Episode 73 How To Start Your Own Meditation Practice: Solo Episode by Chris McDonald

Jul 27, 2022

Have you always wanted to start a daily meditation practice? Have you struggled to make meditation a daily habit? 


  • How to start your meditation practice 4:00
  • How to keep motivated while beginning your meditation practice 12:35
  • Strategies for staying on track with your meditation practice 14:43

How To Start Your Meditation Practice

  • How to integrate journaling into your meditation practice
  • How to create a space to meditate in
  • Choosing a time in your day to meditate and integrating it into your daily routine
  • What is intention setting and why it is so important?

How To Keep Motivated While Beginning Your Meditation Practice

  • Why having an accountability partner is important in your practice
  • Set goals and reward yourself for your accomplishments
  • The importance of finding a mentor or group to guide you in your meditation journey
  • Creating reminders for yourself to practice meditation

Strategies For Staying On Track With Your Meditation Journey

  • Going back to your “intention,” when your meditation schedule gets thrown off
  • How to associate your meditation time with other daily routines
  • Keeping mediation fresh with different types of meditation
  • Different mediation tools and apps and how to integrate them into your meditation practice

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Chris McDonald: Welcome to the holistic counseling podcast, where you discover diverse wellness modalities, advice on growing your integrative practice and grow confidence in being your unique self. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. I'm so glad you're here for the journey.

Have you been wanting to integrate yoga into therapy, but feel uncertain about how to get started through my focus group in June, I discovered that this was the number one concern for therapists. I create a holistic webinar series to address this as well as the other top needs. The first webinar on July 27th, we'll teach you simple startup strategies to start integrating yoga into sessions and help you build the confidence you need to start with these holistic healing strategies.

Want to learn more, go on over to holistic counseling podcast.com/holistic webinars slash and sign up today. Welcome to today's episode of the holistic counseling podcast. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. Have you always wanted to start a daily meditation practice, but had difficulty sticking. Today's going to be another solo episode.

I'm gonna teach you how to create a daily meditation practice. This goes along with my meditation series, and hopefully you were able to tune in last week to hear about how to teach clients meditation. If you haven't listened to this episode, 72, I highly encourage you to tune in and give it a listen.

Onto today's episode today. I'm gonna talk about my journey with meditation, how to keep motivation, to keep going, how to keep it fresh, developing that habit and how to set up your meditation space. So first let me just share my experience. So what I used to do with meditation was I would use it when I'm having a hard time.

So let's say I have a very stressful day feeling, a lot of tension and. And feeling like I can't get things done, whatever that might be right for my day. So I would use meditation like that bandaid approach. I'm having trouble. Let me use one of my tools, which isn't a bad thing. It's good to use meditation as a tool, but I find reframing your thinking on that helps a lot to think about it more as a preventative practice and to do it daily.

So once. Consistent with it. It's actually gonna change your brain. And this is all research based. So just remembering that for this practice for you and for your clients, if you're able to teach them, this is as you're actually helping them rewire their brain to help them be less reactive and to help them be able to manage their emotions more.

And I talk more about those benefits of meditation. In the other episode, I won't get too far along on that today, but like I said, so I. To just use it once in a while. And I really enjoyed the practices. I did it for a few years off and on. And then I had gone to a teacher retreat when I worked for the school system and was introduced to mindfulness meditation.

And that really got me going on the journey and I actually went back and, you know, practiced some more and brought it back to the teachers and started a meditation. At school to help teachers cuz part of our jobs as school counselors is also to help morale. We don't have to, but that was something that I enjoyed doing was helping teachers and other staff members to learn how to regulate their own emotions and bringing back that mindfulness meditation was amazing.

And I realized that this is something I do wanna stick with. And then once I had found a meditation group, I was going for a few. Once a week. And that's how I learned to get my practice down to a science, to figure out what works for me and what I learned from questioning and figuring out how the other members stayed consistent was to find a time that works for me.

So I figured out morning works best. So I would do it in the morning and was able to be consistent once I figured out that time and made that intention. And that's where I'm gonna dive a little bit more into that, but I'm getting ahead of myself. so just to rewind a little bit, the important thing is to start.

