Episode 041: How to Start A Meditation Practice with Melinda Mrachek Staehling

Episode 041: How to Start A Meditation Practice with Melinda Mrachek Staehling

Have you been curious about meditation and wondered how to start? Or maybe you’ve dabbled in it, but haven’t been consistent about it (*raising my hand*)?

Look no further! Joining me in another “real people” episode is Melinda Mrachek Staehling. Melinda is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in-training and has been practicing meditation consistently for the past 18 years.

In this episode, you’ll hear her share:

  • How she first started meditating

  • How she makes it a daily habit

  • What’s her home meditation set-up

  • The personal benefits she gains from meditation

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Click Here to Read the Episode Transcript...

Naomi Nakamura: My very first experience with meditation happened all the way back in March of 2013. I remember at the time I was in Arizona, I was visiting my cousin who had just gotten back from teaching English in Asia. She had developed a regular meditation practice and she was really encouraging me to give it a try.

So I did.

I signed up for the Oprah and Deepak Chopra meditation challenge. I remember on day one I was sitting in the bedroom, sitting on the floor and I started the meditation and it was super awkward.

Because I wasn't quite sure what to expect, or what I was supposed to be doing. I didn't know if I was correctly sitting on the floor in the right position or, I didn't know if I should be lying down or sitting on a chair. Was my eyes supposed to be closed or could I have them open. What was I supposed to be thinking about? What I found is as I went through that very first meditation my mind fluttered everywhere. I couldn't focus and I didn't have any ability to quiet my mind.

So, in other words it was kind of hard and it was harder than I expected. I guess I did really know what to expect, but it wasn't that. That's when I knew that, "Hey, maybe this is something that I really need to pay more attention to if I can't even sit still and quiet my mind."

My cousin encouraged me to keep trying. She said, "You know what, just forget that Oprah Deepak challenge and to just sit in silence for one minute." That was it and that's what helped me to get more comfortable with meditation. Slowly but surely I was able to build up to longer sessions.

Since then I have gone through bouts of consistent and inconsistent meditation practices. But I've found that when I have been consistent with it I felt noticeably calmer, my mind was quieter and filed with a lot more clarity. And I found myself just being nicer, having more patience and compassion. So, I'm not quite sure why I don't do this consistently.

On today's episode this is going to be another one of my real people episodes with someone who does practice meditation regularly.

If you're not familiar with my real people interviews, they're interviews with guests who are regular people just like you and me who I find have an interesting story to share, or experiences that you might find valuable. They're interviews with people who I've certainly learned a great deal from and who I think you can too.

So, today's real people interview is with my dear friend Melinda Mrachek Staehling. Melinda and I first met in October of 2017 at a Beautycounter training in San Francisco. So, yes, she is a Beautycounter teammate of mine and over the past several months we've gotten to know each other pretty well. In fact we were even roommates at the Beautycounter Leadership Summit in Minnesota. I talked about that experience in Episode 037 if you want to go back and take a listen to that.

Besides being a Beautycounter consultant Melinda's also a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in-training. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and her pup, Mary. She currently works in the wine industry.

Now, among the many remarkable things about Melinda is her daily meditation practice that she often shares about in her Instagram stories. So when I decided that, "Hey, we should have a chat on the podcast about meditation." She was the first person who came to mind who could offer real people insights into how to do this on a regular basis.

In our interview you'll hear Melinda share how she first got into meditation 18 years ago, long before it was a popular thing to do. She'll share how she makes it a daily habit, what her meditation is like in her house, and how meditation benefits her.

As always, you can find links to everything mentioned in the interview as well as how to connect with Melinda online over in the show notes at www.livefablife.com/041 for Episode 041. So, now, let's get to the show.

Naomi Nakamura: Hello Melinda, welcome to the show.

Melinda: Thank you. Hi Naomi.

Naomi Nakamura: Hi. I would love for you to tell us a little bit about yourself.

Melinda: Oh. A little bit about me. Well, I live in Las Vegas with my husband, Tim, and my dog, Mary who's sitting here sleeping like a donut.

Naomi Nakamura: Who's very cute.

Melinda: She is. She's very cute. She likes to sleep and that's about it. I work in wine sales, I've been working in the hospitality industry for about 15 years now. I used to be a sommelier in restaurants. Now I sell wine in Las Vegas.

Naomi Nakamura: That sounds very fancy.

Melinda: It can be kind of fancy, and it can be kind of not fancy too. Yeah. Like, a loading dock in Las Vegas when it's 115 degrees in the summer is probably the least fancy place that you can possibly be.

