Top 10 Meditation Questions Answered
Are you curious about meditation?
Not sure if your current meditation practice is working for you?
I have answers.
Meditation isn’t the fastest route, but it is one that will improve more areas of your life collectively than any other tool available to mankind! Bold statement, but true! Good news is you can’t fail! You’ll succeed with progressive improvements slowly, but surely. It’s the ‘slowly’ that causes confusion and questions to arise.
You have to give meditation, and yourself, time to bloom.
Whenever I read old texts, classic books, and philosophies, I’m totally in love with how deliberate the writing is- like a fine wine over time it unfolds. There’s a similar process and benefit system with meditation.
Answering your burning questions may not get you to blissed-out, guru-status any sooner but it will provide you with the encouragement and reassurance to begin and/or maintain your meditation practice. It is, after all, the foundation of a good, solid personal growth journey. I won’t give away all the secrets. I’d rather let you experience them for yourself.
Let’s dive in:
- Why should I meditate?
Manage stress. Improve health. Resist restlessness and perform better. Benefits are limitless really. Get focused and increase productivity. Establish inner peace (a safe place inside of you), self-awareness, or spiritual awakening. I’ve established a very intuitive connection with myself that has helped me find the right foods for my body, helps me set clear boundaries in my life, stay focused on my goals (and their purpose). There’s a lot of great reasons to meditate!
2. How do I start meditating?
With 3 deep breaths. That’s all it takes…pretty much.
The hesitance in trying meditation though is that it seems too simple to produce big benefits. Ironically, the obstacle then becomes that it’s too hard to continue as people realize they must approach self-improvement from the inside out. We’re accustomed to surface-based (not lasting or meaningful) approaches. Basically we’re not used to asking ourselves what we need and how to make the changes to get there. We typically ask experts or friends or someone on social media who looks like they have it all together on the outside.
The resistance to meditation and the feedback from our inner selves is an opportunity for great growth- experiencing resistance is like opportunity knocking. What will you do? You can think of any uncomfortable moments as an awakening or growing pains. I like to say ‘growth isn’t all sunshine and rainbows; it’s messy cocoons and shedding old debris’.
The nitty gritty- You start by finding what you’re going to actually do. What can you reasonably do almost every day for at least a year…and hopefully the rest of your life. Now pick two times and two places you can reliably meditate. If you miss your morning meditation then you have a back-up time and place.
Read a little about meditation, but not so much you become more confused. Meditation is so simple that people try to overcomplicate it.
It’s this simple: How do you start? Just do it! Sit, relax, and breathe.
3. I’m a mom. How do I meditate with kids?
As a mom, you NEED to meditate probably more than any other human being on earth! I’m a mom of two- a new middle schooler and a 1st grader. This is why I meditate in my car a lot. You are part chauffer so pre-plan 15-20 min in your car to have some time to meditate before you pick up your kids from school or practice, when the baby falls asleep in the car. Also, you can ask your partner if you could have a few minutes in the car before heading into the house from a trip to the store for instance.
Another thing that works with kids is cues. If you can set up something that signals to the kids you are meditating or need 20 minutes by yourself, then it becomes automatic. Like with everything associated with kids, it’s difficult to establish, but easier over time with consistency.
My meditation “cue”…
My youngest was between 2-3 when I began meditating. FYI- it’s ok to fall asleep during meditation if you have a napping baby or toddler.
Once I showed my kids how to meditate- listening to fun guided meditations for kids (apps or youtube), they understood what mom was doing- if it’s important to you, it’s important to them. And it sets a good example for quality self-care and boundaries.
4. How do I know if I’m doing it right? (‘I don’t feel anything’ or ‘I feel uncomfortable’).
Get the idea of right or wrong out of your head! If you’ve read a few things on meditation, you know how to do it and you’re likely doing it “right”. The fun part can be finding various types of meditation that feel right for you (more on that later…).
You may have begun meditation with certain goals in mind -goals are OK for motivation, but not for measurement of meditation’s effectiveness. If meditation has taught me anything, it’s check your inner control-freak at the door.
Approach meditation like a gift to be unwrapped- sometimes it gets you something you really want and sometimes it’s a pair of socks. And you can still grateful for socks 😉
Meditation itself is best with no expectations…and that takes practice too. Research shows benefits typically show up within 8 weeks. I didn’t personally notice until friends of mine mentioned that I was “different”. Keep a journal too if you want.
