Well, you are NOT alone! In fact, when I first went to a meditation center over 20 or so years ago, I was scared, nervous and had a whole host of questions running through my head. I thought I would take some time to answer them here in the hopes it will encourage you to give it a try sometime and join a mindfulness meditation class here in Bedford, NH or near where you live:
Will it be weird?
It might feel weird. You are learning something new, so if you typically take a bit of time to warm up to learning new things, then the same feeling may or may not might apply here as well.
Will the people who come to class be even weirder?
The people who attend meditation classes are just like you, me and everyone else: like-minded people looking for ways to help alleviate stress and learn to be more present and focused in your home or work life.
Will I fit in?
These classes are attended by a variety of people, of all shapes and sizes, from all ethnicities, careers, and ages! 18 and up, as the focus is on adults, not children. Most fall within the age of 20 something to 70 something. A mix of both men and women attend.
Will I stand out?
Will everyone know I have never done this before?
Only if you tell us, although sometimes I will ask if I have any people who are new to meditation practice. I only to do this to help assist me with my choice of guidance to the group as whole. Not because they or I are judging you. In fact, mindfulness means "non judgmental, present moment awareness." So rest assured, this is a very accepting place to practice and learn!
Will I have to do anything odd?
You will sit in a chair. In fact, most people who attend sit in the chairs provided. Some folks bring yoga mats to sit or lie down on, and that is always open to everyone. You might be asked to do a bit of VERY gentle stretching, seated or standing, now and again.
What if I don't like it?
You might not, and then again, you might. Try not to let this hold you back from trying it. Something about meditation spoke to you, which is why you are taking the time to read through this right now. If I have learned anything in my life, it is try something.....just give it a try. It may surprise you!
What if I can't sit still, am coughing, or have to go the bathroom?
Then shift your seat, cough or go to the bathroom! You are not restricted, in any way from doing so. Bring some water in an enclosed container if it will help. And recognize it is perfectly normal to feel like you cannot sit still. The more you practice, the less bothersome this becomes, but we ALL feel antsy! Leaning into the discomfort sometimes, prior to shifting, and not running from these feelings was so helpful for me to learn!
Will meditating make me a zombie, someone lacking emotions or the ability to think?
Meditation practice is an opportunity to learn far more about yourself then you think you know, and to learn how to RESPOND, not REACT to the difficulties you encounter. You will feel more deeply, and develop better ways to respond to those feelings. Less "knee jerk" reactions to life. Those habituated patterns we all learn get so deeply ingrained in our brains. Meditation allows us to develop and strengthen new neural pathways that bring about more calm, greater focus and creativity in how we handle life.
Will it cost me a lot to do this?
My routine weekly and the monthly classes are a donation based fee structure. You give anywhere from $5 to $20 every time you attend. HALF of all donations are shared with the people who donate the spaces for me to to run these classes. If you enjoy what you are doing, and feel it has value then give generously to show your appreciation! It is DEEPLY appreciated in return!
What should I bring?
A yoga mat, if you prefer. A blanket or towel. pillow or cushion. Meditation cushion. In other words what ever helps to make YOU feel more comfortable. Chairs are provided and the cushions/blankets help to make them a bit more comfy for you. Bring along a friend or family anytime!
What if I can't stop thinking while I sit there meditating?
Guess what....you CAN'T! Your mind does exactly what it it wants and it will often seem just when we get the most quiet, that our mind goes on over drive! Well....you are not alone! Happens to me all the time. Meditation practice enables me to focus less on the story line going on in my head, and just attend to the breath or the focus of the meditation as a means to not get caught up in the thinking mind.
Will people make fun of me if I tell them I practice meditation?
Speaking from personal experience, I find many people are most supportive. However, there are some people who may still see meditation as oddly exotic, new age mumbo jumbo, or just plain weird. My personal aim with all this mindfulness teaching I do, is to dispel those myths and iconic images of what it means to practice meditation or be a meditator. Locally, I have found most people are genuinely interested and curious, while also a bit nervous about trying it for the first time with a group. Some too feel it will be of no value, or a waste of time. Having a bit of skepticism about meditation, along with a somewhat open minded approach will serve you well, as it has myself. No goals, and no expectations as to outcome.
Does practice mean I have to give up my religion or join another?
Bottom line answer is NO! In fact, practicing mindfulness meditation can enhance your own spiritual practice. The weekly and monthly meditation practice classes are non secular. And the only reason the monthly Taste of Mindfulness is held on a Sunday is because BYPC: The Bedford Youth Performing Company who lends me the space Sundays is closed, so quiet abounds in this typically wonderfully busy establishment!
When and why did I start a meditation practice?
I was a very bright, intelligent, creative, joyful, happy and fun loving child! When I entered the working world in my early 20's I was unstoppable. I was my career. Promoted at a very young age, I was under 25 and found myself responsible for over 125 employees in Downtown Boston. It was super scary and frightening, and a few people made it a truly difficult transition, but I loved every minute of it!
So as the years progressed, I was the first one to give up my vacations, started work earlier then most, stayed super late, and volunteered for special projects time and time again, even if it meant sacrificing relationships and family. I WAS my job/career. For a long time, my good health, fit body and youthful outlook were of help. But slowly, that thin veneer of what I thought would make me invulnerable fell away and I felt burned out. Panic attacks started (I did not even know what the word panic attack meant till I had one.....remember back in the late 80's early 90's many people were still skeptical of the effects of stress on the body!) This lead me to seek answers, and in so doing discovered yoga, meditation and CBT. All three helped me to get back my footing, regain my self confidence and move ahead in life.
Have there been false starts and difficulties along the way! YES! Breast cancer 13 years ago....and yes, practice made a huge difference! Now, with menopause, Hashimoto Thyroiditis, loss of both my parents within 6 months of one another and the co parenting of a middle school aged son to be an empathetic, caring, healthy and resilient person, all bring their share of challenges to life.
So, I continue to practice. Discovering along the way that when I think I need it the least, is actually when I need it the most.
Is there any difference between the two ongoing monthly and weekly meditation classes?
The biggest difference is that Thursday night meditation practice is done by electric candlelight as it is held in the evening 7:30 to 8:30 PM at the Old Town Hall in Bedford, NH. The monthly Sunday class at BYPC is at 10AM, so no electric candlelights.
Remember, meditation is not a panacea for all of life's ills. It is not a substitute for traditional health care. It is not the answer to everything. These are all myths to dispel.
If you want to learn how to listen to your body and understand its feelings, learn to find more moments of calm, develop clearer focus, increase creativity and just learn to perhaps adapt better to the upheavals in your own life or to simply experience a greater sense of well being, then.......
Try It! And remember all of us are BEGINNERS at this....THAT is why we PRACTICE!