People who have never meditated before, or who struggle with meditation, have tons of questions. Some of them are unique to the individual, but others are so common that I thought I’d take the time to answer them here.
The most important thing to remember about meditation is that your practice is yours. Regardless of what someone else tells you it should look like, you should do what you feel is right.
Should I start in total silence or use a guided meditation?
This is truly a matter of personal choice. In all honesty, I rarely meditate in total silence. With kids and pets, it’s pretty rare for my house to be totally quiet. The real question here is whether you want to meditate with or without guidance, and as I said, it’s a matter of personal choice.
Generally, my suggestion would be that if you have never meditated before and have no idea what you’re doing, a guided meditation would probably be a good idea. It will help you find the right posture and learn the breath work.
If you have a basic understanding of meditation though and prefer to go it alone, then go for silence (or as close to it as you can get).
When should I meditate?
Whenever you want! No, really, there is no set time.
Personally, I meditate right after I wake up every morning. This allows me to get grounded and centered before I start my day and makes a huge difference to how I react to things that happen throughout the day.
But sometimes I meditate in the evening too. Or I’ll meditate before I do something that makes me nervous, or a big meeting or appointment.
There are no hard and fast rules on when to meditate. Play around with it. Try various times in the day to see what works best for you. You might find multiple sessions spread throughout the day works best for you.
I would suggest not trying to meditate shortly after a meal. The digestion process may make you feel weighed down and make it difficult to concentrate.
Where should I meditate?
Just like when, there are no rules on where.
Well, okay, maybe there’s one rule: don’t meditate somewhere that would leave you in danger. So, no meditating while you’re driving, no meditating in the middle of a busy road, and no meditating in the middle of a gang war, for example.
You can meditate in your bedroom, living room, or at a yoga studio that offers meditation. You can go on walking meditations, meditate in your office, or sit in your car (parked, of course!).
As you continue to practice, you’ll find that it becomes easier to meditate in places that aren’t ideal, such as loud places or in a crowd.
What should I wear?
I prefer yoga pants or leggings, and a comfortable, somewhat loose top. Or shorts and a tank top.
You don’t want to wear anything too tight or constricting, as this will affect your ability to concentrate. Other than that, everything in your closet is game!
What if I breathe faster or slower than the guidance?
When you do a guided meditation, they sometimes tell you when to inhale and exhale. I usually find that my natural breathing pace is much longer than what they want me to do.
If you find that you breathe more deeply or shallowly than they’re guiding you to, just breathe at your level. If you try to change your breathing to match theirs, you’ll just stress yourself out more and not enjoy your meditation at all.
This might throw you slightly off when they move on from focusing on breathing or taking deep breaths and move into the visualization part of a meditation, but it shouldn’t be enough to have any significant impact on your meditation.
This also applies to breathing that includes counting. So for example, when they tell you to inhale for four, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold for four — if they’re counting to four and it’s too slow or fast for you, count to four on your own.
I can’t stop thinking! What do I do?
Well first, you stop trying to stop thinking.
Meditation is NOT about stopping thinking. You can’t stop thinking. In fact, if you try, you’ll just end up thinking more because you’ll be thinking about how you can’t stop thinking.
Stop trying to stop thinking.
Meditation is about getting beneath the thoughts. Think of your mind like the ocean. Your thoughts are the waves on the surface, sometimes turbulent and chaotic. Meditation takes you beneath the waves, into that calm, soothing quietness of the still water. The waves (your thoughts) are still there at the surface, but you’re under them, ignoring them in favor of the deeper hush.
You’re letting the thoughts pass by without latching on to them. Some days, this is easier than others. On days that you find you’re latching on more than usual, don’t beat yourself up over it. It happens to everyone — including meditation teachers and even some of the most well-known meditators in the world.
Don’t give up on meditation on those days, either. Sit there for the full 5, 10, 20 or 30 minutes you allot to meditation. And even if you have several days in a row like that, stick with it. It’ll come back around and you’ll get to the point where you can let the thoughts pass by again. I promise.
Do I need a special room or space in my home?
A meditation room or space is nice, but not necessary. Currently, I meditate in my living room. It’s got a TV and laptop computers, and all the other accoutrements of a family in it. But I pull out my cushion (it’s put away with my yoga mat and props) every morning and meditate anyway. Once I close my eyes, I can’t see any of it anyway.
If you want to go the extra mile and create a special space, or dedicate a whole room, to your meditation practice, go for it. If that makes you feel more committed to practicing, or like you get more out of it, then create the most amazing space you’ve ever created in your life.
All you really need is a chair and a desire to meditate. It doesn’t even have to be a pretty chair, or one with a cushion. Actually, you don’t even need the chair. A floor, a park bench, a grassy yard — anywhere that you can sit down is a place you can meditate.
Or you can go for a walking meditation and move through multiple spaces in a single meditation.
Can I get my kids to meditate with me?
I could never get mine to do it. But if you can, go for it!
Here’s the raw truth: meditation only benefits those who actually want to do it. So you might look at your kid and think he or she could benefit (I know I did, with my two ADHD sons). But if they’re not interested, not only will they not benefit, they likely won’t even try. Worse, trying to force them is likely to stress you out and make your meditation less beneficial for you.
Ask me how I know.
Feel free to invite your child, spouse, friend, neighbor or whomever else you want to meditate with you. If they decline, let it go. It’s better for all of you. Trust me.
Got another question?
These are the questions I’ve answered most about meditation. But there are plenty of other questions that you might have. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally or leave your questions in the comments. I’d love to answer more and encourage you on the path of meditation.