Meditation intimidated the hell out of me before I started. I tried to start several times. The first time was with an amazing app, that I adored because the woman’s voice was so soothing. She does the Meditation Oasis guided meditations now and I highly recommend them if you’re just getting started. But after a few weeks of doing a five-minute guided meditation every morning and night, I fell off the wagon for two and a half years. Funny how that happens when you’re not invested in the practice.
I can’t tell you that I meditate every single day, or that I have a perfect, flawless meditation practice. If you want that, I’m sure there’s someone who can teach you that. Probably a Buddhist monk or someone in an ashram? Tweet at Elizabeth Gilbert? Personally, if I could get her to tweet me back, I’d probably have other things I'd prefer to ask her, but I'm getting a little off track...
If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t seeking a perfect meditation or prayer practice. You’re probably more like me, where the thought of having to follow all of these rules and guidelines and do it perfectly is turning you off. This prevented me from connected with my spirituality for way too long, and I want to prevent it from happening to anyone else if I can help it. All you need to know to get started is that prayer generally refers to the asking and meditation generally refers to the listening. So with that in mind, here are my top five tips:
1. With wine. Yeah, I started with the fun one! This motivated me at the very beginning of my best period of regular meditation. There was a solid three month period where I meditated at least fifteen minutes every evening and almost every morning and felt truly connected to Spirit. This period in my life started with five minutes every evening with a glass of wine, sitting on my floor in front of a candle, staring at the flame, wondering when it would be over. Eventually I actually stopped drinking the wine during meditation (as much as I love wine!) because I no longer needed the incentive. But it definitely helped me push past the resistance those first few weeks. I say do whatever it takes to get your ass on the floor once a night at the beginning.
2. With a journal. So you’re supposed to be fully focused during prayer and meditation on either giving your thoughts to Spirit or receiving from Spirit. Funny thing about this: I didn’t think I’d receive anything, because I thought that was crap. So I just gave, for the first month. That went fine, though it felt a little selfish to constantly be asking for things (I wasn't at the place of self-love then that I am now). But then I started receiving. And at first, I had no idea what to do with that. I still can’t speak to whether it was Spirit or intuition coming to me in a quiet moment, but I know that those insights were gold, and I only had them in those moments in that space. I learned very quickly I wanted to capture them. So, even though it’s not necessarily meditation protocol, I meditated with a journal from then on, pen in hand, ready to receive and record. That journal still holds some of the most important insights I’ve had thus far in my life. If you feel called to journal during prayer or meditation, trust yourself.
3. Lying Down. This one is very controversial. Yes, there are totally legitimate reasons that it is physically better for your practice to meditate sitting up, feet planted on the floor, etc. Ugh, we get it already. But if my options, given a certain level of exhaustion (emotional or physical), are to meditate in bed for five minutes lying down, or not to meditate at all, I’m going to meditate lying down. And I’m also going to listen to my body instead of a know-it-all meditation coach who's trying to teach spirituality as though it's something that is standard across people and can be perfected. Sorry not sorry.
4. Guided Meditations. These aren’t just for beginners. I have tons to recommend (please contact me if you'd like recommendations!). Even once I started meditating on my own regularly, I still infused guided meditation into that. I did this for a couple reasons. One is that I find them insanely soothing, and frankly, relaxation is a part of my self-care, even if these don't generally make me feel as connected to Spirit as independent meditation does. The second reason is that many of them contain affirmations that are good for changing your mindset. Finally, it takes the pressure off. You won’t always have a good independent meditation session, and when you have more than one avenue of meditation, you won’t feel like your solo practice has to be perfect for you to be connected with Spirit that day. And the thing is, once you’re connected to Spirit, you’re going to feel a disconnect if you do nothing after doing a lot. Giant back and forth isn't ideal for creating lasting change. We want a gradual, sustainable build here. Plus, we can learn a great deal from our spiritual teachers, many of whom publish their meditations as audio, free of charge.
5. With Intention. I almost always come to a session of prayer with at least a few intentions in mind, and often one big overarching one that's really crucial to me at the moment. When I was a kid, I thought that how prayer worked was that you went through a list in your head of everyone you cared about, and prayed for their health and happiness, and left yourself out and were done. No wonder I stopped.
It's completely fine and in fact wonderful to pray for the people you love. You should! But I no longer do it formulaically and meaninglessly, as a matter of routine rather than intention. And I also grew up to realize that one of the people I love that I should pray for is me. There is nothing wrong with praying for yourself. In fact, that accounts for the majority of prayer that I engage in. You can pray with any (positive, non-harmful) intention that is significant to you. Prayer without intention, simply as a matter of habit or obligation, is in my opinion useless to creating a spiritual relationship.
Meditation differs a little bit, because during meditation, as it's the "listening" portion, I often clear my mind and try to receive guidance and open myself to that. But I still come in with the intention to be open, receptive and grateful.
If you have any other questions about meditation or prayer, feel free to ask in the comments and I'd be happy to answer them. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert but I’m happy with my spiritual life, and that’s the point a lot of people want to get to. I'd like to help anyone else get there that would like help. Don’t let the rules and expectations get in the way of having a spiritual practice that is meaningful to you, whether that means meditating with a glass of wine surrounded by candles or lying in bed listening to ACDC. Whatever works for you is the right answer.