Can you learn meditation from a book

Like an Elephant: How I Learned to Meditate

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Very few people are twelve years old when they do relaxation exercises for the first time. At that time I went to respiratory therapy and was supposed to learn how to behave in the event of an asthma attack. That was quickly ticked off. What else I would like to learn? Asked the therapist. Because of my sleep problems, we came up with relaxation techniques. She showed me how to tighten and relax each part of my body one by one, and it worked. On my own at home, I was able to achieve progressive muscle relaxation1 however do not overcome it. I continued to fall asleep poorly.

The next time I came across relaxation exercises, I was just under 20. I had discovered podcasts, especially instructions for body scanning2. I tried these out for a while and then lost sight of them again - until the pressure of suffering increased and I tried my luck again five years later. My Weltschmerz had brought me to the subject of high sensitivity and I now went regularly to group meetings that always began with meditation. In doing so, I came to rest. It feels good. So I made up my mind to meditate alone at home as well. I couldn't do it with astonishing constancy. Other things were always more important.

When at some point I knew more about habits, I tried a pinch of more commitment. I arranged to do an experiment with a friend: We wanted to go daily a Meditate for a minute and send us a message after the work is done. That should create the necessary pressure. At first we were euphoric, but after two weeks we had already stopped. It seemed pointless to us. That's why I wrote a little later in my book "Permit: Highly Sensitive":

Maybe I'm too much of a head person for this habit, because even before I lie down, I doubt the usefulness of a minute. However, I really don't feel like spending more time.

Somehow it shouldn't be. I kept reading books about how good meditation is and how to do it, but it didn't seem to work for me. My head cinema was too active, my everyday life too full, my inner weaker self too powerful. I guessed what was wrong and thought further:

But I haven't written off the topic yet. After all, there are more ways to establish the habit. Perhaps I should register for a course instead of trying my luck autodidactically.

Meditate (learn) out of peer pressure

When I was about 28 years old, I went to a three-month intensive group on the subject of demarcation. We meditated at these meetings as well. Meditation was also ours dailyHomework. For this we received a CD with audio instructions. It seemed old school to me at first. But it should be my breakthrough. Also because we should report back every week. Not meditating would have been noticed.

After the course was over, it got difficult because I didn't want to let the thread break. I scoured apps, podcasts, and YouTube for similarly good guides. Without a voice in my ear I would wander too much, lose interest and give up again. I ended up sticking with an app called Headspace3 hang. I liked the speaker's voice, the diverse courses and the teasing animations on a wide variety of topics. The app also counts how many days in a row you have meditated. And once you've got 10 days, you take things more seriously.

After the trial month I hesitated anyway: just under 60 euros per year? Would I still use the app after the initial euphoria? As I wrestled with myself, time passed. I was browsing through podcasts again with advertisements and less pleasant speakers. I had to fast forward, rewind, Search episodes, filter, memorize, save.

Then Christmas came and I got a Headspace subscription. That sealed it: I used the app every day from now on. The only time I had to tear it down was during my summer vacation on the Baltic Sea, because I didn't have a decent internet connection. You can also download the episodes, but I wasn't prepared for it and let it slide during this time. I was also demotivated that the number of persevered Days not updated anymore. After a few weeks, however, I recovered.

Apart from this interruption, I have been meditating daily for 20 months now. This may still seem short to professionals, but given the years of failure, I'm happy with it.

What meditation brings me

Meditation cannot work miracles, nor can it turn an uncomfortable character inside out. Therefore, I, a rather reserved head person, will not become a deeply relaxed laugh-and-live person. But I have become calmer and can stop the carousel of thoughts faster when it becomes independent.

I also manage to wake up from my autopilot mode more often and notice what is bothering me. As a result, my partner and I have fewer proxy discussions - these arguments about socks that have been left behind, being late or eating cold because someone comes home too late. The actual The problem is always somewhere else. Sometimes the real cause is physical, namely being tired or hungry.

In this respect, too, I now notice better how I am. As if you had recalibrated the temperature sensors on a car and wiped away the dirt in front of the parking sensors. I perceive everything more clearly. With the body scan, at best, nothing hurts and everything feels fluffy. You have to notice that first! Anyone who knows it differently, because he or she constantly has headaches or a bloated stomach, appreciates when everything is good.

