What do Lisa Frank and meditation have in common? Mindfulness, it turns out.
Ah meditation, the mother of all wellness trends. That thing that everyone tells you that you should be doing. But, how do you actually do it? What exactly counts as meditation? Do I have to be sitting perfectly still for hours on end? Am I doing it wrong if thoughts keep popping into my head? And what does Lisa Frank have to do with any of this!?
If you’ve had these questions, you’re not alone. I’d been toying with the idea of meditation for quite some time before I actually started to sit down and do it. It was perpetually on my to-do list for months. I’d heard all these amazing things about it, mostly that the CEOs, professional athletes and the Oprahs of the world were doing it to decrease stress and increase performance. Me wanting to be on Oprah’s level one day, I decided to give it a try.
I’d been taking yoga classes regularly and figured I would just do a sitting up version of Savasana. So I sat down on the floor, one morning, crossed my legs like I’d seen people do, closed my eyes and waited for the magic to happen. There was no magic. My mind was buzzing, wondering if I was doing it right, drifting off into the future, running through all the things I had to do that day, ruminating over things that had happened the day before. Five minutes felt like an hour. And most importantly I felt like I was failing the whole time. Needless to say I didn’t return to the proverbial meditation cushion for some time.
Next, I tried a meditation class. Portland being Portland there was a whole studio dedicated to meditation downtown. The classes worked better than going it alone. The teacher guided us with her voice, which gave my mind something to focus on. Meditating with other people lent itself to my competitive nature, as much as I wanted to fidget, open my eyes and give up, I had to make it through because everyone else in the room was making it through. But in the end, having to drive somewhere, find parking, pay $25 per class and keep to someone else’s schedule did not lend itself to creating a habit.
I did gain one very important thing from going to the meditation studio. I met my mentor Kristin Fritz. I didn’t know she was going to be my mindfulness guide at that point but we clicked and slowly got to know each other.
Fast forward two years, when I decided to quit my job with no plan (which if you know me is incredibly out of character, I always have a plan). I was still only meditating once in a blue moon but more and more articles, books and resources were coming out about all the wonderful benefits of meditation. I figured if I was making this huge life change with no safety net I should probably put some serious stress relief practices into place. I called up Kristin and asked if she would be my meditation mentor. I needed someone to impart wisdom, cheer me on and hold me accountable if I was going to make this work.
Now, you do not need a meditation mentor to make meditation a habit. Having a trusted friend, partner or family member enrolled in your goal so they can cheer you on and hold you accountable is a great asset, but they do not need to be an expert on meditation.
Here are the tips I received from Kristin on making mindfulness a habit:
Invest in stickers
The first thing she told me was to invest in stickers. My ears immediately perked up. I flashed back to a childhood memory of going to the craft store with my mom and gleefully standing in front of a wall of stickers, looking at all the different shapes and colors, deciding which one I would take home to add to my collection. Kristin said that in order to create a practice that I would keep coming back to I needed to reward myself. Sticker charts worked when you were a kid and let me tell you, they still work now!
I bought a calendar (pro-tip: if you’re starting this after January stores like Paper Source will be selling cute calendars for dirt cheap) and being a child of the 90’s, went on the hunt for some Lisa Frank stickers. I mean, what better reward than proudly slapping one of those adorable, psychedelic animals on the wall??
Her next jewel of wisdom; take the weekend off. You read that right! Give yourself two days off every week. We live in the real world, our plates are full to the brim and putting wellness habits into place can feel more like a chore than a recharge so give yourself a break every week.
Keep moving forward
It’s also important to keep moving forward. If you miss a day, and you will miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Things happen, life runs away from you and/or you just make one too many excuses that day and don’t make the time to sit down and be quiet. This happens to everyone, including myself. When it does happen, be graceful with yourself and come back to your practice the next day.
Pick a time
Then she told me to pick a time that I would be able to set aside just for meditation, five days a week. A lot of people will do it first thing when they wake up or the last thing before they go to bed. For me, my schedule varied widely. After I quit my job, I started working part-time at a spin studio. Days that I worked, I had to be up at 4:30am and knew I wouldn’t wake up even 15 minutes earlier to squeeze in a meditation.
So rather than pick a specific time of day, I chose to meditate first thing when I got home from work. This made for a nice transition, allowing me to shed whatever had happened at the spin studio and refocus on figuring out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Lastly, Kristin told me to get comfortable. I needed to pick a dedicated spot with something to sit on. I didn’t need to spend $100 on some fancy meditation cushion, I could use a pillow or chair or just the plain old ground, anything I had readily available. This was a revolution! I thought if I was uncomfortable that meant I was doing it right. Problem is when you’re super uncomfortable it’s hard to focus on anything else. So pick your favorite chair and if something is hurting and you need to adjust mid-meditation, do it.
Myth alert: You don’t need to sit for an hour everyday to build your mindfulness muscle. Start small so it isn’t daunting. Once you’re consistently meditating five days a week, increase the amount of time you’re sitting for.
Finally, I was armed and ready!
I hung my calendar up in my kitchen where I could see it every day (if you hide it you won’t be reminded of your awesomeness), put my chair next to the window and downloaded a five minute meditation. The next day I was excited to sit down and finally do it. Since it was only five minutes I had NO excuse not to and the very cool Lisa Frank stickers were just waiting to be displayed in all their glory. Finally something stuck.
It wasn’t perfect. I missed days, had horrible meditation sessions where I couldn’t focus on anything for even five minutes and felt like I was failing but I stuck with it. Even now, I pull out my calendar and invest in some shiny new stickers when I feel my meditation practice slipping.