If meditation is a foreign or intimidating concept to you, you’re not alone. Resting in complete stillness with your eyes closed is something most save for sleep, but there are many benefits to doing it awake. And did you know you can actually meditate while walking!? There are many misconceptions about meditation and the type of people who practice it. In reality, it is actually very simple and, while it takes a lot of practice to get good at, can benefit every single person.
The aim is not some magical erasing of the mind and transcendental spiritual breakthrough. The goal is to simply take your attention away from all the chatter — Did I pay that bill? What will I cook for dinner? Am I safe in my job? I’m so ticked off at ______ — and direct it to your breath — inhale, exhale. Anyone, anywhere, at any point in your day and at any stage in your life can meditate. It doesn’t have to be some grand production of incense burning and floor pillows, though many meditate in a scenario like this. You can start with five minutes in a room alone.
According to an immensely useful and thorough intro to meditation on mindful.org, there are five reasons to meditate: Understand your pain, lower your stress, connect better, improve focus, and reduce brain chatter. To get an expert and very real perspective on mediation, we chatted with Kate Wilke, a certified meditation instructor at Flourish Meditation in Nashville, TN.
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Tell us a little about your journey into meditation.
After I checked into the ER with rhabdomyolysis, an injury as a result of over-exerting my muscles in a workout, I was in the hospital for a week. I realized my inability to be self-aware and mindful during a workout ended up severely injuring me. That’s when I knew I needed a way to practice mindfulness. I signed up for MindBodyGreen‘s online 200-hour meditation [training], and through my certification, I was able to practice meditation daily and begin working out with self-awareness and mindfulness.
What struggles did you experience as a newbie meditator?
The biggest struggles I faced at the beginning were my desire to open my eyes, check my phone, or check to see how much time was left in my meditation. Sitting still was hard for me. Eventually, I learned to lean into the discomfort and see what it had to teach me.
Why do you think a lot of people are intimidated by it?
I think meditation is intimidating because there is a stigma that you have to be a certain type of person to do it, or you have to have a certain expertise to do it. I remember teaching in-person classes and students knowing even more about meditation and techniques than I did! I can see how it is intimidating, but that’s why I love advocating that meditation is different from person to person, and it is whatever you need it to be.
What are some common misconceptions about meditation?
There are misconceptions that you have to be perfectly still to meditate. That you have to shut your brain off and hold a mudra (hand position). You can move around, open your eyes and reset, give up and try again tomorrow, and you can practice a walking meditation if you need to. There are days that I resist my meditation practice so much, and sometimes I end it before I mean to. But as long as you set the intention to meditate, and you start, you’re already making a huge step toward self-improvement.
What are the biggest benefits of meditation, and what do you think our readers can get out of it?
The biggest benefits of meditation that I have personally experienced are living daily with greater self-awareness and always knowing I have a choice when it comes to reacting. I know I have the choice to think before I react. Overall, I feel a sense of control over anxiety. The breath is always there as a way to ground me and help me.
What’s the difference between meditating alone vs. in a group setting?
Both meditating alone and in a group are powerful in their own ways. When I meditate alone, I enjoy not being guided by anyone but letting the silence provide answers to questions I seek. It may take me several minutes to find a quiet mind, but when I do, there is a beautiful, blissful state where wisdom shows up. In a group setting, led by a teacher, I enjoy the experience of stepping into a new visualization that is profound, creative, enlightening, and most importantly, calming. There is something powerful about sitting with others, all working together to better ourselves and find peace in a world of constant stress.
If someone is interested in meditation, where should they begin?
I always recommend starting simple. Notice each inhale and exhale through your nose. Repeat for several minutes — “inhale,” “exhale.” Or you can count your breaths. Something simple to keep your mind focused on your breath.
MindBodyGreen has some great beginner-friendly meditation courses. As a teacher for Flourish Meditation, I highly recommend our digital studio with new classes every week from a variety of our teachers, and for beginners, a must-read is Ten Percent Happier by Dan Harris. Personally, I started with the Calm app and loved it.
Thanks, Kate, for chatting with us and opening up our minds to meditation.
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