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6 things you should know about meditation before you get started

Lee Breslouer

I've meditated for over 376 days in a row. I can't believe I'm typing that either—my first year of meditating every day has been a fantastic journey. I don't think I would have believed that I've changed in the ways I have. But there are some things I wish I would've known before I started meditating.

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1. Change doesn't happen all at once

Those few seconds after I'm done meditating are typically a fantastic little chunk of time. I feel alert, present, and calm, all the things I strive to be when I'm not meditating, too. I thought that because I was feeling great that huge changes must be right around the corner. Each day I'd wonder, “When am I going to feel like this all the time? I'm still in my head a ton and not being present!” It took me time to realize that when I’m waiting for huge changes, I’m missing the point, and that I’m never going to be present all the time. And that’s OK! I’ve found that instead of enormous life changes, I’m simply mindful more often, which has led to me being happier.

2. Finding the time to meditate isn't that difficult

Finding time to meditate can definitely be a challenge on days that I'm busy with work or traveling, but I've been shocked at how I always seem to find time. Before I started, I always wondered how the heck I'd find 10 minutes a day. But I've simply turned meditating into a habit, just like how I have to check my email every time I see a blue light flashing from my phone. The only difference is that this habit is a good one.

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3. I've become an unofficial spokesperson

I'm skeptical when anyone (even a friend!) tells me that something has changed their life. I assume they're going to sell me into some multi-level marketing scheme, and then a week later I'm going to get guilted into buying 1000 bottles of vitamin D. But the change in my life from meditation has been so pronounced that I can't help but gush about the positive effect it's had on my life. I'm more present, I'm happier, and I feel like I'm more accepting of change in general. And sometimes I won't shut up about it to my friends. Sorry, everyone. But not really.

4. It can change your thought process

A common misconception I had before I began meditating, and one I hear a lot from my friends and family, is that the main benefit of meditating is that it relaxes you. And they're not wrong—it does. But the greatest benefit I've seen from meditation is that I don't take my thoughts as seriously as I used to. I realize that my thoughts and emotions are in a constant state of flux, and therefore will pass soon enough. I refuse to indulge thought patterns I know are not helpful. Nowadays, I can watch those thoughts and then let go, focusing instead on the activity I was involved in previously.

"A common misconception I had before I began meditating is that the main benefit of meditating is that it relaxes you."

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5. I’ll still be me

Before I started meditating, I imagined how much better I would act under pressure once I had been meditating for a year or two. I saw an ideal version of myself in my mind—a guy who wasn’t phased by stress, someone monk-like, which is 100% not who I have ever been in my life. I’ve always been interested in the kind of people who become doctors and pilots—professions that require people to act perfectly cool under pressure. I’ve never been able to act like them. And even after a year of meditating, I am still not doctor or pilot-like under stress. But I’m better at monitoring my thoughts and feelings when the pressure is on, and that feels like a step in the right direction.

6. Meditation is not a way to fix all the problems in my life

I was hoping that meditating would be the answer to all my problems. It doesn’t appear to be, but it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been absolutely life-changing. It’s given me the tools to make my life better. And who wouldn’t be satisfied with that?

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