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Practicing Meditation from Scratch: How to Meditate for 30 Days in a Row

 

I’m at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. The line to get into tonight’s show is down the block. Running late, my friends Luke and Liam hold a place in line for me. Eventually, the doors open up and we walk into the venue and head straight to the bar. 

We are at The Wiltern to learn about meditation from conversation with Ripoche Minguyard, a Tibetan monk known for going on a “wandering retreat” for four and a half years mostly living without a home in the Himalayas and the flat land of India.

The energy of the room is full of excitement and anticipation, it’s as if we were here for a rock show. Buying the first round of beers for my friends, the bartender serves three micro-brew beers with orange slices. 

The three of us do a low key cheers, and jump into a conversation about mental health, pharmaceutical drugs, and psychedelics. We have a radical conversation that opens me up for the night. This event was a big night in my meditation journey. Looking back, it helped me start a daily practice for thirty days of meditation. 

At the beginning of the conversation, Ripoche leads the crowd in a brief sit-down meditation. 

When  a Tibetan Monk Makes it Easy

He asks us to find our “basic goodness” and to “relax.” As we drop into meditating, he suggested that we “just be” and advises  that we “don’t meditate.” 

He talks for a few minutes and after holding our breath for ten seconds, he says we were done. He suggests that “non-meditation” is the “best mediation.” His advice is to “just be.” 

Well, that is easy.

Up until that night, I was a newcomer to meditation. 

Starting a meditation practice on my own was a hard and lonely struggle.  

Previously, I had practiced on my own sporadically yet didn’t develop a habit. 

If you have meditated a few times to calm down before work, then you’re like me. 

I also meditated on the days before public speaking, yet I never developed the meditation habit.

If you’re someone who has felt meditation benefit your life, and still haven’t prioritized it, then I can totally relate. 

After the talk with Ripoche, I got the itch to practice. He made it sound simple. 

But it wasn’t. It was painful. 

Once I discovered certain tools that work for me, meditation became less stressful. It helped me get in touch with a part of myself that was suffering. 

I accessed a deeper consciousness, and was able to heal a lot of pain inside of my body. By meditating every day for thirty days, I kickstarted my own practice, and found a path to calm and soothe my body.

None of my friends meditated. No one in my family practices. I went blindly into it and this is what I learned. If you’ve been struggling with meditating consistently, take a look and, who knows, you might find just have fun while doing it.

How to Meditate for 30 Days in a Row: The Mindset

What helped me keep going for thirty days:

  1. I meditated first thing in the morning, I’d find a quiet spot in my garage, backyard, or bed. Getting it out of the way early started my day on the right path. Waking up early to meditate helped me to avoid getting distracted. 
  2. I was gentle on myself if I missed a morning session. It’s okay to miss a session.  I was forgiving to myself. If I missed a morning practice, I’d make time for meditation during a lunch break or at night before bed. Self-compassion is a huge part of meditation. Sometimes I would meditate in my car if I arrived early to a meeting, which forced me to get over my own fears of being judged by others for meditating.
  3. I started with guided meditations, led by a teacher. It’s hard enough finding the time to meditate, and it’s even harder to guide your own meditation. It’s easier to push play on a meditation app where someone teaches you how to practice. I recommend Waking Up, Unplug, Tara Brach’s basic meditations (free) and Jack Kornfield’s Soundcloud (free) to start your practice. Turn your phone to airplane mode, and settle into the practice.
  4. I brought a meditation journal with me and would write afterward. After each session, I would jot down any notes, ideas, or downloads from my practice. They would range from heavy thoughts from childhood suffering to more simple thoughts like my to-do list for the day. No matter what I thought, I worked to withhold judgement. Over time if I got too busy to write by hand, I would write in the notes section of my iPhone to document my thoughts/progress. It became a writing practice. I eventually turned the notes into articles that helped me share my practice with others. Sharing my own meditation stories not only helped myself to heal, it helped other people along their own path.
  5. I kept track of every minute of each session, writing out the total number of minutes in the meditation journal. This helped me feel like my practice grew, and made me feel accomplished. The tracking also helped me document it in a clinical sense. Some apps track your hours, which is also helpful in reaching your goals. And when you reach a milestone like 1,000 total minutes, you can feel proud for yourself, even if no one else is there to celebrate the achievement with you.
  6. I came from a place of desperation. Around the time of the Ripoche talk, I had been diagnosed with Complex PTSD, which is a form of ongoing childhood trauma. Meditation was like medicine and I was giving myself a drip of a healthy serum. Previously, I had tried prescription drugs, psychiatry, and therapy – yet none of those treatments helped me like meditation did. Meditation physically calmed my body down.
  7. I accepted that it was a lonely activity.  I practiced in my backyard or garage at first. I had no one to share my practice with because very few (if any) of my friends practiced. Sometimes if I had a huge breakthrough like feeling something like childhood anger resurface or grieving by remembering a sad moment like a friend’s passing. I’d sometimes record a video or audio message to document that it actually happened. Talking to someone in the video helped me to acknowledge any breakthrough, as if I was speaking to a friend. 
  8. I picked ten minutes of meditation and stuck with it. Starting to practice meditation is like working an under-utilized muscle. You have to develop the skills to meditate, and it helps to pick a number and stick with it. I initially chose ten minutes a day, and over time I increased the amount. I gradually built up my practice to doing two ten-minute sessions back to back. Or I would do two fifteen-minute meditations in a row. You can build up your tolerance to the pain or whatever comes up, and over time it gets less challenging! Ten minutes is a great number. As I mentioned before, I was gentle on myself. If I missed a morning session, I’d schedule it around lunch or even do it in my car if I arrived at a meeting early.
Discovering How Meditation Works for Your Body

Remember that not all tips work for everyone. It’s important to figure out what works for you. Life gets in the way, and if you miss a day, it’s okay. It’s not like weight training, where you need to be intense about sticking to a strict plan. 

I downloaded the meditations on my phone when possible. Text messages, email alerts, and social media apps need to be quiet if you’re going to get into a daily routine. Muting your notifications and stopping all your incoming dings and pings will help you to focus on the practice.  

My foray into meditation began at The Wiltern and over a beer with some friends. 

Over time, the growth that you will achieve can make you feel good inside. The process itself can be fun, even though it’s challenging at first.

Meditation can be a radical tool for self-discovery, self-awareness, and finding calm. It is a gateway to go deeper in your life, and enjoy yourself while doing it. 

Around the time of Ripoche’s talk, I was open to new possibilities and ready to make changes in my life. I had been arguing with my psychiatrist around her urging me to start an antidepressant for what she felt like was depression. I had recently cried during a session.

I was desperate for new more natural solutions to mental health care. 

The night during Ripoche’s talk opened up my thinking. My friends talked in-depth about how psychedelics can help people with depression. Specifically, Luke shared that psilocybin mushrooms and therapy help him deal with his depressed moods. 

Starting to meditate can open you up to new consciousness, and be a gateway to living a more open life, and even teach you to love yourself just a little bit more.

Have you, like I did, wanted to practice meditation consistently but for one reason or another it you didn’t? 

If you want to join me in a 30-day meditation journey, leave a comment below or sign-up for my email community and tell me how it’s going. Follow along for more information about the upcoming meditation 30 for 30 course.

For privacy, I changed the names of my friends, since at the time of publishing this article, psychedelics are criminalized in this country. Hopefully we can all work to decriminalize together and end the war on drugs.

Editors

Chris Angelist , Matthew VereJoel Christiansen Drew Stegmaier, Piyali (Peels) Mukherjee , Blake Reichmann , Steven Ovadia , Ali Q, Roseline Mgbodichimma, Soma Mandal, and Grant Nice.

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