Naomi Nakamura: Well, we are here not to talk about wine and loading docks. We'll save that for another episode.

Melinda: Yes, yes, yes.

Naomi Nakamura: But, what we are hear to talk about today is on meditation, because I know that you have a very consistent meditation practice. I know this is something that I've personally dabbled with, probably for the past five-ish years or so. I know many other people have as well. But I know that when I was starting out, and the first time I meditated I just found it the most awkward thing because I didn't know if I was doing it right. I didn't know what it was supposed to be like. So, I thought I would have you on to share because you are just so consistent about it.

So, why don't we start by intro ... Or just telling us how did you first come to try meditation?

Melinda: Yeah. I first tried meditation in yoga class. I started practicing yoga in 2000. So, that makes me, like, a yoga dinosaur. Yeah. Back in 2000 yoga classes were longer usually than they are now. I feel the they were almost always 90 minutes and there was ... Based in a style of yoga that I was taught initially which was called Anusara yoga. There was always an opening meditation, a seated meditation and then a final mediation after your last part of the yoga practice.

Naomi Nakamura: So after savasana you'd have-

Melinda: Yes. After savasana there was always some meditation as well. And some nice words were spoken. So, I feel like that was my entre into yoga, into meditation.

Naomi Nakamura: That's so interesting. So you actually had someone kind of teach you in person?

Melinda: Yes.

Naomi Nakamura: As opposed to all of us who now we now have the Oprah and Deepak Chopra meditation challenge which is how I first tried it. Now we have all these apps and we're in our homes thinking, "Am I doing this right?"

Melinda: I think that, that is like ... I think it's so huge that ... because when you're are home you feel weird when you're meditating, right? Like, I feel like you're awkward and you feel like you're not doing it right, and there's so much doubt that comes up because of all ... You know, all of-

Naomi Nakamura: Well, because you don't know what is the right way to do it.

Melinda: Sure. Like, and there's really no right way to do it. You know, which I think is what we're all realizing. But, yes, I think it was really helpful for me to have those early yoga experiences where you're in a group setting and you know that all of these people around you are doing the same thing and probably having the same struggles about thinking, "What am I having for dinner?" Or that sort of thing.

Naomi Nakamura: What was that first experience like? We're you just sitting there and your eyes were peeking open looking at other people? Because I think that's what I would do.

Melinda: Yeah. I mean, I do remember it being super awkward. Like, going inward is weird, right? You're closing your eyes, you're wondering are other people opening their eyes? Are other people doing things differently than I am? But again, no right or wrong way and I think after a few years of that I just got used to that.

Melinda: Sadly, it's not as big of a thing. I feel the yoga has become faster and people are more into just getting their fitness and we don't take as much time in group settings like that. But there still are a lot of places where you can practice meditation in a group. I think that is super cook if you can do a class. I mean, I've never done one of those 10 day vipassana retreats. That is something that I would love to do, but that just seems like a little out of my scope of reality right now.

Naomi Nakamura: Wait, what is that?

Melinda: Vipassana meditation they offer very long-term ... They're usually 10 days, they can be more of that. They teach you how to meditate. It's a silent retreat so you're not speaking. But I've heard that they're usually held, like, really ... The retreats are held somewhere very beautiful and it would be really, really fun to attend one of those and I think very eye opening.

Naomi Nakamura: I don't know if I could go without speaking.

Melinda: It's a long time right?

Naomi Nakamura: It is.

Melinda: It's a long, long time.

Naomi Nakamura: It is.

Melinda: Yeah.

Naomi Nakamura: So, how did you transition from being in a group setting ... Which I have to say, I've actually seen those classes at my gym. Because I go to yoga at my gym and they'll have a separate 15 to 20 minute class before, and/or after just for meditation which I guess for you want the whole experience you can stay for the whole thing.

How did you transition that into practicing on your own without your instructor or other people around you?

Melinda: It took me a really, really long time to establish a home meditation practice. I feel like I've relied on the apps, now that was have all these great apps, a lot. Like, I started ... I downloaded Headspace which is what I use every day. That I downloaded, I checked back today, it was in January of 2017. So, it hasn't been that long that I've been super consistent. That even took me a while to build up to because meditating at home it's like, you know, it's like creating any other habit at home. Taking your supplements, or going to bed on time. You're like, "When am I going to do this? Where am I going to do it? How ... " you know.

Naomi Nakamura: Or you just forget. Like, you had the best intentions and you just forgot.

