“Hey Ollin, could you give me some tips on how to meditate?”
For more than three years on this blog I have talked about the benefits of a meditation.
I believe meditation is not just good for overall health but also really great for writers as it relaxes our mind and opens us up to more and more creativity.
Over the years I’ve included meditation tips inside many of my blog posts, but today, for the first time, I would like to dedicate an entire post just to meditation.
(For easy reading and digestion, I’ve structured this meditation guide in a easy-to-read question and answer format.)
A Beginning Meditation Guide for Writers
“What is meditation?”
First of all, in order to define meditation, I have to explain that meditating is not a verb–it is a noun. It is a “being,” not a “doing.” In fact, meditation is the absence of any verb: there should be no effort involved.
Meditation is about you going back into the natural flow of things. It’s about you stopping to breathe and looking around you.
When you are not mediating, often, it’s like you’re stuck inside a hole and you can’t really see what’s going on around you.
You’re kinda like in “zombie mode.” (A mode, which, unfortunately, most people are in nowadays).
But if you’ve always been in “zombie mode,” then it’s hard to understand what it would be like not to be in zombie mode. (After all, you don’t know any other kind of human experience).
So, explaining meditation to someone who has never truly meditated is literally like me trying to explain to a zombie what it’s like to be a human: the zombie wouldn’t have the first clue what I was talking about, and probably would care less about wanting to know. (He’s probably more interested in trying to eat my brains for lunch.)
What I am trying to say, in so many words, is you have to meditate in order to understand what it truly means to meditate.
Which leads us to your next question…
“How do I meditate?”
There are many different kinds of meditation: sitting, walking, eating, and lying down. (Some even call sleep a type of meditation.)
I would recommend trying them all and seeing which one works best for you.
You do not have to engage in a type of meditation that you hate doing. Meditation should always be a relaxing and positive experience for you. If it isn’t, you’re probably doing something wrong. (Discomfort with meditation is okay, but unbridled hatred for meditation is not.)
If you want to try an easy, simple meditation, you can try paying attention to your breath as it goes in and out of your lungs for about fifteen minutes or so. If your mind gets distracted, that’s okay. You didn’t fail. This is just part of the process.
Just gently bring your mind back to your breath and try it again.
“Yeah, Ollin, I’ve tried that before. I can’t do it. I just get bored and then I give up on meditation for months and years. Which leads me to the next question I want to ask you…”
“Why do I royally suck at meditation?”
Chances are you don’t suck at meditation: you are just being really hard on yourself and expecting way too much of meditation too quickly.
Most people suck at meditation at first. I did. It took me years–years–to establish a regular meditation practice.
For the longest time I tried the traditional sitting meditation posture and I absolutely hated it. I thought that that was meditation, and if I wasn’t good at that kind of meditation, then I just wasn’t good at meditation in general.
But then I discovered walking meditation, and simple breathing meditation, and body-scan meditation and I started to fall in love with meditation and it started to really work out for me.
I was also very diligent: I kept trying and trying meditation and didn’t give up.
For the longest time I didn’t see any clear results. It was only after several months of a consistent meditation practice that I started seeing huge changes in my lifestyle and in my writing.
After months of regular, daily meditation I was a lot more calm, more anchored, more peaceful, more clear about what I wanted from life–and I was also a lot more creative:
Whenever I didn’t know what to write, I would go for a walk in the park and meditate. Then, I would come back fifteen minutes later totally re-energized and knowing exactly what I wanted to write that day.
Meditation works wonders for writers, and if you are a writer who struggles to find new ideas, or struggles to move forward in their writing, then I highly recommend a regular meditation practice. You will not regret it: it is a life-changer.
“How do I know if meditation is working for me?”
You will start to feel a lot more calm, more centered, more anchored, and more relaxed. Your creativity will improve as well. New ideas will flow into your mind a lot more easily. (You will rarely run out of ideas. In fact, you will have so many ideas that you will find it hard to keep track of them all.)
Also, decisions that were once difficult for you, such as knowing which novel to work on first, or whether or not to try your hand in fiction or non fiction, or whether or not to publish traditionally or self-publish–all these types of decisions will become easier for you to make because you will be much more clear about what it is YOU really want to do.
This is because, when you meditate regularly, you are entering into the natural flow of life–you are no longer exerting any effort to be you, you are just being you, and when you are you, you are so much better at knowing what it is you truly want from life.
(Woah. That was a lot of “you’s.” Anyways, moving on…)
“How long and how often should I meditate?”
To start off, I recommend meditating, at the very least, 15 minutes a day.
Start off with a simple breathing meditation: just pay attention to your breath for about 15 minutes. (After a while, you can try other types of meditation to see which one best suits you, but, for right now, let’s keep it simple.)
It is better to meditate in the morning, but since you are just starting, make it really easy for yourself: just ask yourself to fit in meditation whenever you can.
After several months, if you feel you are ready, whenever possible, try extending the meditation time to 30 minutes, then an hour, then two hours. Then several hours.
The longer you meditate, the deeper your meditation will be and the better results you will get from it.
(Note: this gradual extension of your meditation time is only to improve your endurance. After awhile, you can return to a 15-minute-a-day schedule if you wish, and only return to longer meditation times when you feel like you need it.)
After several months of this type of meditation, and if you feel ready, I would suggest trying different kinds of meditation to see which ones you like best. Try listening to audio tapes and read books on meditation to help you become better at the different types of meditation.
“Do you recommend any books on meditation?”
(Note: Zinn’s book is an entire book on meditation [it’s actually an entire course on mindfulness] and the other two books have really great meditation exercise in them, but are not entirely dedicated to meditation. Still, they are all are great books to read.)
Full Catastrophe Living by Dr. John Kabat-Zinn
Minding The Body, Mending The Mind Dr. Joan Borysenko
The Heart of The Buddha’s Teaching, and Buddha Mind, Buddha Mind–both are books by Thich Nhat Hanh
I hope that helped, and if you have any other questions about meditation, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments below!
Today’s Courage Exercise
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