And falling asleep? This works better because of several rituals: I end the day with a meditation in bed and then listen to either the fall asleep podcast or sleep music from the Headspace app. 90 percent of the time I fell asleep after 30 minutes, which is a very good rate for me.

What I've learned about meditation in the meantime

Anyone who has been reading this for a long time knows that I don't believe in advice (anymore). I don't want to convert or convince anyone, especially not when it comes to meditation. Because if at some point you manage to meditate regularly, then you do it primarily for yourself. You can't advise anyone and you don't want to impress anyone. Rather, I want to show that the entry can still work even after years of unsuccessful attempts.

It took me a while to understand that there is no right or wrong. It's not about doing particularly well. Meditation is as individual as most things in life; That is, we have different preferences and approaches. What works for one person doesn't have to work for another.

Common clichés can therefore be thrown overboard. In my dream, for example, I sat cross-legged in silence for half an hour every day with a slight smile on my face as a matter of course. That made me balanced in my fiction and wonderful to bear for everyone around me. The disadvantage of such pictures is: they make us believe that only that correct is. For this reason I did not choose a cross-legged photo as an article image, because such clichés create pressure and block the view of a more realistic path: e.g. B. to start with five minutes lying down and instructions.

In my wishful thinking, I also longed to stop thinking. I thought there would be silence at some point. However, this is unrealistic, because meditation does not mean that there are no more thoughts. Rather, you try to let it flow by. You want noticethat you think - and then come back to your breath or your body.

I had to drill the board where it was thinnest. In other words, I made myself as comfortable as possible - both literally and figuratively. For example, I can meditate best while lying down. So I meditate lying down. When critics think you do must meditate while sitting, otherwise it is not a correct Meditate, then I'll stick with it anyway because it works better for me.

In the beginning I also chose a comfortable time, namely before breakfast, because my willpower is still fresh in the morning. Now I can risk an evening appointment because the habit is no longer an issue. Like brushing your teeth.

I also make it easy for myself with the help of audio instructions. This means I don't have to make decisions, I don't have to fight digressing alone and I get new input on a regular basis. Some people prefer to meditate without instructions and find it more convenient because they then don't need an app, headphones, etc.

Either way: it's about it every day to do. Headspace spokesman and founder Andy says:

It's about showing up every day and sit.

Even when you are under stress. Even if the guinea pig died. Even if everything goes haywire. Daily practice has the advantage that it does not tolerate negotiation: you do it. As an illustration, the Headspace app shows an animation with an elephant stomping unswervingly on its way. He doesn't stop. Other animals are faster, they overtake him, but at some point they stop. The elephant continues to trample.

One last insight is important to me: You need to feel good during and after meditation. Otherwise it won't work. Incidentally, this applies to every habit. Renunciation and self-mortification cannot be endured in the long run. The hardest thing, however, is the beginning, which you have to get through first. Gradually one then collects experiences that increase self-motivation. I missed this sense of achievement for a long time. I had read countless books, but I didn't associate any emotion with meditation. I had to get started first so that I could motivate myself.

Regarding risks and side effects: Even later there are days when nothing works. At the beginning of the Corona crisis, for example, I was so distracted that I wandered completely and didn't even notice the end of the meditation. Something like that is also included. The main thing is to keep going.

Speaking of Corona: You could think that meditation could be in this Times do nothing. What good is it if we relax while hundreds of people are dying elsewhere? A lot, as science has shown. Researchers found, inter alia. "Relatively clear evidence of improvement in anxiety, depression and pain and less significant evidence of improvement in stress / strain and quality of life in relation to mental health".4

We also know from research on empathy that z. B. the medical and nursing staff burns out when they are confronted with extreme suffering every day and do not take sufficient care of themselves. Likewise, for those who are not currently fighting on the medical front line, they need to take good care of themselves. It's like the oxygen masks on the plane: you have to help yourself first so you can help others.

If you want to take it up and finally learn to meditate, you can get support: Here you can find my audio meditation instructions. It is the meditations that I started myself with. I still practice some of it today. Even my father accepted it. If that's not a testimonial!

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  4. Wikipedia: Meditation Research