Meditation has been a lifesaver for me, and has already radically re-wired the way I respond to stimulus. I am by no means an ‘expert’, if there is even such a thing; I’ve been meditating daily for only 8 months or so, and already feel the changes in me. Detach from the idea of meditation as only something that ‘spiritual’ people do. Where a transcendent, placid monk, or yogi is basically one OM away from enlightenment, sits atop a mountain and chills out. You don’t have to subscribe to any religion or belief to reap its benefits.
All you need is a desire, and willingness, to sit. And be with yourself.
Why be with yourself? A very practical reason. Meditation is important for highly sensitive people because it allows you to learn how to detach from your thoughts and any overwhelming feelings that arise. This stops us from feeling like we are being dragged around by what we think and feel – both of which we engage in very much. As HSPs/HSS/Empaths, we perceive and process more than the average person. All of this, we receive as stimulus. And because we feel these thoughts and feelings so keenly in our bodies, they loom so large in our minds, we tend to identify with them more. Which is why we take things harder, take longer to ‘get over’ something and possibly hang on to things longer than others. The role of meditation is to help us to detach and allow these sensations to drop away from us, to let go, to move on, to stop associating with things that hurt us or bring us down. We free ourselves. All with the power of our mind, and it costs absolutely nothing.
The basic premise is this: You are not your thoughts or feelings.
Here’s what I’ve found to be useful when it comes to starting a meditation practice, or even trying it out for the very first time:
- There is no perfect experience. Don’t expect your thoughts and feelings to magically go away. Some days I sit down, and I’m like, wow I am SO ZEN RIGHT NOW… So at peace. Like a lake. Then my ego starts coming in, and I feel so good about myself… And bam, thoughts come flooding in. Conversely, there are days when I can barely keep myself from leaping up from my seat, my mind is so full of drama. Our minds are like the weather. It changes from day to day. Allow whatever to arise, and don’t judge it. It still counts. You are meditating.
- The trick is not to develop the storyline. For example, a thought comes up. Inner monologue: John said that to me yesterday. *Frown* What did he mean by that? Is it because…. And at whichever point of this monologue, you manage to catch that train of thought, gently stop it in its tracks, and bring your awareness back to your breath, that is good. No, that is great. The observer in you, the one who managed to catch yourself? That’s your higher self. That is who you come back to. That is your wise, inner guru. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to catch yourself, as long as you do. If you can catch yourself 1 second quicker than you did yesterday, congratulations. You have strengthened your inner guru. And you are still meditating.
- Try not to label your experience. Having a clear and empty mind is not good. Having incessant brain noise is not bad. They just ARE. Both are just simply experiences. Not labelling your experience helps you to not judge yourself, for not ‘being able’ to meditate that day, or set expectations for yourself that you forever benchmark yourself against. It is that one experience in your day where you are allowed to simply BE. Literally, the goal of it is to sit with whatever arises.
- Start with just one minute. The very first time I meditated, I found Martin Boroson’s ‘One Moment Meditation‘ video to be very useful. That was a few years ago, when I was so overstimulated (and didn’t know it), so restless that the thought of being absolutely still for even a minute seemed daunting and impossible. That one minute seemed like the longest one of my life. But he broke it down and made it so infinitely doable, gently guiding you to a place where you can start without resistance, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to get into it but just feels like they absolutely cannot. Do it just once, you’ll realize, oh! Yes I can. I can meditate! And that’s enough to get you started.
- You will start feeling so, so good, very, very quickly. I don’t really have any kind of guiding philosophy for it, but I’ve now worked my way up to 15 minutes a day because it feels good. I discovered how good it really feels in the moments when I feel my anger rising, and I’ve been able to catch myself, and stop myself from saying destructive things, or to temper my tone. I’ve felt good when I can walk away from a poisonous thought pattern that only served to bring me down in the past. It feels so good when I can say to myself: I do not believe you to a thought… And that thought just gets weaker and weaker over time. That tiny little gap of reprieve that the practice of meditation offers you is really everything – in that gap, your world expands, and your choice is no longer limited to programmed reactions – you can now respond. You can now choose. That is freedom.
- Get into a habit. I literally sit up in bed and start meditating, first thing. Make it something non-negotiable, and reduce the friction of doing it, by making it the very first thing you do in the morning. Program it into your routine, so that you don’t even have to think about doing it. You just do.
Meditation (and being in nature) is the thing I suggest to literally everyone who comes to me for any kind of advice. Knowing your own mind truly is important inner work. Hopefully this has been helpful in some way! I know that apps like Headspace have been helpful for others, along with many other tools and resources out there. Experiment and see what works. I’ve just kept it as no-frills and simple as possible. It’s that one uncomplicated thing that kickstarts my day.
Do you meditate? How did you get into it? Share your tips below!