I remember the first time I met a person who practiced daily meditation that wasn’t a yoga instructor, or an energy healer. At the Oncology Center where I used to work, our manager announced that an Integrative Medicine coordinator would be hired to contribute to the services provided for our patients. Along with her skill of acupuncture, she taught meditation. The practice of meditating had always intimidated me, because had I never understood how to do it. I asked our Integrative Medicine coordinator how much time she spent meditating each day; she sweetly said, “It depends, but most days five to ten minutes.” I was surprised at the simplicity of her answer, but a few minutes seemed easy enough, so I decided that I would give it a try. The next day, I sat on the floor, closed my eyes and started to take deep breaths. I was waiting to feel a sense of calm and ease but instead I almost hyperventilated with every task, concern, chore and thought of my day completely filling my head. This was the total opposite of peaceful, so I thought – maybe I needed some instruction and ordered a meditation CD.  As I was trying to follow along, in came my sons and my dogs, who fill my home with joy and noise and I knew that I was not going to get a moment of peace.  So I ejected the CD and figured, I’d try it another time, and there it went on the shelf above my desk.

As time went on I continued to enjoy my usual self-care routines and forgot about trying to meditate. During that time, something starting occurring to me and I began to become aware of a few things. One morning during my walk in the park, I noticed not only how good it felt to move my body, but just how connected I was with myself – in both mind and body. Was I meditating on my walk? Yes, my walks helped contribute to having a much more balanced outlook on my day. Along with my exercise routine, I have always enjoyed the practice of prayer and keeping a journal of daily gratitude. It could be a few minutes in the morning or when sitting in bed, before I go to sleep. After connecting with myself in those quiet moments, my frame of mind is more positive. I am instantly reminded that I have more to be happy about instead of only focusing on the negative stuff.  So for me, time for reflection is another form of meditation.

I recognized that I was approaching a meditation practice the wrong way, too concerned about how to get it right instead of just letting it happen in the moment. There are many ways to “clear your head” and that I was already including some important concepts of meditation in my self-care routine already.

Basically any activity that frees you from distraction and is focused on you is meditating. Don’t let the thought of meditating the “right” way add to your stress. You could be brushing your teeth or folding laundry, but as long as you focus on that task, then your awareness is in the present moment. Slow down your pace and connect with your body’s movement, and begin learning how to be in harmony with yourself. The skills you develop from meditation can easily be used in everyday life.

Reasons to give meditation a try:

  • TIME FOR YOURSELF: Meditation gives you a break from your busy life. The time you spend in meditation is just for you and no one else. Taking a short break from your over-scheduled day to focus on one thing – you and your breath can help you feel happier, calmer, and better able to handle your day.
  • REDUCES STRESS: Meditation gives you a momentary break from your thought-filled day. A lot of stress comes from ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. During meditation you are focused on the present moment. It helps you readjust your thoughts and brings you back to what is really important in your life.
  • HELPS YOUR MIND BE STILL: Having trouble making a decision? Use meditation to help you gain a new perspective on your stressful issues. It helps to calm your mind and focus on what you really value, so decisions become clearer and less daunting.
  • CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT: Mediation, prayer, a time-out, a breather.
  • IT’S FREE: You don’t need a gym membership or any special equipment, just your breath. Bonus – the benefits don’t stop at the end of your practice, they last throughout your day.

Tips on how to start meditating:

  • START SMALL: Meditating even for just a few minutes can help you feel more at ease. Take a moment to simply focus on the pattern of your breath. Begin with 3 slow, deep breaths with your exhale being one count longer than your inhale.
  • DROP JUDGMENT: Your mind will wander. If you become distracted, just refocus. Try not to judge your thoughts or what you are feeling, simply accept that they are happening.
  • LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS: Don’t try to achieve enlightenment or worry about doing it right.  Setting a goal of dropping your stress levels down a notch is a great start. With practice, it will get easier.
  • ANYTIME AND ANYWHERE: You don’t have to be sitting. Any activity that frees you from distraction and is focused on you and your breath is meditating. Simply use your breath when feeling stressed.