I was first introduced to mindfulness meditation by way of yoga. I was amazed to discover that such a low-impact, elective P.E. class at my college could produce such outstanding results for my overall health.
It wasn’t simply helping me maintain flexibility. I found myself less stressed during my daily classes. I felt more at ease while doing homework or working a retail job in the evenings. I even felt like my brain was becoming sharper as the semester progressed. The mindfulness meditation we practiced for 15-20 minutes each class encouraged a more robust new mental health, and I immediately wanted to continue practicing. I took it with me and started meditating in five-minute increments at home or between classes. It didn’t feel as good as it did during class, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It helped me to feel calm, less stressed, and ready to take on the day. I found it easy to keep a mindfulness practice when I had the class to bolster me, but when the semester ended so did my meditating. I didn’t suddenly forget or lose interest, but I couldn’t get myself to do it alone. I knew what I needed to do, but having guidance, routine, and community made it so much easier.
So every now and again I signed up for a pricey retreat to get a meditation fix, vowing to take the steps to continue when returning home. It would work for a week or two, then fizzle. Having a teacher guide me through each step was the crux of my meditation habit, but I couldn’t very well desert the rest of my life and set off for an ashram in India. I fell off the meditation wagon for a long time. I would try (and fail) every once in awhile, which left me feeling like it may never be a sustainable habit for me. It was disappointing because I knew my life was better with meditation. I just couldn’t figure out how to make it stick. A couple years ago I decided to join my friend in a month-long meditation challenge. She referred me to a couple guided meditations on YouTube but confessed that when it came to creating a daily habit, nothing had worked as well as Headspace, her meditation app. I was definitely intrigued and discovered a 30-day free trial, perfect for my meditation challenge. If I loved it I could keep it. If it wasn’t for me, I’d be right back to square one. I didn’t really have anything to lose.
I sat on the couch after all my kids were in bed, and started in, though soon after my husband arrived home wondering what I was doing, and completely distracting me. I realized having someone moving around me as a meditated probably wasn’t the best option. I rescheduled my meditation to the morning, getting up about fifteen minutes earlier so I would be up before my kids (but my husband would already be in the living room watching the morning news). I chose a quiet corner in my bedroom where I wouldn’t be disturbed and there I have stayed. The first few days were hard. It had been so long since I had kept up any sort of meditation practice that my mind was constantly wandering. However, having the prompts to bring me back saved me from veering too far off track, and better yet, kept me coming back the following day. It even reminded me to return. It gave me the accountability and guidance I so desperately needed. And it sure beat the price-point on weekend-long meditation retreats. Finding the app gave me the structure, the “teacher” I was looking for, and made it easy for me to finally maintain a mindfulness practice. I still stumbled every now and again as I tried to find the sweet spot in my schedule for meditation, but once I built it into my morning routine, I succeeded at long last. Now meditation is the way I start my day, and I can’t imagine life without it. If only I’d known earlier how easy it could be. [Editor’s Note: if you’re looking to start a meditation practice, try out our Basics. They’re free, and they’ll teach you step by step how to start.]