Remember how I wanted to learn how to meditate? I’m still working on that. It’s not easy, especially since I’m kind of tightly-wound. As part of my attempts, the folks at Seattle Insight Meditation kindly let me drop in on their Introduction to Meditation class last night to give it a try. The class gave me a lot to think about–mostly about mindfulness and being present–but for a true beginner (like me), there were a few things that might have been helpful to have in mind before going in.
Now, to be fair, this is the first and only meditation class I’ve ever actually attended. But in preparation, I scoped out a lot of others, both locally and otherwise. So, while these tips may not apply to every single class in every single community center or temple, they seem to be pretty widely applicable.
As always, feel free to correct me, add on, or offer suggestions in the comments.
You may have to remove your shoes
So if you’re not a person who is very into the idea of bare feet (plenty of people aren’t), make sure you’re wearing socks. I was not, because it was warm out. And while this shouldn’t get in the way of your meditation, if this is your first class, it can definitely be distracting.
Meditation is for everyone
I’m not a very religious person, so I was a little concerned about what the content would be, and if it was even really right for me. And while meditation is practiced in combination with religion frequently, it’s not a requirement. Plenty of non-denominational people meditate, too. As the teacher of my class said, “We want you to stay exactly what you are.”
Which means whether you’re religious or not, meditation is still beneficial. My teacher also said that if a meditation teacher ever begins to enforce or teach religious or spiritual ideas that you’re uncomfortable with that leaving was totally OK.
Meditation shouldn’t make you feel like you’re in the wrong for the way you feel or believe, one way or the other. However…
You may feel a little uncomfortable at first
One of the first things we did was to simply figure out how to sit right, and then practice sitting and breathing for five minutes. Which sounds like about the easiest thing on the planet, but is actually pretty tough. It made me feel decidedly twitchy and anxious. But, because I was there to meditate, I did what the teacher said and just breathed through it. By the end, I felt a sense of relief–because really, all I had to do was sit and focus on my breathing, which felt very relaxing and low-pressure.
…So dress comfortably
I was wearing a not-great pair of jeans. Some yoga pants or even better-fitting jeans might have helped, because I would have been less distracted. Really, eliminating distraction is the name of the game when you’re first starting.