With journaling. Why is it important to you to start a meditation practice? So there's your journal prompt, prompt number one. So it really takes some time after you listen to this episode to reflect on this and write it down. I'm a strong proponent of journaling. I think it can help so much. And then the second journal prompt.

What do you hope to get out of it? I know I talked some about the, you know, mental benefits, emotional, physical, all those great benefits. But what about for you? Why does it matter? Why not just keep things the way they are. It's important to start with journaling, because this is something you can always go back to when your meditation practice is waning and you find yourself back into your old habits and not doing it or doing it randomly, this can be like, oh wait a.

I really want to do this so that I can be the best counselor or therapist I can be for my clients. That's my why, as an example, and I really hope to be able to handle stress in a more positive way and not be as reactive. Maybe that would be what you hope to get out of it. So how do you get started? That is the question.

First of all, figure. Where you're gonna do this. See if you can make a space. I know not everybody has that luxury of a meditation space in their house. Even if it's a corner, figuring out what, where can I do this? What would be a space for me and set it up. So I have, fortunately for me, I have my yoga room slash office for me.

This is my meditation and yoga space as well. So I put things that I love. So think about. What are those things you wanna surround yourself with? What is a resource for you? Think about pictures that bring calm. Colors shapes objects that you love. Some people like to put pictures of ancestors. I know I have a picture of both my grandmas, cuz they've both passed on and that always makes me happy to see them.

I have a picture of actually both of them together, which makes me smile and having those joyful objects in your space. Essential oils is another thing you could think about bringing in. If you wanna bring in more holistic tools, a singing bowl can be another item to add. You don't have to invest in a meditation cushion.

So you could just use a chair. So if you're like me with back issues, sometimes sitting in a chair, spine, straight feet on the floor is totally fine. So don't feel like I'm not a true meditator if I'm not in my meditation cushion. It's okay. Not everybody can sit on the floor on a cushion or, or just on the floor with their spine straight for me that about kills my back after a long period of.

Or maybe finding a different bolster yoga bolsters can work for meditation sitting crosslegged on that. And once you figure that out, creating that space, I have a crystal holder shelf. It's a wooden shelf that I had found, uh, when I was going shopping at one of these amazing holistic stores. And that's where I keep all my crystals and things that remind me of yoga, like yoga poses.

I think I have a one person in a meditation pose. A little statue and some candles, not real candles, the electric ones much easier to use every day than real candles and just have all those in one space and some stones that I love. I feel like having the earth component is helpful in some way. I would think too, that having a water fountain could be soothing.

I've used water fountains in the past, but for me, I just trying to keep up with keeping it clean. , um, didn't work for me, but if you're more motivated with that, go for it. I also have my diffuser for my essential oils. I try to pick a different essential oil each day. and start that with my meditation. To me, that kinda Uplevel my, uh, meditation practice to incorporate that sometimes I'll hold a crystal in my hand or have a crystal by me.

I'll see what crystal speaks to me that day. Looking at all the crystals I have, which one really speaks to me and just choose that or putting it in my pocket and keeping it with me all day is another way to kind of use. So, when are you gonna do this? So let's say you set up your space. You create what's called an altar.

If you want, you don't have to, some people use just a shelf or, you know, just something on the floor with plants, you can have natural things like plants or flowers, an orchid, whatever works. I like to have different lights. I have some of those, a cell Aite lamp, cuz that helps with keeping out negative energy as well.

And. Think about, is there a time of day that's better for you? For me morning is cuz I start my counseling sessions and supervision a little bit later. So incorporating it with my morning routine is much easier. So I usually do some yoga first and then meditation. And that's the other piece of this is that.

If you are open to yoga that can help set you up for meditation, believe it or not helps you to psychologically, physically be ready for meditation, which I didn't know that until I did my yoga training and I find it so powerful. It really does help you get into the space of meditation much quicker than if you just plop down to say, Hey, I'm here for meditation.

So it really. Make a difference and you don't have to do 90 minutes either. I do maybe 15 minutes at the most, and that really helps set me up for that. So let's say you figured out your time of day, whether that's morning or midday before bed, but be flexible, have that flexible thinking because. Things happen.

