I suck at meditating. There, now you know. The truth is that I’ve only tried it sporadically, and without any real commitment or structure, so I’m not sure why I thought I would be good at it with so little effort. I have a lot of trouble getting my mind and body to settle down, which has made me abandon the process and decide that maybe meditation wasn’t for me. Perhaps because I’ve practiced yoga for so long and know so many people who meditate, I thought it would come naturally? It didn’t.
I had a fairly stressful period this May, during which I found myself craving a meditation practice. As I sat with my dad in the hospital after some surgical complications, I used my yoga breath often, but wished I had more experience and structure with creating space in myself for all the complicated emotions I was navigating. I relied mainly on exercise to keep myself centered and calibrated, but meditation would have been a great tool had I known more about how to use it.
What I’m realizing now is that meditation, like any other serious discipline, takes practice and training. I’ve run four marathons, so I understand the concept of training; I just didn’t realize I needed to apply it here. So, I’ve decided that, for the month of June, I will commit to a progressive practice, starting with just five minutes a day. I’m going to try not to have specific expectations. Instead, I hope simply to DO IT, and see what evolves with 30 days of consistent effort.
I’m hoping a few of you will come along for the journey, since I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s struggled with this quest! I’ll give you all the details below, but first, let’s learn a bit more about what it means to meditate.
People are always saying that we need meditation “in today’s busy world”, and while I agree, I’m not sure people realize that we are the ones making ourselves so “busy”. It’s not as if we are ACTUALLY any busier now than we were when we had to grow, hunt, and harvest our own food for mere survival. Back then, we lived by the sun; when it went down, we would slide naturally into meditative activities, like reading or talking or going to sleep. It’s only because of the technological connectedness of our lives, the ever-present umbilical cord of information traveling between us and the rest of the world, that we’ve gotten so “busy”. There simply isn’t enough quiet space anymore, which is why we need to create it.
Additionally, research is consistently showing that anyone who has stress in his or her life (that means about 7.7 billion of us) can benefit from meditation. It has been proven useful in managing anxiety and depression. It may prevent grey matter atrophy (fancy speech for shrinking of the brain tissue) which accompanies many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s dementia. Meditation can be used to improve sleep quality in older adults - far preferable to the sedating medications that are often used. More research needs to be performed, but even the American Heart Association acknowledges that meditation may be a valuable tool for patients in managing cardiovascular risk.
Types of Meditation
There are SO many types of meditation, and you don’t have to conform or subscribe to any of them! Trying different kinds can help you figure out what resonates and feels natural to you, and what feels forced or weird. I’ll list a few of the most common ways to meditate, ending with the type I plan to practice this month.
Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation
This practice can be very helpful for those struggling with anger, frustration, negativity, or difficult relationships. It begins with saying loving things to yourself, like “May I be happy, may I be strong, may I be healthy and calm.” Eventually, the “I” is replaced with “you” as you think of people you love. Then you move to people in your outer circle, and finally on to those who challenge you the most. The meditation ends with the thought “May all beings everywhere be happy,” which often leaves people feeling empowered and positive.
Related to loving kindness, Tonglen is an acknowledgement of universal suffering. A therapist once explained it to me as breathing in the suffering of others, either specifically or generally, and breathing out peace and relief from suffering. It’s a beautiful practice, but requires you to be able to access that kind of energy and focus.
This is a breath-centric meditation, in which one focuses on the flow of breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils, with an ultimate goal of “seeing things as they really are.” It’s a nice practice for beginners, because it has a physical focal point, which serves as a useful tool for new meditators.
Originating from Japan, Zazen meditation is often referred to as Zen Meditation, and evokes beautiful images of Tibetan monks in saffron robes. Practitioners assume an upright, seated posture, holding a mudra (a special position) with the hands, and breathe deeply into the belly while counting breaths (in=one, out=two, etc. - up to ten, then start again).
TM is a trademarked form of meditation in which you repeat a mantra assigned to you by a certified TM teacher. Many people swear by TM, but you should know that it’s a paid program, and requires 20 minutes twice a day, so it’s a bigger investment of time and money than some other options.
