It’s been a stressful year. Take the time this summer to find your inner Zen and learn how to meditate. We spoke with Gina White, owner and creator of Alexandria-based Mindful Junkie, a not-for-profit organization that empowers first responders with mindfulness strategies. Here, she answers all your need-to-know questions to get you started.
What is your favorite meditation technique?
My favorite type of meditation is a breathing meditation (as opposed to a listening, sensing or imagining meditation). I typically sit in a chair, gently close my eyes and focus on my breath going in and out. I feel it as it comes in through my nose, and I imagine I can follow it as it continues down the back of my throat, into my chest and all the way into the bottom of my lungs. Then I imagine I can follow it back up along the same path and feel it as I exhale out my mouth. I do this for about 10 to 15 minutes, noticing my mind as it wonders, as I have a multitude of thoughts. I gently remind myself to focus on my breathing and I guide my attention back to my breath. I do this over and over and over again.
How can our readers make meditation a daily (and enjoyable) habit?
A great way to start a meditation practice is to do it at the same time every day, and try linking it to something you already do. For example, after you wake up, but right before you get out of bed. Or link it to eating lunch. Set aside five minutes before you eat to meditate. Or link it to an action you do every day, like right after you walk in from work, or right before you get ready for bed. After you meditate, try to positively reinforce the behavior. Say to yourself, “Great job for taking three minutes to practice breathing today.”
What’s something people often get wrong about meditating?
People say all the time, “I could never sit still or even clear my mind of all thoughts for 30 minutes.” Me either! And, that’s not the goal of mindfulness meditation. The training is in noticing thoughts. That’s the secret sauce of mindfulness. It is only when we are aware of our actions that we can then have agency in our response.