I know like today I had to bring my husband for cataract surgery, so that threw off everything. I barely had time to get myself going in the morning, so just know, okay. So if I can't do it at my scheduled time, when is the next time I'm going to do it? So asking yourself that and make the intention with yoga.

We have intention setting. I like to do intention setting before starting sometimes with clients in session, but with a yoga class, I've. To set an intention. What do you wanna get out of it today? What is your goal? Maybe it is just to release stress or what could that be? So for you, your intention could be to set a consistent practice or to use this practice, to help calm yourself, to ready yourself for the day to open your mind, help your focus, thinking about that intention.

And you can write it down to if that helps. Write it down, put it on your desk where you can see it as a mantra or put it on your alter space or meditation space, whatever you wanna call it so that you remember it and come back to it. And again, so if life happens, the car breaks down, the kids get sick.

You're not able to get back to it. Here's your, why you still have that intention and not allowing yourself to get into that black and white thinking of, oh, I missed a day. That's it. Forget it. It's all over. I might as well just give up this meditation practice. I'm never sticking with it to reframe that, to.

I'm I wasn't able to do that today, but that's okay. I'll get back to it tomorrow. Or whenever you feel like you can do that on your schedule. And I know a lot of people do it in the evening because this is what I tell clients too. You're already going to bed, so it's okay. It's already part of your schedule.

You're not adding anything else. And that's one thing I learned too. I felt initially. Had this thought that, oh my God, this is something else to add to my daily routine. One more thing, right. That just felt stressful to me. So that almost made my mind resist it and our brains do resist change and just be aware of that resistance that that will happen.

It's harder to create that habit initially. And it does take a while for you to get the, the paces going with it, to feel comfortable with the routine. But I digress with that. So just before bed, sometimes just taking a moment before you hop into bed and pull the covers up over you, you can also do it laying down before bed.

If that feels better for you, the intention with meditation, isn't usually to fall asleep. It's for, to create awareness. But if you're, if you have a lot of trouble sleeping insomnia, doing a sleep meditation, putting earbuds in and just listening to one of the apps can be a very helpful. So there's a lot of guided meditations out there.

So yeah, before bed could be a really good time. And so if you're not sure what works for you just. Try some things out experiment, think of this as an experimentation and not as that big judgment of, oh, I have to do this, or I'm not a good counselor or therapist, or I'm not a good ho holistic counselor or therapist that this is something I want to do.

Not something quote unquote, I should do. So of course the shooting all over ourselves does not work. And that can cause a lot of guilt and feeling bad about ourselves. So. Moving to the why and the intention is important, but how do we keep motivated? One way to do that is to find an accountability partner, to find either another therapist or someone else interested in meditation so that you can text each other and say, Hey, how are you doing with your practice?

Checking in with each other once a week or, or daily someone that can remind you of this is what you signed up for. This is what you wanna do. So that you guys can keep each other accountable and on track. Sometimes it could be someone that's not a counselor or therapist, maybe a friend or someone else that's never done meditation before.

You can also go onto one of the apps called insight timer. That's I N S I. G H T timer and they have a group in there it's called 365 days together. I actually did this one year where I signed up and was able to do meditation every single day for 365. And the cool part is it keeps track for you on insight timer of how many days you're in.

For me, that's kind of rewarding to say, oh, wow, look at me. I'm at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, whatever it. And you get little stars on insight timer that motivates me. I don't know why, but it does. It's like going back to kindergarten when you got that gold star from your teacher. So having some kind of way to track it too, I think is very motivating.

And you don't have to use the app if you don't want, you know, maybe just make yourself a chart. If there's a way to track how many days in a row you're doing and reward yourself. So let's say that you do two weeks worth of meditation. Reward it right? Figure out what is something that is rewarding for you?

What motivates you? Is it food? Is it having a favorite meal going for a massage? Doesn't matter what it is. Just figure out what. Works. I know for me being able to go to one of these holistic stores and be able to buy some crystals or other fun things like taro cards, that that would be a huge reward and really would make me wanna move forward with that.

So self discovery, what motivates you if you're not sure journal about. Write it down reflect, find a teacher or mentor is another way to motivate yourself. Cause otherwise if you're on your own, it can be helpful. But then again, it might be difficult, right. More isolating. And I think we've all had enough damn isolation with the pandemic the past couple years.

