For many, the word meditation conjures up images of gurus sitting on little round cushions, and their devotees bowing in adoration. Or maybe you think of Buddha, and reaching enlightenment after the ever so longed-for ego death. 

It's all very romantic, and dreamy, and seems so effortless. It can also seem a little strange and curious. 

I became enthralled with the idea of meditation after leaving the church behind. I was a Christian through much of high school, and my metaphysical questions were always met with a type of annoyance. I still tried to be the best Christian I could, and took copious notes through the sermons and read my Bible and prayed. But it all felt empty. I still didn't feel any closer to the answers I was looking for, and I was more afraid than anything. 

In my 20's, I began studying other religions in the world, and it brought me to Wicca, Hermetics, and Alchemy. The religions that eventually struck me most were Hinduism and Taoism. The Upanishads finally shone a light on the answers I had been seeking, and I also learned about chi, yin and yang, and meditation. I even got a tattoo (in my 30's) to symbolize my spiritual journey.

My caduceus tattoo
My caduceus tattoo

My spiritual practices today are a blended combination of Hermeticism, Wicca, Hinduism, and Taoism (though I've developed a special appreciation for Tibetan Buddhism). 

You may be thinking, "I have no idea what any of those things are.", and that's okay, you don't need to know. I'm not going to get into any in-depth explanation of any of them either. Because you don't need to spend years studying religions if that's not what you're called to do, but if you are or have ever been curious about meditation, I'd like to share what I've learned so far. 

When I first ventured into the world of meditation, a typical session looked like this:

"Okay, here we go, meditating. Yeah, gonna be so relaxed and refreshed. Gonna clear my mind. 

Hmmm.. I should probably call Tina . Maybe we can meet up for lunch Saturday, and catch up. Then I can make it back home in time to have John and Camilla over for dinner.

Why am I thinking? Stop thinking. Clear mind, clear mind, clear mind.....

Did I remember to take the chicken out to thaw for dinner? Wait... Clear your mind...

What is that sound? Should I get the AC checked? Or maybe the ducts cleaned? Is the air in the house clean enough? Am I breathing in a bunch of allergens and dust right now? Oh yeah, BREATHE...

Okay, clear mind, clear mind, clear mind, clear the the junk drawer ... 

Dang it! How does anyone do this?! What am I doing wrong?! "

If you've ever tried to meditate, chances are high that you've had some similar thoughts run through your head also. What I didn't know back then is that it's completely normal to have thoughts running through your head when you are still and (usually) alone. I mean, think about how frequently, or rather, infrequently you are still and alone. Not very often, right? So of course you're going to notice your thoughts! We spend most of our days NOT paying attention to them. They just kind of are. They play in the background as we move through the day, focused on whatever tasks are before us. 

My mind still wanders when I'm meditating, and it's usually a sign that I've got a lot on my mind (Duh, right?). 

Here's what meditation is NOT: 

  • An exclusively religious practice 
  • Anti-Christian 
  • A way to gain psychic powers 
  • Only accomplished with a Master 
  • A way to become better than anyone (except yourself)

What meditation is: 

  • One step on a path towards self-realization
  • A method to decrease anxiety, and increase focus 
  • A way to increase physical and mental health
  • A way for you to live more in the present 
  • A practice to increase body awareness 

Obviously, these are not exhaustive lists, but hopefully they give you a little more insight. 

There's also many different types of meditation. Some aim to increase focus and concentration, some are more body-specific, others might have an ultimate goal towards complete relaxation. There's meditation that can be done with movement (like yoga, qigong, or walking), meditation that's done with a mantra (a specific word repeated either to yourself or out loud), or even meditation done in the form of a sound bath with special instruments like gongs and crystal bowls. 

Regardless of the type of meditation you choose, inevitably the mind will wander.

When this happens, I implore you to not chastise yourself. That only brings you further away from what you're aiming for. Being hard on ourselves is much too easy, and it's a hard habit to break. So I'd like to share a little advice on what to do when your mind starts to wander while meditating (and it will.) 

Notice your thoughts, let them flow like a river, or play like a movie 

Greet your thoughts with kindness and compassion 

Allow your breathing to move in and out 

Follow your breath through your body

Repeat as needed 

If you start to notice a deep relaxation and feel sleepy, that's normal too! Your nervous system is receiving a much needed break. Allow it. If you notice yourself dozing off, bring your attention back to your breath and body. See how closely you can track your breath through your body, and where it takes you. If you feel sleepy after your meditation, a quick nap is always a great idea, even if it's only a few minutes. 

Sometimes keeping our eyes closed can feel weird, uncomfortable, and even taxing. Here's a simple way to meditate with your eyes open (good trick for not falling asleep, too!). 

Find a comfortable, quiet space

Sit in a comfortable position (in a chair, against a wall, etc.) 

Light a candle (preferably unscented) 

Allow your gaze to focus on the flame 

Follow the steps for mind wandering from the previous exercise 

Keep your gaze on the flame for the entire session or let your eyes close if they want t

These tips have helped me in my practice, and I still use them. So if you've ever been intimidated by the thought of a meditation practice, or you just thought you were "bad" at it, I sincerely hope they help you too. It's important to remember, it's about the journey, not the destination. Which is basically an aphorism for "Hey you, don't get so caught up in where you're headed that you forget to enjoy the ride."

Now I'm not going to pretend that I've got all the answers, and I've got this awesome meditation practice that I adhere to. The truth is that even though I notice a big difference in my mood, focus, sleep, etc. when I meditate regularly, I don't always do it. I try to, but it doesn't always appear in my day. It helps a lot that my husband (Eric) meditates too, so we often do it together, but even with that, our schedules aren't always aligned, so that means if I don't make sure to fit it into my day on my own, it may not happen at all. Other times, I just don't feel like it. The thing is, I don't view meditation as a discipline, and I definitely don't want it to become a chore. So, if I just don't feel like it, or I don't happen to get it in that day, I don't beat myself up about it. Instead I have a conversation with myself that goes something like this: 

"Okay Angie, you know that this practice helps you feel better in your body, improves your mood, reduces your stress level, increases your focus, and helps you sleep more soundly. It's okay that you don't do it today, and tomorrow is a new day. Let's make a point of fitting in some time tomorrow so you can benefit from all that it gives you. "

I try to be kind to myself because beating myself up about it is a surefire way to get me to avoid it all together. So when you begin your practice, be kind to yourself too. Be patient. 

Every moment is an opportunity for change, and whether that change is positive or negative largely depends on how we respond to instead of react to challenges and adversity. The only thing we have any control over in this world is how we handle what's given to us. I know it sounds corny and cliche', but true change begins within. 

Humans are a spectacularly resilient sort. We all hold great power, every one of us.  Meditation can be a key that helps us tap into that stream. At least, it has been for me. 

I will leave you with a quote from one of my virtually lifelong favorite authors: 

Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings
-Maya Angelou


  1. I love this. Well written, so true and a bunch of great reminders. Wouldn't it be nice if we could achieve a constant state of meditation? I loved when you said "respond" versus "react".

    1. Thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed it ❤️

  2. Wonderful tips here - I love the practice of incorporating candles! Why unscented? Do you think there would be power in using a scent that has meaning — like, lilacs remind me of my grandmother. Fresh grass always relaxes me. Sandalwood is soothing to me. So would finding a nostalgic scent be beneficial?

    1. It guess it could depend on the aim of that meditation. If the goal is relaxation, absolutely having a soothing scent would help! If say, you wanted to “clear out the pipes” in your mind, an unscented candle might help more with staying in the present 💗


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