Last Monday, we talked about some of the benefits of meditation for chronic pain. Today, let's take a look at ways to start a meditation practice.
First off, let's talk about what meditation doesn't have to involve:
- Sitting on a pillow on the floor
- Crossing your legs
- Being 110% silent
- Staying still
- Closing your eyes
- Certain hand movements
What does meditation involve?
- Being mindful
- Allowing thoughts to arise
- Being non-judgmental to yourself
- Rest and relaxation
- Personal insight
The most important thing in meditation is to have compassion for yourself. It can bring feelings and thoughts up that we don't often experience - or, rather, let ourselves experience. In meditations that ask us to focus on the breath, for example, it can be easy to think about how we aren't doing well if our attention drifts elsewhere.
Self-compassion is at the heart of meditation.
Getting comfortable is probably the second-most-important key to meditation. If you're uncomfortable positionally, it's difficult to focus. That said, meditation with chronic pain is totally a go, though it can be a little difficult with higher pain levels.
There is no right way to meditate, from using guided meditations like those on apps to sending compassion to others to focusing on rough events and more. Some things can help, though, like aiming for meditating at the same time each day. Meditation before sleep can be quite helpful, provided you choose a meditation that doesn't wake you up too much. Some people feel like mantras or chants help, but these are also not required for meditation.
You do want to try to aim for a quiet place free of most distractions. You also want to make sure you're not too full because you might fall asleep - though, that's totally cool, too. Conversely, meditation when you're hungry isn't a great idea for focus, either.
When you're first starting meditation, using apps can be incredibly helpful. I've talked a lot about much I enjoy Buddhify because of how helpful their guided meditations are so helpful. They are one of the best apps out there. Other apps include Headspace, Calm, and Stop, Breathe & Think. These are all available for Android and Apple products, which is awesome!
If apps aren't your thing, get in a comfy, quiet place. If you want to achieve anything - specifically, to think of anything in particular - think of this just before meditating. For this first time, since it may be difficult, it's helpful to set a timer. Just make sure it's not a super alarming noise. Choosing a screamo song as the alarm to come out of meditation may ruin the mood.
Take some deep breaths and focus on those breaths. Count them in a way that's comfortable for you - out loud or in your head. You can count the ins and outs or just the full cycle of breathing as one.
You will naturally think of things during this time. Don't fret! Simply recognize your thought and let it pass, then begin to count your breath again. Feel free to move as your body requires. As we talked about last week, walking meditation is also super common.
When your timer goes off, address it. It is helpful if you use a timer on your phone that you can easily silence without moving too much.
Focus on your breath again and slowly come back to the world. If you are sitting or in bed, make sure that you get up slowly. Like a visit to a masseuse or a physical therapist, this time can be rejuvenating so take it slow.
It can be helpful to keep a journal or diary about your meditation. Think about how you felt this time went. Would you do something different? How are you feeling now? Did it help you to feel rejuvenated? Did it help with your pain?
Again, I definitely suggest Buddhify. They have a great section on pain and illness that help us to deal with the stories that we create about our pain, our self-esteem issues related to pain, and similar issues. It has completely helped me to change how I address and see my pain.
Did you try meditation as a result of this post? How did it go?