And when. Kobe gets bad. Maybe we spent too much time at home, or if you're like being work from home, it can be isolating and we have to have those connections with other people, other mentors. And I know when I had, um, met Joe Gilbert is his name and I he's on episode 20. I believe it is the inward facing journey.

So he does a great. Interview with me, um, there, and he is awesome. So you would love that. That's one of my most downloaded episodes. Amazingly people are very interested in that. He talks about meditation in there too, and his practice, and I've learned so much from him and learned from my yoga teacher, Christine Weber.

So there's, there's lots of people I've learned from, and also at the Buddhist temple that I've gone to the Juan Buddhist temple, Reverend w Kong is amazing. I've done a lot of mindfulness, meditations, and retreats there. Find your people that you wanna learn from your tribe, add them into your tribe and find other people who are going through the journey with you.

And that could be reaching out on Facebook groups for therapists or just meditation groups for their, not just therapists, but in general meditation groups, sometimes there's community groups that you could join, do some research if you're not sure, go on to some of the local Facebook groups and ask, cuz you never know, especially now with C uh, a lot less, less restrictions, at least for now who knows what the future holds.

But even if you have to do a video, one, at least you're connecting with other people. Create phone reminders is another way. And I know a lot of people ignore those or an alarm. Some people ignore those, but just making back, going back to the intention, making the attention that you're going to not swipe away, that you're going to listen to that reminder , um, or alarm, whatever that might be.

I remember to start small. I think a lot of people start big. I'm going to meditate three times a day for 30 minutes. And after three days, they don't quite do it. Well, who would? Right. So keep it small. It's okay. To start at two minutes, you don't have to jump into an hour practice. I don't do an hour practice.

I've been doing this a long time, but no, that's too much for me too, cuz I do yoga and I do other practices. So it's, I don't have enough time to do all of that, but I break it down, figure out what I can do. Focusing on what you can do and gradually increasing your time, spent with it, keeping it realistic for yourself and your schedule and your season of life.

So what you might be able to do today may be D. Maybe a couple years from now, kids are growing up or maybe you have less on your plate later and you can do more meditation, be gentle with yourself, knowing that, you know, you're just gonna do the best you can with this and that. You're gonna try to keep that intention, find your accountability partners.

You can also associate your, your meditation time with something else. This can also be through. If you have a hot beverage in the morning, like coffee or tea, and that's when you do your meditation after you make your coffee or tea, or after you brush your teeth at night, once you build that association in the brain.

That's gonna help you to stick with it a little bit more. You also wanna keep it fresh. I think this helps motivation. So try different types, be open about it. Try Kini, try some walking meditation. If you're not sure about walking meditation, listen to my episode, 64 with Reverend w Kong about it. And she's got some great examples of how to use it and just go for a simple walk in your yard.

Doesn't you don't have to go to a fancy place. Just, just go out back or in your front yard. If you have one or find a neighbor, somebody. To do this walk with, I know in Raleigh area, we have a lot of what are called Greenways. So we have some amazing spaces to walk and get outside. Find a hiking trail.

Getting back with nature is a great way to do some meditation, or you can find a local Buddhism temple and learn from them. See if there's any of those meditation groups to learn different ways, different styles. Figure out some online trainings. I know I've tried some different kinds online too, to see what's out there and see what resonates in my body.

Mind, spirit, try some chakra meditations. There's transcendental Kini. Just explore, make this fun. Don't feel like this is a chore, cuz I think once you get into that and it feels heavy and just like, Ugh, I don't wanna do this. And it's, they're not gonna get very far, but if you just see it exploration and this could be a lifetime explor.

That's how I feel about yoga. I read a lot with yoga. I listen to podcasts. I feel like I'm always learning and there's no, like I have arrived. I'm at my end point. I feel that way with meditation too. I like to learn all different things about it, different facets and different ways to use it. Different ways to teach it to clients as well.

So keeping yourself in inspired, I think is through trying different kinds of meditation. Cause if you keep doing the same thing over and over, you're gonna get bored eventually. It's just not gonna be the same. And I know I didn't mention the different apps. So sometimes figuring out the guided meditations so you can use, like I said, insight, timers, a good one, the calm app.

