A few weeks ago, my husband and I finished a “beginners mediation” course held by Nancy O’Hara at the fabulous NY Open Center. I was drawn to this course because, while I have been preaching the benefits of meditation and active stress relief to my clients for years — confession time! — I was unable to ever really stick to a regular meditation routine myself!

I’d tell my clients, “just find 5 minutes in your day to “hit pause,” do some focused breathing, and you’ll find you the benefits will follow you into the rest of your day!” But when it came to me finding those spare 5 minutes in my day, there was always something else to be done…Cats to feed, garden to be weeded, clients to email, groceries to be picked up, finances to be sorted through, paperclips to be un-bended (and then re-bended)….you get the point. Excuses, excuses.

So my hope was that by forcing myself to show up for 6 weeks in a structured setting, and having to report back to my teacher and peers every week on my meditation practice, I’d be able to get a regular meditation practice going.

The results: Well, I’d be lying if I told you I still wasn’t struggling — there are many days when the thought of sitting in silence for 20 minutes feels terrifying. And it’s not the same instant-gratification effects you feel after, say, running 3 miles. There’s no way to “measure” how good your sit was, and while I’ll often end the sit feeling more relaxed, other times I don’t feel much of anything. But I know this isn’t the point.

Meditation is meant to give our busy, busy brains a break. To allow our minds to settle down a bit from the constant thinking, anxiety, judging, and “what’s next?!” mentality that tend to accompany us throughout the day. And I can tell you that when I get into a regular routine (such as sitting for 5 days a week, for 15-20 minutes per session), I’ve noticed I feel more patient (both with myself and with others) and more, well, at peace. “Problems” roll off my back more, and I find myself feeling more love for myself and others in my life. So I suppose if I were to “measure” the effects, those are some pretty darn great ones.

I haven’t meditated in about 2 weeks now. I was on vacation, and the time leading up to and after my vacation were hectic with plans and appointments, etc. The usual life stuff. So I’ll be getting back on the bandwagon today, and hope to continue with momentum into the weeks ahead.

Do you struggle to create a regular meditation practice? What active forms of stress relief do you practice in your life? I’d love to hear from you!