- Editor’s Note: Kane County Board and Kane County Health Committee member Jarett Sanchez is doing something a little different to promote health in May, which is Mental Health Month in Kane County: He’s showing people how to meditate. In fact, Sanchez has created and released a YouTube video, embedded here, that shows “How To Meditate in 3 Easy Steps.” His essay is below.
How To Meditate in 3 Easy Steps
by Jarett Sanchez
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and our main focus this year is eliminating the stigma of discussing our mental health with others.
People afraid to talk about their situation do not seek help. That has to change at the cultural level, meaning that we all need compassion for those suffering with mental health issues. This also means having more compassion for ourselves if we are the one suffering.
I’ve had my own battles with anxiety and depression in the past. Panic attacks that had me thinking I was going to die. Depressive episodes that lasted for days and got chalked up to “being moody.” And then there are the coping mechanisms that come with it all … I’ve been there.
Nothing replaces seeking the help of a professional, although they can’t be with you 24 hours a day to help you sort things out. So I’d like to share with you one of the most powerful tools I’ve learned to help cope with the restless nights and stressful days: meditation.
Meditation gives you a little breather (pun intended) from your daily mental activity. It gives your overworked nervous system a chance to quiet down, and all of those repeating, negative thought spirals lose a little bit of their grip on your thought life.
Meditation, like exercise, comes in many forms. I have books covering about 30 meditative practices, but there is only a small handful that I use, and out of that small handful there is only ONE that I regularly come back to, and that is Mindfulness Meditation.
Also called Shamatha Mediation in Tibetan Buddhism, Mindfulness Meditation is a core technique found in many Eastern systems. The practice itself does not require any belief in those systems and their philosophies. It can be done by anyone no matter what religious affiliation they have, and the benefits for mental health are being recognized everywhere from Wall Street to the research laboratory.
In the video above, I’ve boiled it down to three simple steps so that you can begin the practice on your own.
How To Get Started
You can start a meditative practice by not starting one at all. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Just pick a time, sit comfortably in a chair, and begin the process of breathing and letting go of your thinking.
For a beginner, it is best to pick a quiet location where you will not be disturbed. Eventually, you can meditate in public places like a park (which is where I first learned standing meditation). And my teacher was always quick to remind me not to think about the sounds around me, but to just let them go.
Start out with five minutes.
Set a timer that has a gentle alarm tone, and just go into it. You may spend the entire five minutes thinking about trying not to think, or body sensations, or work, or whatever. That’s OK. That’s what meditation looks like at first. Even just trying to stop thinking is still reducing the brain power you’re using; it’s still giving you a little break.
Think of it like doing reps at the gym. Each time you do a rep, you get a little bit stronger, and eventually you can lift heavier things. So every time you find yourself thinking and you let it go, it’s like doing another rep. And instead of lifting heavier stuff, you’re letting go of heavier stuff, but internally.
Big thoughts and emotions will come through that once might have taken you out for a day, and now you can start being present with those thoughts and emotions, not judging them, just being. You can start to heal the pain that they cause.
By not judging them as good or bad, you can let them work their way through your consciousness and back out into the universe. We so often identify with our thoughts (especially when they’re negative and nasty), and meditation helps us to create a safe space within so we can separate from that negativity, even a little bit at a time.
Just remember: You are not your thoughts, no matter what they tell you!
— Jarett Sanchez
May 9, 2019