They used to have a free year for healthcare providers. I'm not sure if they still do, but that might be worth looking into head space is another one. 10% happier. I believe they have a free year for healthcare providers as well. I did hear about that. So just, yeah, look into those programs. Also, YouTube has some great meditations, but don't get discouraged.

Let's say that you go onto one of these apps and you get a really sucky teacher that happened to me recently and I'm like, oh my God, is this meditation ever gonna end? Don't let that discourage you. That meditation sucks and forget it with our own in the Dow know that there's tons of different. Guided meditation teachers.

And just ex again, back to exploration, try different ones, different teachers. I have a bunch saved on insight timer and I go back to them frequently, cuz I know I just love their voice. I love the music. They use the styles. You know, to just figure out what works and you're not gonna know until you try.

Right. I I'm just thinking now I didn't mention too posture with this too. So if you're doing seated meditation, so making sure your spine is straight, so you don't wanna be slouching, you wanna be most comfortable. That's why I say too. If you do have to sit in a chair, give yourself a break. It's okay. Or if you wanna just do it on your yoga mat, laying.

go for it. I say, whatever keeps you going for this practice. It's okay. And just allowing yourself to ground before you start. Sorry, this is a little bit all over the place I'd realized I didn't, mention part of this that I wanted to, but just allowing yourself to, once you do start and get into that space, that position allow yourself to settle in and ground.

So getting yourself connected to the earth. Imagining an energy cord coming from your tailbone, connecting you to the center of the earth, getting yourself in your body. Even if that means doing some joint rotations, some rec circles, shoulder rolls. Just some body mood, gentle body movements, just to get, get things settled, settling in doing a little bit of prone Yama, which means breath work starting with that with meditation is always a helpful practice and there are guided prone yamas as well.

so look for those. If you're not motivated to do it on your own, I know for me, I like to be guided sometimes, but sometimes I'm okay doing it by myself. So guided meditation is helpful or, you know, try it without being guided. So try to do some solo, use some of that mindfulness practices where you could either sit with imagining an object or even watching a candle that lit and just staring at the candle.

And mindfulness is sometimes just noticing thoughts as they come up, letting them go. You can also close your eyes and pretend that you're looking out of the space between your eyebrows, that chakra. Sometimes that helps me too, just to pretend that I'm looking out through there and a few backslide, let's say that you listen to all this podcast and you're really trying to stay motivated.

You're going back to your why going back to your intention, but. Next thing, you know is three weeks since you did your practice. Don't beat yourself up. Be gentle, start again and remind yourself that could be another mantra for yourself. Start again, and don't listen to your own excuses. Let all that go and say, okay, this is what I want to do.

This is why. Let me get back to it. And set boundaries for your space too. If you are always getting interrupted from your partner or other people in your house that you live with, your kids set boundaries, this is mommy's time. Or this is my time when I put this sign outside the door. That means that I'm meditating and I need this time.

Well, I hope this was helpful for you. I know there's a lot in here, but I think it could be really helpful for you to, to use this as part of self-care right. To make sure that you're, you are your best, so you can be the best with your clients as well. And I wanna thank you again for tuning in, but I still need your help.

Maybe you thought about rating this podcast and you're like, dang it. I just gotta get around to that. What I haven't done it yet. Can I ask you a favor? Could you please do it today? After you listen to today's episode, the more positive ratings and reviews we get for this podcast, the more listeners I can reach and the more I can keep this podcast going.

And again, this is Chris McDonald sending each one of you much light in. Until next time, take care. Thank you for listening and supporting the holistic counseling podcast. If you're loving this podcast, please share with your colleagues so we can continue to grow our holistic community. Also, are you ready to take the next step to create an integrative counseling practice?

I invite you to sign up for my free nine part email course becoming a holistic counselor in this course, you'll explore different holistic strategies, how to develop your skills as a holistic counselor and how to. Your dream practice, go to www.holisticcounselingpodcast.com. Scroll down and enter your name and email address today.

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Self-Care for the Counselor - a holistic guide for helping professionals by Christine McDonald , MS,NCC,LPCS