This post was originally published as a guest piece for Constellation Marketing in July, 2021. It still rings true today and is perfect for anyone considering meditation for the new year.
I get all kinds of questions from lawyers who are interested in starting a meditation practice. It’s normal to have questions with anything new; and us lawyers love exploring things as concepts before we jump in with both feet. So, they ask me all the things: how often should I sit? How long for each session? What’s the best app? Do I need a cushion? What if I can’t clear my mind? What if I get fidgety? And on and on. I answer these questions with understanding because I once had them too, but I think the best way to answer them all is with 4 simple words:
- Just start.
- Start small.
There are a lot of ways to learn about meditation. At first, I learned the practice from books and podcasts. Those offer great tips and tools, but nothing changed in my life until I started meditating consistently. That’s because meditation is an experiential practice – you have to do it to understand it.
It’s sort of like civil procedure. Do you remember how hard it was to make sense of the civil rules in law school from just reading about them? I do, but I’m a litigator now and they make sense (at least most of the time) because I have used the rules when litigating real cases. In much the same way, you will not fully understand meditation until you do it for yourself. So just start.
Maybe it’s true that you don’t know how to do it “right” but if you start to sit, you’ll notice things about your mind, your body, and your life. Over time, you will learn what it is right for you because you’ll notice what you need more or less of to be a happier, healthier person. Besides, in the beginning, all you really need to do is build up some tolerance for sitting and doing nothing, develop some inner resources for handling adversity, and get acquainted with your mind.
Don’t worry about doing it wrong because, if you make meditation a lasting habit, you will 100% do things wrong or learn that aspects of your practice need to change. That’s not just okay and part of being human, it is the path you have to take to learn any new skill, including meditation.
If this sounds scary, remember that my next tip is to start small. And by this, I mean very small. If you can sit for 5 minutes right away, go for it. I started with 1 minute because it was all I could handle. My thoughts were copious and judgmental and doing nothing was not my forte. But I quickly discovered benefits from tolerating the awkwardness and added minutes until I eventually worked up to 30.
In other words, starting small doesn’t mean staying small. It’s just a foot in the doorway to a life with an active meditation practice. Once you get started and learn a few things, you can let your practice grow at a pace that works for you.
Starting small is not only less intimidating, it’s also practical. Small increments of time are easier to work into a busy calendar than big ones. In addition, short sessions are ones that you could conceivably do every day and that makes it much more likely that your experiment with meditation will become a habit. Moreover, since the early part of practice is about building skills, you are less likely to get disgusted with yourself and meditation if you give yourself some time to adjust.
I love talking and writing about meditation. I love answering questions for other lawyers who want to learn how to bring mindfulness into their lives. But what I hope you get from this is that you don’t have to know everything (or honestly much of anything) about meditation to benefit from it. Instead, what you really need is curiosity, a little bit of courage, some self-compassion, and an open mind. If you invoke those traits as you begin your practice, you will be able to answer questions about meditation and so much more for yourself.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, which is available on Amazon.
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