Meditation: My Beginning
Meditation is not something I came to because I was introspective or thoughtful or interested in long-term self-care. I came to meditation because I had a mountain of anxiety and obsessive thinking. Somehow I’d pieced together the mostly-false notion that meditation cures anxiety. If I sat quietly for awhile I’d get relief. Meditation does help reduce stress and a plethora of other scientifically proven medical benefits, but I was envisioning a personality overhaul. A once avid worrier transformed with a meditative boom! into a woman of serenity.
I stumbled through meditation in the beginning, getting very restless and frustrated during every sit. But I didn’t quit — too embarrassed perhaps, to admit I wasn’t cut out for silent alone time. Instructions like “empty your mind” made me gnash my teeth and 30-day meditation challenges I found on Facebook featured cheap new age music I couldn’t get past.
My partner, M, introduced me to a podcast by Tara Brach with weekly dharma talks and guided meditation that helped put it all into context. Each week I listened to Brach discuss the thought-patterns, the insecurities and the need to figure it out reflected in my own interior life. I followed along with the guided meditations as best I could. I also started getting up earlier to sit before work (5:20am — a decision I almost can’t believe in retrospect). The first week — or two or three — I set a timer for 1 minute. Then 3 minutes. Then 5. Then 10. Then 15. Then 20. When 20 was too much, I went back down to 5 or 10 and worked back up again.
During these pre-dawn sits I kept the process as simple as possible. My meditation would start with setting my iPhone timer and closing my eyes. Concentrating on my breath going in and filling my belly and then pausing, emptying back out, pausing, repeat. I didn’t do it every-single-freaking-day, but I tried. I strived for frequency over length.
I got hungry for new guided meditations and reading material which friends were happy to recommend, lend or gift. I got a taste for what worked and what didn’t. Everything I tried was free and most had an option to donate to the teacher or institute associated. I downloaded an app called Insight Timer with lots of guided options and a beautiful sounding chimes (I paid 99-cents to upgrade to the singing bowls). My curiosity gave way to habit, which turned to practice. My meditation practice has grown and the resources I use have multiplied, but my early practice is still a staple in my life.