4 Simple Words to Help You Start a Meditation Practice

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:

  1. Just start.
  2. 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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Can You Be Enough and Still Want More? Celebrating 100 Posts and 2 Years

I have been watching the clock today because I know I am supposed to write a blog post to be published tomorrow. It’s my 100th blog post and tomorrow (December 27th) is the second anniversary of the founding of the blog. You’d think the words would flow like the bubbles from a bottle of champagne, but they haven’t. After publishing my first book this November, I think I am a bit celebrated out. And, I have a work-related project that is occupying my mind.

As I was praying for an idea to come to me, one of my LinkedIn contacts did a post reminding the world in this season of goal setting and resolutions that we are all “enough.” It was a beautiful post with a message I endorse but I immediately thought “Rude! Not helpful.”

As I have written before, I am a self-doubter. On a normal day, I would have liked the post and said something encouraging. But on this day, when things were not going as I had planned, the post made my mind start to churn. “Wait,” it posited, “am I letting myself be enough by struggling to get this post written just because of some arbitrary numbers?” When I couldn’t answer the question immediately, it sensed weakness and roared “Were you letting yourself be enough when you started this blog?”

I bet you’re hoping that I refuted the voice with a bold assertion of my self-worth, but I didn’t. Instead, I did what I’ve learned to do when my mind is noodling away on a problem that seems unsolvable: I did nothing. That is to say, of course, that I meditated.

Over the years, I have learned that it is the best way to take care of myself because it lets the thoughts have space and bounce around until they settle down on their own. This may sound painful; at first it was. But experience has shown that it works. Have you ever had to get a knot out of a necklace? You don’t do it by pulling tighter on the knot. You do it gradually and gently by opening the knot up.

And when I sat with my mind in a jumble, it opened right up. Yes, the uncomfortable thoughts bounced around. Yes, my doubts danced before my eyes. But eventually they drifted away, and I was left with a few moments of clarity. In this lull, came the commonsense notion that being enough and pursuing goals aren’t antithetical at all. In my case, I didn’t start pursuing the goals that mattered just to me until I had realized after years of struggle that I was enough.

Though it takes effort and sometimes causes frustration, this blog isn’t an albatross of work for me. As I have written before, it’s fun, it lets me explore some silly and hilarious ideas, serves as self-care, and has helped me develop a community I never would have had without it. In addition, I didn’t start the blog to prove some point. Instead, I did it to celebrate getting certified to teach meditation and because I know my struggles with anxiety, overthinking and depression aren’t unique.

Beyond this, I don’t think there is anything that declares “I am enough” more than creating work of your own. Like a magician, you get to wave your wand and make something appear in the universe that wasn’t there before. Like a brazen, unruly woman, you get to boldly take up space on the internet and declare your truths to the world. And, like any parent who fiercely loves the beautiful, imperfect child they made, you beam with pride even as you share your story full of missteps, screw ups, fears, and misgivings.  

Of course, I have had to remind myself that “I am enough” by occasionally slowing down. I have republished or repurposed old content for weeks when I felt uninspired. I have learned tricks to create content quickly to just get the job done. I have learned to have faith that an idea would appear when I needed it. I looked to pop culture for inspiration to keep things lively. And, I even took a two-month hiatus from writing new posts when life changes and the creation of my book left no space for extra writing.

To my surprise, getting through those hard weeks didn’t make me feel less than. They inspired confidence and helped me reflect on the vast difference between progress and perfection. They reminded me that I am enough, not because everything comes easy to me, but instead because I don’t give up as soon as things get hard.

As we head into 2023, I hope that you are reflecting on the fact that you are enough. I hope you know that you don’t need to accomplish huge goals or amazing resolutions in the new year to be enough. But when you’ve got being enough down, I hope you celebrate it and share it with the world. I hope you let yourself thrive and take the weird paths your soul asks you to take. That’s what I have done these past two years. I’m so grateful I had enough faith in myself to do it and to all of you for celebrating it with me.

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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