I know it can be challenging to develop new habits and health practices, but if you are curious about how meditation can benefit you, I'm here to encourage you to go ahead and check it out! It's more accessible than ever, and doesn't require a huge time commitment.
Let's talk about what mindfulness and meditation have to do with your mental health.
A lot! Our brains are neurologically prone to engaging in processes that can cause or exacerbate suffering, and the regular practice of mindfulness and meditation can mediate these effects so that we grow wiser and more peaceful over time.
Meditation can help you...
While meditation can improve our sense of wellbeing, a big part of this is, paradoxically, the process of learning to better tolerate the painful emotions we all experience as human beings - without adding more suffering. The goal is to learn to be in more touch with and accepting of whatever it is we are experiencing, in order to cultivate more presence, purpose, and resilience in our lives. Research has shown that a regular meditation practice literally changes the structure of the brain in beneficial ways. Here are some tips for getting started.
5 Great Ways to Start Your Meditation Practice
Even 5 minutes of dedicated mindfulness and meditation practice per day will initiate a mental shift. There are a number of ways to start exploring meditation and to develop a practice:
1. Teach yourself with the support of websites or books
-For example, see the Wild Mind website for a beginner guide that discusses everything from posture to walking meditation to specific meditation practices.
-Explore the wealth of books available on this topic, such as The Mindful Way Through Depression by Williams et al.
2. Use smartphone apps to learn about meditation and mindfulness, and follow guided programs
-There are many useful meditation apps out there. One of my favorites is the Calm app. Calm offers education and a variety of guided meditation programs based on your needs. For busy folks, the programs only demand a brief daily time commitment, so t's easy to fit them into your life.
-Headspace is also worth checking out. Or, spend some time on the app store and find one that speaks to you.
3. Use a meditation timer (an app or a physical timer) and commit yourself to sitting quietly for 5 or more more minutes per day
-My choice is the free Insight Timer app with its many customizable options and settings. It also has a cool community feature that I find surprisingly pleasing and reinforcing: you can check out how many other Insight Timer users around the world are meditating at the same time you are.
4. Sit with other meditators and receive instruction at a meditation center
Three wonderful meditation resources I recommend in the San Francisco Bay Area are:
-The San Francisco Buddhist Center in the Mission District. This center is a quiet retreat where you can go for group practice, meditation courses, retreats, and online courses.
-The Mindfulness Care Center. This is another peaceful San Francisco retreat where you can experience group meditation and guided practice.
-Rick Hanson's Wednesday meditation group at Dominican University in San Rafael. Dr. Hanson is an established author and a wonderful speaker with a Buddhist approach. Free or by optional donation.
I highly recommend group meditation, which offers many benefits different from sitting solo. Despite the silent and introspective nature of the practice, you might be surprised how meaningful and cozy it can feel to share this experience with a community of other meditators. Also, meditation centers often provide inspirational talks or prompts before and after the meditations, which can be very helpful and thought provoking.
5. Psychotherapy with a mindfulness-oriented therapist
Some psychotherapists have studied and practiced mindfulness and mediation, and offer this as components of the therapy work for clients who wish to do so. Contact me if you would like to learn about working with me and how we can explore meditation and mindfulness together.
Maysie Tift is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Master Hypnotist with offices in San Rafael, CA and San Francisco, CA.