health

It's okay to be bored - a beginner's guide to meditation

Image: Gisele Bunchen knows the value of meditation (via Instagram

There’s a secret every good meditation instructor should tell you – but very few do. It’s that meditation isn’t meant to be easy. Your mind will wonder. You will get bored. You will hear over and over in your head “When will this be over?” and it’s all totally okay.

In fact, drifting off is part of the experience. In some forms of meditation, that drift is central to the experience.

Feeling uncomfortable is also a big part of the meditation experience – but it’s a reason to continue meditating, not a reason to stop.

With that in mind, meditation should never feel like a cocktail of emotional agony and annoyance, and if it does, you might be practicing the wrong style.

This doesn’t mean you should give up on meditation altogether though. You should just find something that works for you. Because when you get it right, meditating is really, really good for you.

It can help you deal with stress and get outside your own head, leading to lasting positive consequences for your physical and mental wellbeing.

Listening to a woman with an American accent telling me to relax my fingers – which is what you’ll get in a guided body scan meditation – is my idea of hell. Meanwhile, using my breath as an anchor for concentration while I hold a series of poses – as is done in Yin Yoga practice – works really well for me.

Figuring out which style of meditation will work for you is a matter of trial and error. Give a few different forms a shot, and then deepen your practice with the one you liked the most. Here are a four of the most prevalent kinds of meditation, and what they involve.

Mindfulness Meditation

Secular, scientifically proven and beloved by psychologists everywhere, mindfulness meditation is all about achieving a state of detached awareness. There are plenty of great guided mindfulness meditation sessions available online, like these ones from The University of Sydney. If you want to deepen your mindfulness practice, most clinical psychologists are now trained to do mindfulness exercises.

ADVERTISEMENT

There is also a spiritual dimension to mindfulness mediation, as it has its origins in Buddhism. Most Buddhist temples and centers offer mindfulness courses that engage with the spiritual dimension of the practice.

Transcendental Meditation

Probably the trendiest form of meditation – beloved by David Lynch, Jerry Seinfeld and Daisy Lowe – Transcendental Meditation (or TM) is a mantra based meditation, where you achieve a state of almost dream-like ‘Transcendence’ by repeating a special mantra over and over, twice a day for twenty minutes. TM’s proponents rave about it, but given a TM course (where you’re given a mantra that you’re not allowed to disclose ever to anyone) can cost upwards of $1,500, I’m skeptical of the practice.

Claiming to want to spread happiness and higher consciousness, then charging like a wounded bull for the privilege seems suspect. Especially when there are plenty of other meditation courses that you can do for free, or a small donation, that have as much, if not more, evidence behind them.

Yoga

Far more active than most forms of meditation, yoga can achieve similar benefits, and tone you up at the same time. By moving through a series of poses, your breath, and the way your body feels in the present moment, yoga takes you out of your ordinary headspace. Yin yoga (where you do very few poses, rely heavily on blocks and straps, and hold each position for an extended period of time and really, really focus on your breathing) is the most meditative kind of yoga practice, and more and more studios around Australia are offering Yin classes. If I don’t get to one at HOM in Sydney at least once a week, I start to feel a little bit tetchy.

Guided Meditation

Often, when people who aren’t familiar with meditation are asked to describe it, they’ll refer to guided meditation. Guided meditations involve visualising relaxing imagery – like a beautiful beach with warm, white sand – while focusing on breath. In guided meditations, you are often asked to draw on all of your senses, so you don’t just picture or hear that calm, blue ocean, you can also smell the salt drifting in on the gentle breeze. Guided meditations are all about getting into a relaxed, rather than focused, state of mind.

Do you practice meditation? If so, what technique do you use, and why?

00:00 / ???