• La Shawn Splane-Wilburn

The 8 Step Guide To Beginners Meditation

Image Credit: HuffingtonPost.com

"Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. It's like the ultimate rest. It's better than the best sleep you've ever had. It's a quieting of the mind. It sharpens everything, especially your appreciation of your surroundings. It keeps life fresh." -Hugh Jackman

The life of a mental health caregiver can get a little chaotic. We can find ourselves in the middle of a wind tunnel with nothing but finger nails to keep us from blowing out the other end. We are the most overworked, overstressed, tired, frustrated, unhappy, grief stricken and in denial group of people you could ever find. One of the last things we want to hear about is slowing down to meditate. Stopping what we are doing means we have time to think which is what we spend the bulk of our day trying to avoid.

I meditated in my 20’s and it helped me through a very rough time in my life as I navigated a very abusive marriage and ultimately a messy and drawn out divorce, all while learning to work outside the home in addition to being a single mother of 3 rambunctious boys. When I look back at that time now it was a cake walk in comparison to what I faced as a mental health caregiver and as a survivor of depression and anxiety. I enjoyed at that time the peace it brought me just before going to bed, I even taught my children to meditate. Once when my son had an accident where he fell and cut his tongue in half and part of it was hanging on by a thread of muscle, and he had to get stitches I was able to talk him through calming down so that the doctors could numb him down to give him stitches.

As life went on and I navigated my way through adult life, returning to school, and corporate America I fell off the meditation wagon. There was no time for meditation and ultimately there was no time for prayer. Only working overtime and making sure I had money to take care of 4 children and keep us in a home and driving a nice care so we could fit in. Enough about my struggle with my identity therapy helped me through that(smile).

Throughout this journey through mental health recovery as a caregiver supporting my son and later as survivor of depression and anxiety I learned how powerful our mind is in defeating us. I learned how powerful we are to fight and learn new ways of living and thriving with a mental health disorder. I began exploring the world of meditation again and discovered mindfulness and tapping as other methods of stress management and coping skills. I understand the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and how it has changed my life.

When you begin to meditate it’s intimidating because for many of us it means we have to slow down what we are thinking about. It means feeling overwhelmed by our minds at the start. It means feeling frustrated with not being able to stay in a meditative state for a long period of time. What most people fail to understand is we all start somewhere. With practice and with consistency it’s possible to create your own meditation life.

Scrolling through our news feeds can leave us intimidated as we see different poses and advanced meditation people with their legs folded neatly into pretzels and fingers neatly poised on their knees, sitting with the perfect posture, we sit on our mat or towel and realize how painful trying that position is; we get overwhelmed with trying to hold ourselves into a meditative state when It’s so painful to hold the pose.

Here is an 8 step guide to help you learn to meditate with ease:

  1. Decide when you will meditate - Pick a time that is quiet and with the lease amount of distractions. Only you know when you are best able to steal away some time for yourself. Some people prefer getting up an hour before their family rises in the morning because not only is the house quiet but if we live in the city there is very little outside noise in the early morning hours. Others find late in the night a good time. You know your life choose a time that is best for you.

  2. Decide if you want to use music or nature sounds - When I first started meditating again I needed music to help me to get relaxed enough to stay in meditation. Nature sounds can help you to relax and focus as well. It’s all about what helps you to be effective and successful in your meditation journey. Sometimes the coffee pot will get started and be distracting with the smell of coffee in the house (smile) you may want to delay the time it starts brewing or you may want to use essential oils to help you to focus and not be distracted by smells

  3. Forget about the pose - One of the biggest barriers to meditation for many people is how to master the sitting pose for meditation so many experienced people are able to hold.Find a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair to begin with. Whatever makes you comfortable.What is important is your posture. Sitting tall and pulling your back and neck straight up towards the ceiling in a straight line is important. Sit tall wherever you choose.

  4. Relax and repeat your mantra - Close your eyes. Listen to your breathing. Start with your toes and work your way up. “My toes are relaxed and calm…my feet are relaxed and calm…my ankles are relaxed and calm…my legs are relaxed and calm…my knees are relaxed and calm…continue all the way up to your hair all while breathing slowly and deeply.

  5. Be still - Sit still and breathe. Be aware of the stillness around you. Be aware of the relaxed state of your body. Don’t try to control anything. Especially in the beginning when emotions and thoughts will rush in. Don’t panic because you cant control them.

  6. Focus - As you focus on your breathing and your mantra as you sit still thoughts will keep coming up don’t fight them, Let them come and then imagine like an ocean wave they are rushing back out as fast as they came. Repeat your mantra and continue breathing. There will be days when you are able to stay in meditation once your thoughts start bubbling up and there will be days you can’t. Don’t beat yourself up about either one. It’s part of life. Peaks and valleys. If you feel like you are cheated out of your meditation time because you are not able to relax, take time later in your day to be mindful and present and breath on a break during your day.

  7. Ending your meditation - I normally let myself fall out of meditation by natural interruption. I stop focusing on my breathing or being still but there are times when I get real relaxed, like on the beach, and I have to slowly bring myself out of meditation slowly. I start by licking my lips, moving my fingers or toes. You can set a graduated alarm to help you as well especially if you have a scheduled day.

  8. Keep practicing - Your practice of meditation will get stronger and more effective as you get more time under your belt and you become confident in your abilities. Being consistent is more important then how many times per day you meditate. If you pick one time of the day to meditate and it doesn’t work switch to a different time and keep moving it around until you find your fit. Switch the places you meditate to give yourself an opportunity to find your fit. It’s about whatever is peaceful to you and helps you to relieve your stress. Once you get into a rhythm of your own you will find just how easy a meditation practice is. Don’t put off meditating one more day. Start today. Now even.

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