Meditation/mindfulness: Everyone has to start somewhere; let’s explore together

Authored By chloe.morrison

When I started this column more than a year ago, I wanted to explore mindfulness and meditation, and educate both myself and others about the practices. 

I’ve covered everything from the science behind the practices to whether there’s a conflict between mindfulness/meditation and Christianity. 

I’ve gotten a little silly with my pop culture editions, in which I examine movies and music to find out where mindfulness ideas stuck out. And I even have an entire column dedicated to Ron Swanson of “Parks and Rec,” whom I find to be a very self-aware fellow. 

I’ve written about how sometimes we let our practice slip and about how it can feel impossible to get out of a funk, even with all the meditation in the world. 

I’ve interviewed some of the most interesting people, from national journalist Dan Harris to director/ producer Larry Kasanoff, who is best-known for his films “True Lies” and “Mortal Kombat,” but who also has an amazing documentary about mindfulness.

I felt in awe just to email with Lama Tsomo, and local experts such as Yong Oh, Betsy Alderman and Stacey Castor have made me feel immense warmth and fondness while learning from them. 

My hope was that-because I was a novice when I started writing and because I’m still on the journey to deepen my practice-my column would be relatable and inspire others to engage their curiosity on the topic.

And that’s happened. I’ve gotten emails and inquiries from both friends and strangers who want to know more. 

And it made me think: Everyone has to start somewhere with their practice, but it can be overwhelming and intimidating to even know where to start. 

Negative side effects?

Reading what Ferguson wrote about her newfound love for meditation and thinking about Hays’ comment that you rarely read anything negative about the practice made me wonder. 

While writing, I noticed myself feeling a glow of satisfaction and pleasure. I too have fallen in love with mindfulness and meditation, but the reality is that it isn’t always all peaceful breathing and lovingkindness. 

I’ve noted several times that it’s not a cure-all, and as The Washington Post points out, there can be uncomfortable side effects. 

More on this soon. 

A friend, former student and contributor Meg Ferguson reached out to me most recently with questions about meditation. 

Her first message to me was: “I am starting meditation and I think I recall you meditate. Do you use a word to repeat over and over when meditating or just focus on breathing (or both)? Is either way wrong?”

My answer was that neither is wrong. 

Her message made me think to reach back out to an acquaintance who had also inquired about my practice.

I wanted to know what was motivating their interest in mindfulness/meditation. So I corresponded with them both a bit about what is drawing them to the practice or just the idea of meditation, and here’s what I found. 

Ellen Hays has been hearing about meditation since the ’60s, but she’s only become interested in the past few years, she said. 

She hasn’t actually started practicing yet, but she’s interested in it because of hopes it could help make her “calmer and more serene.”

She wants to see if it will improve her overall health. She wants to see if it can make her more content, and whether it can help her deal with stress. 

She bought a book and listened to a few tapes but hasn’t done anything consistently, she said. 

“Everything I’ve read and heard about it is positive,” she said via email. “It is rare that you find something with no negative impact whatsoever. I’m sure once I start I’ll be committed. But, as for most of us, the sitting still long enough is the challenge.”

Amen, sister. Sitting still long enough can be a challenge.

And that’s why I started with group practices. Because I knew I couldn’t go to the Center for Mindful Living, take a class and then flake in the middle. 

Once I got used to the meditation practice, it became easier for me to do it alone or with an app. 

Ferguson started the practice on her own after realizing the benefits she felt from yoga. 

“I grew an endearing attachment to the feeling of the day slowly melting away from my mind as I moved from pose to pose during class,” she said via email. “All that matters is the present when I begin my practice. Thoughts of the past and future that linger in my mind during the day dissipate when I grow an awareness of my breath.”

She continued: “When I noticed the positive mental and physical benefits these classes were having on me, my attention was drawn to the students who remained at the ending of class. After the session was complete, the room was kept quiet when students left with a respectful silence for those who opted to remain to meditate. My curiosity piqued.”

Since then, Ferguson has started a regular practice.

She started reading “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar” for more insight.

Ferguson is also attracted to many of the facets about meditation that I love-things like there’s no universal correct or incorrect way to do it, and the idea of being kind and compassionate with yourself. 

“Meditation has created an accountability to be kind to myself,” she said. “The kinder I am to myself, the more I find myself being kind, open-minded and open-hearted to others.”

These two conversations made me want to hear more from readers. 

Whether you have never practiced but would like to, whether you’ve been practicing for years or even if you think it’s all folly-maybe especially if you think it’s all foolishness-I’d love to know. 

I want to know what positive benefits you’ve seen and whether you’ve experienced negative effects. (I have, but the pros outweigh the cons for me.)

I’d be happy to share my own experiences or answer questions. If I don’t know the answers, that opens a great opportunity for more research and exploration.

I’d welcome the chance to join a new meditation session or talk over coffee or tea.

There are many variations of mindfulness/meditation, and each person’s experiences will be different.

So let me hear yours.

You can email me at Chloe.Morrison, or text or call 423-304-9693.

Let’s explore together. 

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.