As I got more intuitive with my body (a separate intention I set for myself) I was able to notice the changes and benefits. Science points to several physical changes in the brain of those who meditate ! Overall, it’s like carrying an older and wiser self around with me. I start to react or do something habitually and then take a step back and the wiser perspective appears, usually leading me to a better option.
The concept- how to wrap your mind around the phenomenon of meditation: The experience of meditation itself should be going beyond your first and second mind. Sit down to meditation and notice your thoughts- like you have to cook dinner soon- that’s your first mind- the one you are aware of. Now go deeper, anything else? Maybe a tune stuck in the back of your head or persistent reoccurring thoughts, a running to-do list always making you feel anxious? That’s your second mind- the thoughts that just seem to be in the background and a little beyond our control no matter how hard you try to get that tune out of your mind. The second mind is the subconscious. You didn’t tell yourself to hum that tune, but somehow it stuck.
In meditation you can get beyond those two minds and into the present moment where your thoughts (in both minds) seem like they’re separate from you- you exist beyond your thoughts as if you were the horizon.
5. How long should I meditate?
Experimenting is best. I know a lot of experts will suggest beginning with 5 minutes, but I disagree.
You can do a few minutes here and there as needed, but not as a practice. Make sure you get a 15-20 minute session each day – that’s a great habit and practice and feel free to add in a few minutes as needed in addition. If you’re lucky you’ll get 5 minutes in the middle or at the end where you escape or “lose yourself”.
6. What is the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
There is mindfulness meditation– a type of meditation, but otherwise mindfulness is not something you have to be in meditation to experience although meditation certainly can enhance this effect in your daily life. Mindfulness also comes with its own host of scientifically-based benefits. It’s so effective that hospitals around the nation have adopted Jon-Kabat Zinn’s MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) techniques.
Being mindful means to be aware of, or immersed in the present moment by being purposeful about whatever you are doing at that moment. It’s a conscious decision, and practice, at first. You can do this by slowing down and tasting your food while eating it for instance. You can do anything mindfully. Present-moment awareness reduces depression and anxiety, among other benefits such as improved focus.
7. What are some different types of meditation I can try?
There are many types, but I’ll just highlight a few.
We offer guided meditations because I truly believe that’s the best way to start a meditation practice/habit and supplement one.
- Guided Meditation gets people in the habit of relaxing- feeling the body and thoughts slow down. In our busy lives we are not used to this anymore. In this type of meditation, a knowledgeable person/meditation coach guides you through a meditation. The meditation will begin with relaxation, then a series of positive affirmations and messages for your benefit, then end with an awakening period- most come in the form of recordings. Many include relaxing music too. You are less likely to be interrupted by your own thoughts when someone else is guiding you. They feel good because they include positive affirmations. They are effective because they access your subconscious (the brain’s control panel).
- Mindfulness Meditation focuses on breath and “watching” your thoughts pass while staying mindful of it all. It’s best to use and anchor such as your breath or a subtle white noise in the background. For instance, a session may be focusing on the sound of a fan in the room, then begin taking a few mindful breaths in and out. As thoughts pop up, just let them be- no judgment. Imagine watching your thoughts float by on a river. You can also take a mindfulness meditation walk outside spending moments focusing on breath then the feeling and sound of your footsteps, then the wind, the scenery.
- Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation This is meditation to build your compassion muscle which is a big focus in Buddhist traditions. Benefits include enhancing empathy, self-love, positive emotions, and a greater connection to all others. To do this meditation, sit meditation-style and progressively wish good will to: yourself, a good friend, a neutral acquaintance, a difficult person, and the entire universe collectively. You can mentally rehearse a phrase such as: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be free from harm” and so on through your list.
- Mantra Meditation originates in the Hindu traditions. The funny word, “OM”- that’s a mantra. The idea is that certain words produce certain sounds that vibrate and resonate with the language of our bodies down to an energetic and cellular level. I was given a one-word Indian Mantra by a meditation teacher. If you want a mantra, consider being assigned one or spend time researching a suitable one for you. Another form of Mantras are positive affirmations or a one-word intention such as “heal”. A Mantra is a great tool for focus in meditation as well. Whenever your mind wanders, silently repeat your Mantra. This can lead to a deeper meditation experience. (Most well-known Mantras: om, so-ham, rama, yam, ham- be sure to look up correct pronounciations of these and others.)
