My Story: How I Started Meditating

Beginning my meditation practice didn’t happen all at once. Around two years ago, I started using meditation to calm my anxiety. I found it hard to sit still for longer than five minutes, and always felt like I was doing it “wrong”. Like many of us, I thought I would close my eyes, my mind would go blank, and I’d feel instant peace. I felt like I was meditating wrong.

As my knowledge around mindfulness grew, I learned that there is no “wrong” way to meditate. Meditation is about noticing what comes up in that moment, and taking a step back from it. Instead of being immersed in that thought, imagine yourself as an outside viewer to it.

It is about doing your best to keep a nonjudgmental stance - to defuse from your thoughts, so that instead of telling yourself, “I’m fat and a horrible person,” you tell yourself, “I’m aware of the thought that I’m fat and a horrible person.” It takes you out of the heat of that thought, and allows you to acknowledge it and let it go, and then you move on. Sometimes thoughts that don't serve us pop back up - they often do -  but again you notice them, and let them go.

Just like any other practice, meditation takes time. It wasn’t until last fall when I went on a four day meditation retreat for a class at DePaul University that I really connected with meditating. Also around this time, I was picking up my yoga practice again, attending classes two to three times a week. This is when I began feeling that “meditation high” - I would come out of a practice and feel washed over with new energy.  I felt refreshed. My mind wasn’t as foggy and my attention wasn’t as scattered.  I felt lighter and happier.  Happiness goes up and I feel better - that is why I meditate.

Here are three types of meditation that helped me the most when getting my practice starting:

  1. Visualizations have helped me learn to meditate, by imagining my thoughts as leaves on a stream or on a cloud. I watch them go by, and then they disappear. It may sound cheesy to do, but it helps you realize your thoughts don’t control you. You are in control, and you can choose to listen to that self-defeating thought and believe it to be true, or let it ride down the stream, out of existence.

  2. My favorite type of meditation is a body scan. I find those to be the easiest way to stay present, as you move through your body from head to toe, connecting with each part. As you work your way through the scan, you feel your body loosening up, and letting go of the tight, rigid grip you’ve come to hold so well.

  3. My favorite mantra is “just this one moment.” When you inhale, you say to yourself “just this one” and on the exhale, “moment.” It helps keep your mind focused by driving it not only to your breathing pattern, but to the words going along with it. And, the mantra itself is all about taking it one moment at a time. And that’s what meditation is all about. Just this one moment.

Editor's note:  Guest Contributor Emily Rutherford is an undergraduate student at DePaul University studying psychology and journalism.  She joined the breathe bar's social media team in May 2017.  We are lucky to have her!