on a story about tips for sticking to a meditation practice. When I set out to meditate every day, I read and reread her tips, like, a million times. Maybe they can help you too if you’ve struggled to stick with meditation in the past.
1. There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Meditation
Zarrin says that beginners shouldn’t expect to become experts in one day. “With meditation practice, all we have to do is maintain the discipline each day,” she notes. Even if you don’t feel like you’re getting something out of your mindful minutes at first, you’re still building the base for a successful practice.
2. Consistency Is Key
Practice might not make perfect, but it is essential to success in meditation. Per Zarrin, “Beginners have to commit to finding a window of time each day to meditate and produce temporary peace and clarity.” To reap any lasting benefits, a daily practice is necessary.
3. Your Mind Will Wander During Meditation
A common misconception about meditation, Zarrin tells us, is that your mind will always completely shut off. Sometimes, your brain will be totally still and silent, but other times your mind will run rampant with thoughts, and that’s normal. “This is what the mind is designed to do, it is designed to think,” Zarrin notes. “Through a meditation practice, you’ll learn the art of moving past the thoughts, into the quiet part of yourself where your truth, purpose, peace and joy reside.”
4. Value Quality Over Quantity
This one is kind of the same idea as "work smarter, not harder." Just because you don't have hours to devote to your budding meditation practice doesn't mean it won't work. On the contrary, sometimes your biggest breakthroughs will come when you only have five minutes in the morning to slow down and refocus your mind. It's not about the time you put into meditating; it's the intention and effort.
5. Don’t Set Expectations
“The more we expect results from our meditation practice,” Zarrin says, “the less we will attain results.” Going into it expecting to be transformed immediately will only set you up for failure. Know that it will take time to see results and, as corny as it sounds, simply enjoy the journey.
5 Things I Learned After Meditating Every Morning for Two Weeks
1. A guided meditation is much easier to do than a self-led practice
I’ll admit that I used to think meditating with an app like Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer was kind of cheating. If you can’t do it by yourself, I figured, you’re not really doing it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Headspace has been my saving grace throughout this experiment. The easy-to-use app has free and paid options, including meditation timers, courses, group meditations and more. Though I mostly stuck with the timed guided meditations—20 minutes a day—I can see myself trying the app’s other offerings as I get more comfortable with the basics.
2. Meditating at the same time (and in the same place) every day is crucial
For me, consistency has been totally key. I wake up at the same time every day, quickly make my bed and sit cross-legged with my back to my headboard. I pop in my AirPods, queue up a guided meditation on my phone and close my eyes. I’m much more likely to actually do a meditation if I haven’t left my room and fully started my day. I know studies say it takes about two months to create a habit, but after about a week I started finding it easier and easier to stick with my routine.
3. You’ll definitely think you’re doing it wrong—a lot
Oh boy. Even now, a month into meditating, I constantly find myself thinking, Oh my god, I’m definitely not doing this right. And per Zarrin, that’s OK. Each time I feel like I’m doing it wrong, I remind myself that I’m new to this, and not doing it “perfectly” (whatever that means) is part of the journey. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, a Virgo or both, not being immediately good at something is a hard pill to swallow. Try to remember that perfection isn’t the goal and resist the urge to throw in the towel because you’re not immediately an expert.
4. You don’t need a fancy set-up to get something out of your practice
Would I love to have a room in my house dedicated to meditation? Duh. Is that an option right now? It sure isn’t, and that’s fine. Before I embarked on this experiment I swooned over photos of gorgeously serene meditation rooms and $145 meditation cushions, before rationalizing that, given my track record with meditation and the likelihood that I’d actually stick with it, spending any amount of money would be irresponsible. And here’s what I found: Even though all that stuff might be wonderful, my bare bones set-up is totally fine too. Maybe I’ll invest in a fancy cushion once I’ve stuck with it for a few months more…
5. Once you get into a routine, meditation is a really lovely way to start your day
Some mornings, I feel like a meditation goddess: I’m waking up earlier and doing something for myself and my mental health at the start of the day. Other mornings I feel like I’m just sitting on my bed with my eyes closed for 20 minutes, half-listening to a person with a soothing accent struggling to keep myself from falling back to sleep. Overall though, my two-week meditation goal showed me that, first of all, I can stick with meditation if I put my mind to it, and second, I can definitely see meditation becoming a more regular part of my life. I haven’t reached any deeper state of consciousness or anything, but morning meditations have become a way for me to prioritize my wellbeing and attempt to get more in touch with how I’m thinking and feeling. I've kept up my daily meditation in the two weeks since my initial experiment ended, and I’m excited to continue to prove myself wrong that I’m just not cut out for meditating.
The past year has been rough for everyone, and like many people, I've been trying different tools and activities to help me cope with the barrage of bad news, the almost painful monotony and the feeling that we've all lost an entire year of our lives. For me, meditation has been a way to calm my thoughts and take stock of how I'm really feeling. Even though it literally just entails sitting on my bed with my eyes closed, meditation feels weirdly productive, like I'm doing something for my overall wellbeing. I'm more aware of my body and mind than ever, and better able to notice when something is off and take steps to correct the issue.