Meditation 101: Why It Works, and How I Got Started

meditation 101

I look at who I was a little over a year ago, and I can barely recognize myself: I was angry and miserable about every aspect of my life, even the things that were actually going well. I was overwhelmingly stressed, crying every single day, and had a sense of loss that I couldn’t place. I felt like I was walking around in my body, and a disconnection with the world around me.

My friends and family couldn’t even evoke any joy – I was unbearable. Out of desperation, I started meditating at the recommendation of a friend of mine. “I know, it’s going to make you feel crazy at first,” he said, “but please, I hate seeing you like this. You need to give something a try.”

Now, I’m someone who regularly meditates. After an apprehensive, eye roll filled start, I am to the point where I meditate from ten minutes to half an hour every day. Why have so many people, for thousands of years starting with the Mesopotamians in 4000 B.C., put meditation into practice?

A workout for the brain
Meditation works like this: your mind, like every other part of your body, needs to be exercised. It needs to stretch, and also needs to learn how to relax. Imagine you’re doing a serious work out. You know that you need to stretch, work out, and eventually take a break so your body catches up with your progress.

The mind works the same way. What often opens is that we let stress, anger, and the problems of life take over our prominent thoughts. This isn’t okay! Meditation is a healthy way to check in with yourself to make sure you are in control of your thoughts. Your mind is a powerful thing – it controls how you see the world, how you perceive what the world around you is, and discerns how you make your choices. With such a powerful tool comes the need to nurture it.

How does meditation work exactly?
Your brain operates on frequencies. Meditation lets you reach lower frequencies in the brain to trigger other parts of your mind that are usually under stimulated. You’re working out the weak muscles! This is a full breakdown that talks about how each brain wave is affected by meditation. It’s science!

Start with an open mind
Unless you really decide to give this a chance and leave the eye rolls at home, it’s not going to work. You need to have enough faith to give it a chance. Showing up for a meditation class, looking up reading material, and even reading this article shows that you’re beginning in the right place! Before going into my first meditation, a friend of mine recommended that I focus on the feeling of peace. There’s a lot of nerves that come with trying something new, but the focus on a peaceful feeling helps loosen any stress from nerves.

Try a guided meditation app to get started
Getting started can be overwhelming. So many options, books, and Pinterest boards, it’s hard to know where to start. I recommend a guided meditation app or a meditation class to get started. It takes the pressure of having to find new meditations for each session, and an instructor is helpful to answer any questions you may have about the practice. I like apps like Headspace because they show meditation as a simple, step by step practice, and they use animated shorts to explain how each meditation works out the min.

Or grab a book
For anyone who wants to pick up a few books on how to get start on meditation, here are a few that give the clearest explanations, guided meditations, and steps to get started:

Meditation for Beginners, Jack Kornfield
This is a direct, short guide on how to get started with meditation. I like this guide because it’s perfect for those who have never tried it or want to read up on how the practice takes place before going to a class or putting it into practice.

Mindfulness in Plain English, Henepola Gunaratana – it’s a book packed with pearls of wisdom that reflect on kindness. This is one of those books that can be flipped to any page and there will be a lesson in peace.

Chakra Meditation: Discover Energy, Creativity, Focus, Love, Communication, Wisdom, and Spirit by Swami Saradananda
Okay, so you’re going to hear a lot about chakras when reading about meditation. Chakras are represented by seven energy sectors that run from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Each is represented by a color and corresponds to a part of your wellness. This book is a must have for understanding how chakras work, and how they are brought into meditation.

Practice, and be patient.
Meditation takes practice, and the results take patience. This statement is part of what made me continuing practicing meditation, even if it’s only a for a few minutes before bed. I’m not as angry, I’m more honest about my feelings, my stress has decreased significantly, and I’m driven again. Having self-awareness can be achieved by taking five, ten, or however minutes you have, and gaining this insight to your needs. It’s freeing and visceral; I smile more, I’m more confident, and I’m at peace with who I am. Isn’t that worth at least a few minutes a day?

1 Comment

  1. Kathy Firenze

    There is a place in Hawthorne that has drop in meditation classes. Can’t remember the name but I went once. Check it out!

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