Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

By: Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager and Toad’s resident meditation expert

In its simplest form, meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. A meditation practice depends on the individual and can take many forms – some people sit and clear their minds, others go for a hike in nature, and others even cook or do chores. Anything done with complete mindfulness and intention can become a form of meditation.

I started meditating about 15 years ago when I stopped skipping out on Savasana (aka: corpse pose) at the end of my yoga classes. I realized that those 3 minutes of post-yoga quietness made me feel calmer, happier, and helped integrate all the physical activity into my body and mind. 

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It took another 10 more years of dabbling before I committed to a morning sitting meditation practice. At the time, I was caretaking for my grandpa at the end of his life and needed a way to keep myself centered and grounded so that I could show up for him and the rest of my family. I needed something for me and meditation became the solution.

For me, the goal of meditation isn’t to clear my mind or count my breath. It’s about consciously focusing and redirecting my mind to the positive. Instead of noticing how tight my hips feel, I focused my attention on how lucky I am that all of my organs are healthy and my muscles strong. I focus on how lucky I am to be able to run and surf and rock climb. Or even just how fortunate I am just to breathe. Focusing on gratitude for my physical body rather than the parts I struggle with brings about a sense of deep inner peace. Once I figured out how to tap into it, I can access that inner peace any time I need it. Here are a few of my suggestions on how to get started: 

1. Start off with quick guided meditations from a mindfulness app like Headspace or Daily Shine. You can select topics to focus on that you want to work on – like increasing gratitude or celebrating positivity.

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2. Shoot for a consistent routine. I like first thing in the morning, but a lot of people find right before bed works better for them. It doesn’t matter when you choose, the important thing is to establish a routine that you can stick to.

3. Explore different types of meditation (yes, there are different types). I like loving kindness meditation, breathing meditations, moving meditations like Tai Chi or walking or hiking, daily task meditation, Yoga Nidra, guided body scan relaxation meditation, and reiki meditation. There are so many options. Find the one that feels right for you. And know that what’s right might vary from day to day. I integrate all kinds of meditation into my life now depending on what I need for that day.

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4. Build slowly over time. Yes, some amazing people like Oprah meditate for 30 minutes twice a day, but the reality is that you can gain benefits of meditation with as little as 3 minutes a day and it takes time to train your mind. You wouldn’t try to summit Everest if you’ve never hiked before… small steps will lead to the greatest success. Start with just 1 minute a day to build the habit. You’ll be successful (and you can do anything for 60 seconds!). Notice the impact one minute can have on you for the next 5-10 minutes. This is what increases your motivation to meditate for longer!

5. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. It’s ok if you hear your meditation timer go off and you realize you just spent the last 5 minutes thinking about breakfast…it happens. Just come back and try again tomorrow. Like anything in life, learning to focus your mind takes time.

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Now go forth and conquer your own mind, body and soul connections! Remember: There is no “right” way to meditate. There is no perfection you are striving for. One version is no better or worse than any other version. Just be yourself and use your mindfulness practice (whatever that looks like) to show up for your life as the best version of you.