A few days after a powerful presentation on Spiritual Alignment During Challenging Times that I had given, a participant reached out to me.
The participant presented me with a common question about meditation and mindfulness: “How do you actually do Mindfulness or Meditation…. because I’ve tried and it doesn’t seem to work for me.”
With Mindfulness and Meditation becoming more widely discussed and practiced within the Western world, this question is not an uncommon one.
I can relate.
Years ago, Mindfulness and Meditation both seemed “too simple” and “inconvenient” for me. It seemed like the idea was “just slow down and focus”, and things would get better. My formerly skeptical and burnout self was just not having it- I was too busy to sit and try to calm my overactive mind.
Further along my journey, my perspective shifted. Things got worse when I was overly stressed and burnt-out, so something had to change, and eventually I came back to Mindfulness and Meditation.
At first, like many, I struggled to sit still long enough without feeling restless. My cluttered mind annoyed and distracted me. I thought I wasn’t doing it “right” and that I wasn’t gaining any benefit from it.
I was part frustrated and just wanted to toss it out the window because, I mean, it just felt like more work at that point. That seemed counterproductive to me since I was trying to do it so I could de-stress from over-working.
I was also part disappointed, and if I’m honest, feeling a bit ashamed, because by all intents and purposes- I “should” be able to get this thing down pat…
I’d studied human behavior, psychology and helped countless people through my work for years- so why couldn’t I do this thing that so many others seemed to be able to do so easily?
Firstly, if you resonate with any or all of this, please know that you are not alone. Plenty of people struggle with this.
Secondly, the brief reason why so many people struggle with Meditation and Mindfulness, is because we are mostly conditioned in our culture to strive for perfection (often disguised using the term “success”); we are taught to believe that there is no gain without pain, we must hustle, and multi-tasking (especially for women) is essential.
Meditation and Mindfulness both call for us to be in the moment without a tangible end-goal or need to be perfect. They both call for us to interact with ourselves lovingly. They both call for us to slow down and focus.
Simply put- most of us are not used to this way of being; it seems counterintuitive to our way of current way of life and social structure, so it does not come easy to us.
Today, I want to clear up what is and what is not necessary when it comes to Meditation and Mindfulness. I think this will help you, and many others, to better understand how to begin their process and what to expect.
When you shift your expectations about Meditation and Mindfulness, your experience will shift as well.
Let’s first start with a quick glance at the difference between Meditation and Mindfulness:
Meditation is typically a more formal, highly intentional focus on your inward experience. You are intentionally turning your focus inward, on an internal experience like your breath, and the focus on this internal experience without judgement of yourself allows for a deeper, more purposeful connection between you and you.
Mindfulness is a practice that can be tapped into formally or informally. Mindfulness is about bringing your attention to a particular experience, object, person, place or thing, and compassionately, purposefully, non-judgmentally, allowing your focus to rest upon that in particular.
Mindfulness is a form of Meditation, but you do not have to formally meditate in order to practice Mindfulness at any given moment. Although they are not exactly the same thing, they do overlap.
The research is clear that they both DO help with reducing stress, relieving mental and medical health challenges, over-all focus, mood, sleep and so much more.
The goal of practicing Mindfulness or Meditation isn’t to “get it done”, which is the framework many busy professionals start out with. The goal is to make it a supportive practice in your life.
The purpose isn’t to erase your mind or to fix everything.
There isn’t one “right” or “wrong” way to do it.
The purpose is to help you reconnect with yourself, so you can be more present, clear-minded and able to enjoy more of your life, living as the version of you that you desire, with less stress.
Let’s get a few things out of the way:
- You don’t have to sit perfectly.
- You don’t have to have “no thoughts”
- You don’t have to experience a miraculous epiphany or tap into all the answers you’re looking for, in order to know you’ve done it right.
- You don’t have to do it a certain way or for a certain period of time.
In fact, the more I practice Mindfulness and Meditation, the more my relationship with my practice evolves- it doesn’t stay the same.
I don’t do it the same way all of the time and I don’t have the same experience every time either.
I LOVE my practice now- because I took the time to learn the best practice for myself, and I also allowed myself and my practice to grow as I move along my own journey of life.
Get creative with your practice.
Have fun with it.
Let it be imperfect.
So, what are the Mediation and Mindfulness Musts?
There are only a few, and I would not call them “musts”, but here they are:
- Be intentional
- Create a practice- the power comes with the practice
- Observe what comes up with non-judgement, as best you can
- For meditation, keep an open physiology/body stance
Remember, this is not about just “getting it done” or needing to “get it right”.
This is about simply deciding to give it a try.
For those who have experienced trauma, Mindfulness and Meditation can sometimes feel unsafe, or bring up challenging experiences that are best suited to work through with a professional.
If you have experienced trauma and would like to try Mindfulness or Meditation, but are not feeling safe or ready to do so, it is important that you honor where you are at in your journey right now. Reach out for help from a trusted and qualified professional near you.
If you are struggling with this “get it done” or “get it right” mentality, then these are underlying beliefs that are coming up in other parts of your life too, and we can tackle those in therapy. If you are in PA, you can schedule reach out to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation with me and we can discuss working together.
Dr. Toni is the founder of Authentically Me Psychotherapy, LLC, where she supports high achieving and creative individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, burn out and disconnection, to get in touch with their core selves so they can live more fully and authentically aligned lives.
Dr. Toni Warner, LCSW, MSW, MeD, is also a mother, a transformational life & wellness coach for the busy ambitious who’re ready to crush overwhelm, tame the anxiety, effectively manage stress and delete burnout. She helps her clients to create meaningful balance in their lives without sacrificing productivity at work or quality time with loved ones.
Dr. Toni is the founder of Dr. Toni Coaches, LLC, a coaching, educating and consulting business. It’s mission is to inspire and enact meaningful change in the world by helping heart-centered impact makers create work, life & relationship balance, allowing them to more deeply and meaningfully live, love, connect and share their gifts, enhancing their lives and the lives of others.
Dr. Toni has been in the helping professions field for over a decade.
For therapy in PA: www.authenticallymepsychotherapy.com
For transformational life coaching: http://bit.ly/drtonicoaches
***All information provided is for information purposes only and does not serve as nor substitute for any professional advice or treatment. Please note that coaching and therapy are not one in the same; they are separate services and the above mentioned are separate business entities. If you are unsure which service best fits your needs, simply reach out and ask: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org