This is a great option if you’ve tried self-guided meditation and found it fruitless. It does require you to listen to someone else’s voice, so there’s always the chance that you won’t vibe with the style or voice of your guide.
This is a delicious way to fall asleep at night. Lying down, you can start by consciously relaxing your toes, then your feet, then your ankles… all the way up to the crown of your head and down to your fingertips. Good luck staying awake till the end.
Similarly sleep-inducing, yoga nidra is a guided, pre-sleep meditation. You can find a thousand options on Spotify or any meditation app. It’s great for taking your mind off a busy day and transitioning into sleep, and you can keep headphones near the bed in case you wake at 3am with monkey brain.
This is the broadest, most beginner-friendly form of meditation, which is why I’m choosing it to help me get over my meditation hurdle! Mindfulness meditation is practiced by sitting in a quiet, comfortable position and bringing awareness to the breath. It sounds absurdly simple, and I'm hoping one day it will feel that way!
Do I Need an App?
Need? Definitely not. Some people love apps like Headspace or Calm to help get them into the practice; they’re great tools for beginners and regular practitioners alike. I am choosing not to use an app this month for my daily practice, because I’m working to cultivate an ability to meditate anywhere, and get comfortable guiding myself to a sense of calm. I also want to have as little contact with my phone as possible when I meditate, but you should pick what works best for you!
Essential Oils for Meditation
Again, these are not necessary by any means, but can help set a meditative mood and help you begin a practice. My favorite essential oils for meditation are these: frankincense, vetiver, sandalwood, atlas cedar, palo santo, clary sage, and lavender. Use a single oil or a blend of 2-3 oils in a diffuser, or inhale a few drops on a tissue with your first few breaths.
Osmia Products for Meditation
If you don’t have essential oils at home, but you are an Osmia lover, you can use a bit of Sandalwood or Lavender Body Mousse on your hands and chest to facilitate meditation, or do the same with Night or Water Body Oil. A few deep breaths from cupped hands is a beautiful way to begin your session.
Where to Begin
Start with me, in the month of June! Some people might have called this the June Meditation Challenge, but I find meditation challenging enough as it is! I’m considering this post an invitation to meditate with me for the month - we’ll motivate each other to stick with it for 30 days to see if it has an effect.
I’m starting today, June 1, with a five minute session. I’ve posted some initial instructions and a five minute meditation on our IGTV channel, in case you feel like you want some company. I won’t be talking or guiding the meditation, just sitting quietly for the duration, and I’ll let you know when we’re done. I’ll post a video for each week as we increase our time, and we’ll use the hashtag #osmiameditation to share posts or stories for the month. I’ll also do a live session each week about meditation to share my experience, and to chat about any questions that are coming up for you, since I might be working through similar questions myself!
A few pieces of wisdom have come up repeatedly in my research, and I’m taking them to heart before I set sail on this month of meditation. As you learn to sit, you will hear sounds, have thoughts, experience physical sensations like a nose itch or a need to cough. None of those things need to ruin your meditation - just come back to the breathing. Feel your abdomen expand gently as you inhale, and enjoy the sensation of letting your exhale linger on the way out of your chest. If you have monkey mind, or a surge of emotion, notice it as an observer and come back to your breath. It will not feel easy or totally natural at first. You’ll feel like you’re faking it. But there’s no faking - only practice. And practice makes progress.
We’ve included an optional worksheet for you, so you can keep track of the days you’ve meditated and any notes, like what felt different after the session or what was challenging for you. If you’re inspired to share your experience on Instagram, tag us (@osmiaorganics) and use the hashtag #osmiameditation so we can follow along with you! As always, I’ll be available for your questions or observations on the ‘Gram.
Drag the above worksheet to your desktop, print, and celebrate your progress!
I’m really looking forward to this experiment, and I hope you are, too. Meditation doesn’t have to be a big, scary monster lurking in the corner. It doesn’t have to take an hour or transport you to nirvana that you need to tell everyone about at the coffee shop later that day. It doesn’t have to involve full lotus and a saffron robe (but how cool would it be to experience THAT one day?). All you need is a place to sit, a few precious minutes of your time, and a commitment to explore whether meditation, in one form or another, should be part of your life.
I’m game - are you??
With love and a half-lotus from us to you,