Meditation is said to relieve stress, improve concentration, increase happiness and even slow aging! Sign me up, I thought, happily. It's the elixir I've been searching for.
Then I got myself settled – hands resting gently in lap – and I started to fret. Am I breathing properly? Eyes open or shut? Why can't I turn my brain off? Geez, what will I have for lunch? Clearly, before I'd started, I'd already blown my mindfulness to bits.
I felt like a failure, but Emily Thring, owner of Toronto's The Quiet Company, says it's normal to feel pressure (and distracted) when you first start. "Meditation is something you learn how to do, like riding a bike," says Thring, who was in marketing and communications before forging a career in wellness in 2013. "There is no right or wrong way. Just cut yourself some slack."
Talk to friends. Get some input on how they began meditating. (I started with Headspace.com – at a friend's suggestion – and found it user-friendly and laid back. It took my edge off.) Above all, experiment until you find a practice that works for you.
"I love group meditation because it's communal," Thring says. "It feels like we're all kind of in it together."
Meditation comes in many forms. There is walking (kinhin), sitting (zazen), mantra, guided or sound techniques and more. The key is to chill – then choose what works best for you.
"I had coffee with someone last week who said she meditates in her car after she drops her kids off at school because it's the only time she can fit it in," Thring laughs. "I sometimes mindfully wash the dishes – feeling the weight of the item I'm washing, the warmth of the water, the smell of the soap…
"That's what meditation is all about. Being in that moment, and not getting swept up in the story of the day in your mind."