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So, You Wanna Meditate

So you Google "How to meditate," only to find there are zillions of approaches. Meditation comes in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins has ice cream! How do you choose the one best for you?
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You've heard or read about how beneficial meditation can be for your health, your peace of mind, and your sense of well-being. And you're convinced. You're ready to (gulp) learn to meditate yourself.

So you Google "How to meditate," only to find there are zillions of approaches. Meditation comes in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins has ice cream! How do you choose the one best for you?

When it comes to meditation, one size does not fit all
You want to choose a meditation method that feels "right" to you, that you look forward to practicing once or twice a day, and you don't see as a chore that you "should" or "have to" perform. The secret to benefiting from a meditation practice is in the practice, not in the initial learning of it.

Pick a couple of techniques and try them out:
See how they "fit" on you, and within your lifestyle. If you find that one works for you, and you look forward to meditating, great. If not, move to the next. Don't give up. Once you find the "right" technique for you, you'll know it, because you'll be looking forward to practicing it.

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Experiences of some people who meditate
I asked some friends who meditate for their experiences. They provided me with how they started, how long it takes, what they do, and what they thing about the results.

  • Courtney D: "I do anywhere from 10-30 minutes a day, but not at one time. I use [an app] and its tracks, and rather than setting aside chunks of time I do it when I can (examples: walking to class, eating, etc)."

  • Crystal B: "[I meditate] sometimes. and very late at night - like 11:00 - because I can't get to sleep. I found a YouTube channel with calming music. and sometimes I put that on and flip through a magazine... I'm not good at sitting still for very long, so 5-10 minutes is like 10 weeks for me. I do sleep better."
  • Nicole RH: "I started Reiki and meditation at 16 when my health was a mess. Right now I only get a full 10-15-minute meditation in 2-3 times a week. I do quick 1-3-minute-deep breathing meditations daily. The sense of calm and connection I feel to the Universe when I meditate is what keeps me "going."
  • Rachel C: "On my runs/walks or in yoga I tend to zone out and just let my brain wander. I do this every day, anywhere between 10 minutes for a yoga cool down or 1.5 hours for a long walk. Average= 30 minutes"
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    This is what I tried:
    • I attended a number of formal meditation groups.
    • I counted my breaths (1, 2, 3, 4). I focused my attention on my jogging sessions.
    • I listened to a 5-minute, guided meditation on YouTube.
    • I practiced mindful eating.
    • I downloaded three or four apps on my phone and explored their offerings.
    • I used one of the popular coloring books.
    • I downloaded two or three coloring apps on my phone.
    • I researched, but didn't try, walking meditation.
    This is what I found out:
    • I don't like organized groups.
    • I couldn't keep my attention on counting.
    • I liked running, but injured my knees over time.
    • I fell asleep when I listened to guided meditation.
    • I I felt guilty when I wasn't mindful while eating.
    • I argued with the meditation apps.
    • I liked working with color, but didn't find the coloring books or apps engaging.

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    What I do now
    After all this experimentation, which ran about two years, I chose an approach that I could commit to. It is personal, keeps me focused and engaged, and I am willing to put the time it takes to do it every day. I now spend time painting small watercolors daily. When I do this I become engrossed in the process, time fades away, and I am grounded and refreshed when I finish. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes, sometimes longer. I look forward to the practice and miss it if I don't do it.

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    Some practical tips for picking a meditation practice
    • Consider the commitment: How much time do you have? Don't choose an approach that takes an hour a day if you only have 5 minutes to dedicate to it.
    • Consider the place: A practice limited by circumstance limits you to finding the perfect setting. If your life is busy, techniques that are portable may be more successful for you.
    • Define your goals: What are you looking for in a meditation technique? Do you want to deal with stress, to improve your health, or are you looking for serenity, and possibly spiritual enlightenment?
    • Make it personal: Don't take anyone's word for anything. Your experience is the path; there is no other path.

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