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How to meditate

Meditation is a big part of Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry. We facilitate a meditation every week in our fall semesters and for some students it’s their first time to try this practice. There are lots of different ways to practice meditation and the best way is the way that works for each person. 

I’ve had a meditation practice for almost 15 years. It’s become part of my daily routine like showering or brushing my teeth. There are some days I just don’t feel like it so I skip. There’s days when I don’t feel like it and I do it anyway. I do different types of meditation practices depending on my mood, circumstances, and how my body is feeling. Even though I have practiced meditation for a while, I still don’t consider myself all that great at it. It’s a practice. 

When I first started meditation I was doing a form of Centering Prayer that I had learned at my church. I noticed that my anxiety had less control over me and I was hooked. I went to a few retreats and started looking at other forms of meditation that were helpful for people. I also started doing research to find a scientific explanation for why I was feeling better and able to manage my anxiety better. My research found that people who meditated were able to manage pain, anxiety, and fear better. People who meditated also had better health were less likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease. 

This is great, but who has the time? How often during the day are you thinking about something else instead of what you’re doing? When you’re in the shower are you fully present while you’re washing your hair? Sometimes when I’m in the shower and my thoughts are racing about the day, I remind myself that I am showering. When I’m driving in traffic, I ask myself if I’m fully present where I am or am I thinking about being late, am I worried about the notification light that just lit up on my dashboard, or am I breathing in and out deeply and enjoying the moment to just sit? Sitting in Austin traffic will test your ability to stay present for sure. 

There are times when I can just nudge myself and ask if I’m fully present and there are times when I’m stressed and anxious that I know it will take at least 10 minutes just to get my body to a place where it will actually breathe deeply. But it’s practice. Some people like to compare meditation to working out and I think that’s a great comparison. One of my favorite meditations is for growing compassion for self and others. It’s a visualization that works to slow your breathing, scan your body, and visualize providing compassion for yourself and others. 

Another way that I meditate is by checking in with my thoughts. I’ll grab a poem, lyrics, or psalm and I’ll read through it three times. Go ahead and grab a poem and a timer and try now. One of my favorites is Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.”  The first time you read through, read it for content. What’s this poem talking about? The second time you read through, try to find a word or phrase that is calling out to you. The third time you read through, try to think about why that word or phrase stuck out to you. How does it relate to your current life? What does that make you feel? Set your timer for 7 to 10 minutes. As you sit comfortably and quietly with how you feel, you might find yourself drifting to other thoughts. Go ahead and use the phrase that stuck out to you as a gentle way to bring yourself back to being present with your breath and meditation. 

1. Read through for content. What is this about?

2. What word or phrase is catching your attention?

3. How does that word or phrase relate to your current life or situation?

Sit with that word or phrase for 7 to 10 minutes. 

Want to learn more about meditation?  Join us this fall for our weekly meditation. Check out our schedule for upcoming times. We look forward to having you join us!