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A 5 Step Guide to Meditation For People Who Don't Believe They Can Meditate

A 5 Step Guide to Meditation For People Who Don't Believe They Can Meditate

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Welcome to the first in our #TypeATakedown series, blog posts that suggest functional ways to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with a Type A personality so you can focus on the benefits. Please join in the conversation across social media by sharing your thoughts, tips and tricks with #TypeATakedown!

“I can’t meditate*.”

“Meditation does nothing for me. I tried it once. It didn’t work.”

“My mind moves too fast to meditate.”

Meditation for me was always something I was afraid to do. I felt like I couldn’t quiet my mind. I’d tried it a few times and hadn’t felt any affects besides increased anxiety. I just didn’t like it. My parents got into meditation way before it became trendy. They’d come home from meditation class—two stressed out lawyers trying to find some calm between the office and raising three rambunctious girls— and they’d have us repeat “shring” over and over again, trying to teach us what they’d learned. I never saw the benefits.

I soon learned this is what is called “mantra meditation”, the practice of repeating a certain word or phrase over and over to calm the mind. Turns out, I hate mantra meditation. Even today it stresses. me. out. But, as I got older, graduated college, and entered the real world, the need to calm my ever-buzzing mind became more critical. I started doing a lot of research and found that meditation has enormous proven benefits and thankfully, other types besides mantra exist. Here’s some staggering statistics on the power of meditation:

I know what you’re saying. This is all great Sarah, but I still can’t meditate. I thought that too but almost every day for the past three years I have been meditating and I never thought I could in a million years. So if you’re struggling to get started, here are five easy steps to get your zen on:

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  1. Understand The Types of Meditation & How You Work Best.

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There are so many different types of meditation and some will resonate with you more than others. Here is a list of a few types:

  • Mantra/Focused Attention: This meditation requires you to focus on one thing the entire length of the meditation. Distractions fall away and your mind clears. (supposedly, again, I can’t do this one)

  • Open Monitoring: This is the opposite of mantra. You keep your perception open and may focus on a particular aspect of experience (for example, what you hear in your environment) and don’t attach any judgement to it.

  • Loving Kindness: Focusing on increasing empathy and positive emotions, this meditation is usually about others and looking outside yourself.

  • Chakras: A yoga meditation where the practitioner will focus on one of the chakras or centers of energy in the body and chant a mantra or guide visualizations to help that area of the body.

  • Body Scan: Starting at one end of the body, this meditation asks you to tune into what’s going on in your feet, legs, arms, moving all the way up to the top of the head. There may be visualization or tightening of muscles accompanying the meditation.

If you want to explore more types, click here.

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2. Determine The Resource You’d Like To Use & Experiment.

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Meditation style is a personal preference. Do you prefer to be in a group? To do your own work? Self guided? I’d recommend trying to meditate each way and then determining what is best for you. Here are some recommendations for each style:

  • Group Meditation: The past few years have seen enormous growth in group meditation practices. While the ones I mention are in major cities, you can absolutely check out your local yoga place or even a rec center like the YMCA which often offers classes:

    • The Den Meditation: Located in LA, this studio has everything from group to privately led meditations as well as offerings for corporations, kids, and even a podcast if you want to experience their studio but don’t live in LA.

    • MNDFL: This is a great NYC space with a living plant wall. It’s bright and airy and there’s a regular rotation of instructors who adhere to different types of meditation so you can experiment.

    • Chill: This Chicago based studio is no frills and prides itself on being incense free non-woo woo meditation. Just a bunch of people trying to chill the f out.

  • Apps/Guided:

    • Headspace: By far the most popular app, there are plenty of guided meditations on here to help your mind no matter what you’re experiencing.

    • Buddhify: My personal favorite app, this has multiple meditations for different aspects of your life with varying lengths as well as the ability to do self guided.

    • Insight Timer: This one perhaps has the most diverse selection of meditation types and offers some interesting stats on how you meditate.

  • Self Guided: I find this takes a lot of discipline and only after you’ve done the above can you embark on your own. If you’re interested in trying it, you can see how here.

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3. Be Consistent. Especially When You Don’t Feel Like It.

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Meditation often brings to mind images of blissed out yogis on a beach with the crashing waves adding to their zen. But the truth is, meditation is often difficult, sometimes unpleasant, and really hard to make a habit. It’s so challenging for us to sit still. It’s annoying to carve out the time. Clearing our mind can bring up unpleasant emotions. The majority of the time when you’re starting out, meditation won’t bring you that blissful feeling because it’s a muscle you’re developing.

That is why it’s even more important that we do meditation regularly. It takes 21 days to form a habit. To feel the major benefits of meditation you have to do it for months. But it’s worth it. Start out slow. One to two minutes a day for a week or two. Then build up. I do a 12 minute guided meditation every day and if I am squirming I do five minutes.

I build it in at night before bed or when I’m waking up in the morning. Yes, I often don’t want to but when I’m resisting intensely is usually when I need it and feel its effects the most. Try and commit to meditation as you would to a job. Whether you’re doing it to reduce anxiety, get faster at work, find spiritual connection, or anything else, tie the practice to your goal so you’re more likely to do it.

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4. Find a Friend and Challenge Them To Meditate.

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Whether it’s going to class with a friend, challenging them through an app, or simply asking a friend or family member to join you in meditating every day, science proves that you’re more likely to honor commitments when someone is holding you accountable. You can even make it a challenge at work and take five minutes out of the day to meditate with your colleagues.

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5. Delve Deeper Into What Meditation Actually Is.

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Sometimes, when all of the above isn’t working, it helps to be a little gentle with yourself and understand what meditation is so you can find it in your every day life. To meditate literally means to focus or think deeply about something. That’s. It.

It’s so simple. All of these techniques just seek to help us focus our minds that are going in a million directions. By that definition the scope of meditation expands beyond any app or regular sit down practice.

So I polled a few people. Here are some ways friends, family, and I meditate outside of typical confines:

  • “Watching my dogs play in the park so carefree helps clear my head. Their favorite things in the world are playtime and cuddle time and we could all use a little more of that.”

  • I find running so meditative. It’s just me and the road and all my thoughts calm down and I’m focused on the feelings of my legs propelling me forward.”

  • Immersing myself in the universe whether through stargazing or books on astronomy always puts things in perspective and gives me a sense of total calm.”

  • “Looking at art is almost spiritual for me. It invokes a sense of amazement and I’m completely absorbed by the brush strokes.”

  • “Reading is such a good way to pause and distract and then reset.”

  • Sipping on a great glass of wine and eating a delicious meal with family and friends makes me feel present and happy. I always pause for a second to appreciate the moment.”



* I have used meditation and mindfulness pretty interchangeably throughout. While some believe there are too many differences, I see meditation as an umbrella term and mindfulness as a more specific type of meditation For more on this topic you can read here.

Do you have a meditation story? I’d love to hear it. Tell me about your meditation journey in the comments below or DM me on Instagram!

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