- Others: Chakra Meditation and transcendental meditation, Kundalini meditation, sound meditation, Pranayama meditation, and Tantra. Many of these re best done with practitioners at least initially.
8. When should I meditate?
Meditate according to your body. Most people’s bodies and minds are naturally slower in the morning upon awakening, in the mid afternoon (the “slump” is a great time to meditate), and the evening before bed (don’t worry about falling asleep). Science shows us this is optimal. Our brains are still in a dazed/drowsy theta -wave state- perfect for relaxation and passive learning. Most importantly, meditate when you can! You can build a meditation habit in your body to instinctively know when it’s time to slow down and go into that mode.
9. What are the best (and worst) meditation apps?
There’s a lot of free YouTube videos with guided meditations. I say this because some apps are purely guided meditations while some track your “progress” and/or offer tutorials, which would be a lot of effort to gather on YouTube, but possible so you can save the money. FYI- all of them will eventually require money to unlock everything, in the form of subscriptions typically.
(This is all preference- myself, others I’ve chatted with, and ratings/reviews.)
Beditations – A really comprehensive collection of long or short guided meditations while lying in bed if you like. A variety of voices guide you, but a little computerized-sounding on some of the voices (my only gripe).
Calm app has great sound effects…waterfalls, crackling fireplaces- with or without a voice guide. I had this app before I switched to Beditations. Sound makes a huge difference to me. I am easily distracted and hard to relax, but sound effects and music soothe the beast!
10% Happier Meditation app is decent for beginners. There’s a lot of lectured information that makes it good for just starting out. It is a collection of the best of the best meditation experts so I would’ve expected better. It does have a good rating on Apple. After being a member for the full year ($39.99 on sale), I experienced one good meditation and mixed reviews from people I’ve actually spoken to. My biggest complaint is no relaxing music, which is a bonus for guided meditaitons. The other big thing is the awkward pauses (way too long) in the meditations- I think it might be over, I’m blissed-out and then BAM!!!!!!!!! the voice comes in and interrupts my state of relaxation. It’s in all of them and it wasn’t something I could get used to. Bummer. If you have the subscription, they send you helpful tips in emails, which I enjoyed, but the experience was limited to that. (Also, too short of meditations offered.)
Amazon’s Headspace is kind of fun initially and if you’re into tracking your meditation “progress”. This actually backfires and can make you feel successful at meditation according to the app, but with no real effects in real life or the opposite, defeated when you’re actually on the right path. It defeats the purpose of meditation. People seem to be attracted to it’s bells and whistles- not me. (Also, too short of meditations offered.)
I’ll end my list here because I have the most experience with these apps.
10. What are the best meditation books?
My personal faves:
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris (a great beginner book and I like his flavor of writing even if I didn’t like the app).
The Best Meditations on The Planet by Skye Alexander. (short inspirations in meditation form for EVERYTHING. It is a constant companion.)
Extra Credit: What are some tools that will help me with meditating?
- Learn reframing. Reframing is mental tool – it is the technique of “telling yourself a different story” about the same event. Reframing means coming up with a different interpretation or another “story” for an event or thought that holds you back. This is a very helpful psychological technique that can assist in changing the way you think. You can add this to your meditation.
- Visualization is a mental tool. I use this all the time in meditation. Often I go to meditation with an intention- perhaps I need more time to think about something and re-think about it when I am calmer and free of distractions. This can involve reframing and/or visualization. It is only a myth that you are completely free of thoughts in meditation- so instead of “watching my thoughts” passively, I choose one reoccurring thought that’s bugging me and I address it first during meditation (right after I take my 3 deep breaths). Either I turn it into another story (reframing) or I visualize it releasing or changing in some way. You can get creative here, and that way the elephant- in-the-room thought is addressed right away before you settle further into meditation and relaxation. (Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain or 33 Guided Visualizations by Louise Stapely).
- Create a meditation corner in your house- a physical tool. Some people like gadgets for inspiration. Or perhaps get a meditation cushion that can serve as a cue to meditate. Create an experience by lighting candles or using a sound bowl to help relax before meditating. (Other tools).
I hope this encourages you to begin and maintain a meditation practice. I strongly believe we need this ancient practice in our modern lives!
Peace and Be Well,