tutifruti's introduction to meditation
I'm Romina, one of the cofounders of tutifruti. If you're reading this, it's because you're curious about meditation. Maybe you have meditated before, but didn't like it. Maybe you have only heard of it vaguely, in the context of religion. Maybe you're an expert meditator who just wants to know how we will describe it! Either way, welcome to tutifruti's beginner meditation.
Preparing for Meditation
Before you try practicing any meditation, it's important to get into the right mindset and delineate your expectations realistically. There are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. People think it's about stopping your thoughts, about achieving some sort of incomprehensible "zen" that removes us from our worries and anxieties. But the reality is that meditation is exactly the opposite. It's about allowing your brain to think without interference or judgement. Meditating doesn't mean you stop thinking, it means you relate to your thoughts differently.
If this is your first time meditating, please know that you probably won't feel very different after one sitting meditation. Mindfulness is a muscle. It needs to be exercised consistently to see the effects. That being said, don't be discouraged if you find it hard to meditate every day. Building habits is a difficult process and setting healthy expectations is part of that. Always stay compassionate and patient towards yourself.
There are many different kinds of meditation. Just like anything else in life, you are free to try different things until you find what works best for you. One of my favorite ways to meditate is Susan Piver's Practice of Tranquility from her book Wisdom of a Broken Heart. I've adapted it here, for you to practice your first 10 minute sitting meditation.
Step 1: Sitting
First, find somewhere to sit. I highly recommend sitting for your first meditation, because laying down can very easily turn into a little nap. You may choose whether or not cross your legs. Some people sit on a chair, a cushion, or simply on the floor. Try different things to see what is comfortable for you, as adjusting for comfort during meditation can be distracting. Also try to find somewhere to practice where you won't be interrupted by too many sounds or people.
You want to sit up straight but relaxed, without tensing your back. Try to imagine a string pulling you gently from the crown of your head. Tall, grounded, but not rigid. Tuck your chin slightly, relax your jaw, and settle your gaze at a spot in front of you. Don't try to look at anything in particular, just let your eyes rest on a spot without straining to see anything.
Once you feel comfortable and prepared in your posture, you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Breathing
The breath is one of the most important parts of all meditation. Regulating your breathing is an incredibly useful skill to develop if you struggle with any kind of stress. In this particular meditation, your point of focus will be your breath. It is important to consider the difference between awareness and thinking. We are trying to place awareness on the breath, not think about the breath.
For example: without moving or looking, place your attention on your right big toe. Become conscious of the toe and notice the sensations of it. Then, move your awareness to your right earlobe. Once again, simply focus your attention on that part of your body. Now move your awareness back to your right toe.
What you just did is shift your attention, which is what you will be placing on your breath in this meditation.
Start a timer for ten minutes and begin breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, gently placing your awareness on the breath.
Step 3: Meditating
While you are doing this, you will notice your attention drift. It may even happen immediately! This is completely normal and okay. As Susan Piver says, "Trying to stop thinking is like telling your nose not to smell anything. It can't help it; that's just what a nose does." Meditation is not about trying not to think. You are simply noticing your thoughts non-judgmentally and allowing them to pass you by.
Whenever you notice yourself getting caught up in a thought, you bring your attention back to your breath. It doesn't matter how long you have been thinking, how amazing or terrifying or sad or insightful your thought is, when you notice your attention is being dragged into a train of thought you bring it back to your breath.
There are many ways to visualize this practice if it seems confusing to you. One of my personal favorite ways to think about it is the idea of standing at a busy street, where your thoughts are the cars. So many of them will drive through, some large, some small, some boring, some beautiful. You may even find one so intriguing you find yourself running after it. But you always come back to your central spot and try to let them pass by.
Never judge yourself for drifting off into your thoughts. Part of what makes meditation effective is that it is a practice of self-acceptance and self-compassion. Always be gentle and loving when you bring your attention back to the breath. Be patient and kind with yourself. These principles are fundamental to a healthy meditative practice.
When your timer goes off, you may feel a variety of emotions. When I first started meditating, I would often feel frustrated at what I felt was a lack of improvement in my focus. With time and practice, you will notice yourself feeling significant changes in your stress and anxiety levels if you are able to develop a consistent meditation schedule. It is more important to be consistent than to meditate for long periods of time. Even ten minutes a day makes a big difference.
Since you are likely beginning to think about what a regular meditative practice would look like, I think it would be valuable to share some resources that helped me when I was starting to meditate. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Some are my personal favorite references for meditation and they are what encouraged me to develop my own practice. Some are references I've been interested in looking into but haven't yet. Feel free to explore and decide for yourself what works. I truly hope that, if you feel motivated to, you are able to incorporate meditation into your daily life. Your mind will thank you!
The Wisdom of A Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love
Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Opening the Hand of Thought
Turning the Mind into an Ally
When Things Fall Apart