“I’m not a good meditator, I can’t stop my thoughts”
“I’m not a good breather”
I can’t count the times I have heard these sentiments expressed, but every time I hear them, they break my heart a little bit. Truth be told, I am guilty of having said the second statement myself. I said it during my first year of graduate school, in my mid-twenties, during a time that I was encountering multiple new worlds: yoga, meditation, fully embodied presence and clear and effective feelings-focused communication which I had never before encountered. I was overwhelmed and awed by this paradigm shift and in my new understanding of what was possible.
I was also extremely self-critical. I had come to associate the relentlessly analytical judge in my mind who let me know when I had said or done the wrong thing with my true self. (I later realized this judge was an impostor!)
I know now that I am a natural-born breather. I know that my breath will sometimes be fast and labored, particularly during times of heightened stress. I also know my breath can be slow and steady. It can calm and soothe me when I harness its power to affect my parasympathetic nervous system. I also know that my breath can be used as a tool to anchor me in the present moment, so that I can be fully aware and come back to the now when my mind begins to wander or I get lost in my own thoughts.
As a part of my work as a licensed professional counselor, I often introduce clients to meditation and breathing exercises, and I often hear these “I’m bad at it” concerns expressed. Dispelling the myths about what mediation is and is not is often the first step in that process. Above is a short video by Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg that breaks down some of those myths and includes a few minutes of guided meditation so that you can learn and practice on your own. Below is another, longer guided meditation by meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.