Melinda: Yeah. Which happens, still happens you know. Like, sometimes you just forget. I mean, currently I'm on like a really long streak, which is nice. Most often I meditate in the mornings, but sometimes the day, the morning, just gets crazy and gets away from you. But Headspace has really helped me, keep me on track and it's taught me a lot too. Because they offer, sort of, short series. Like 10 day series, 30 day series and you actually, you know you have that feeling that you're progressing with something. Not that there's really any progression with meditation because some days you feel like you're back at square one and you just have a terrible time sitting. And the next do you're like, "Oh, wow. That really helped me."

But, regardless Headspace has helped me a lot to stay consistent. I've tried out a few of the other apps too. So I kind of throw those into the mix. Now sometimes I'll do something in the morning, and something at night. I really, really like it.

Naomi Nakamura: I started using Headspace purely because you would take a screenshot of the little animated characters, or it tracks how many consecutive days you did it and you would post it to your Instagram stories.

Melinda: Yeah.

Naomi Nakamura: I would say, "I'm going to try that too." So, I have been using it not very consistently but I've been using that app to and I actually really enjoy it. I have tried other apps and I find that one to be the most helpful in helping me to stay with it because it sends you little reminders, and little inspiring thoughts throughout the day and whatnot.

Melinda: Yeah. For sure. I mean, the cute animations don't hurt, right. So, and I mean Headspace isn't for everyone. You have to be into having a British dude teach you how to meditate. So, some people like other things. But there are so many apps, like you said. Deepak Chopra has them, Gabby Bernstein has really nice meditations. If you want to do visualization Tara Brach has these amazing ... They're usually a little longer, but she has incredible visualizations. Which I had never done that before. I sort of dove into all of this.

Naomi Nakamura: So, I want to talk to you about the personal benefits. Because obviously you've had to had some for you to continue doing it outside of the yoga studio at home. And then also to be consistent with it. So, what has been some of those personal benefits that meditation has brought you?

Melinda: I really think it's helped in almost every aspect of my life. I mean, it's helped in my relationships, it's helped in my thought process and just having more positive thoughts with myself. It's helped with anxiety, it's helped with ... Oh my gosh, just like everything. It really, really makes ... It makes things more even if that makes sense.

Naomi Nakamura: It does. But, how so? Is it just more of a heightened sense of awareness maybe?

Melinda: I think so, and not reacting to things as quickly. I think with so much meditation your thoughts come and go. You're never going to stop thinking, right. You're not going to ... That's not the point of meditation is to have an absence of thoughts. But when you do have thoughts-

Naomi Nakamura: Funny you say that, because I always thought that was the way that you're "Supposed" to and I could never do that in the beginning. That's why I always thought, like, "This is so hard, how do people do it?"

Melinda: Yeah. It is hard, you know. But you're not supposed to stop thinking, you're never going to stop thinking. But it is ... You know. When thoughts come up, and just to let them go or to notice them, to sort of make note if they are positive thought or a negative thought and then just to let that sort of move on and get back to your meditation. I think that's really important, and that's something that I feel like everybody could use a little bit more of in every day life.

Naomi Nakamura: I like how you said how we move through things quickly because I feel like meditation slows everything down for me.

Melinda: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Naomi Nakamura: Which, I guess, would help me stay more aware of things. Especially in speaking with others and how I communicate. Which is a direct reflection into relationships, and also with all of the other things that may bother me or thoughts that I have. Or just how I approach other things. So, is that something that you find for yourself too?

Melinda: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I'm on this meditation streak right now and it all started maybe three or four months ago. I was having sort of a stressful day at work and then I had this interaction, not a nice interaction at all, with a co-worker. I totally, like, while I was kind of ... While I was having it out with her I was realizing that I wasn't meditating. Like, I knew that I had let my meditation practice slip and I could tell ... I could just feel the difference in the conversation that I was having had I been practicing my meditation more regularly. That's when I got back to it and I was like, "This is a thing and it's really, really good for me."

Naomi Nakamura: I have to agree. And like I said, I'm not as consistent as you are but when I am meditating consistently ... I know what you mean, it definitely helps you just communicate better, you're nicer, you're kinder, you're more aware. But also, it helps me sleep better. So I meditate at night.

So, we were roommates in Minneapolis for our Beautycounter Summit because you're on my Beautycounter team as well. You meditate in the morning, I meditate at night so it was really interesting to see how we both bring in meditation differently. But for me, I found the biggest thing it helps me do is to sleep, and Headspace has the ... I think it's like the 30 day sleeping that I've ... I think I'm now on, like, my third round of it just because, you know, when we're getting ready for bed we maybe still our ... Our thoughts are still going and I find that just having that 20 minutes just to quiet things down.

Melinda: Yeah.

Naomi Nakamura: Brings that peaceful energy to me that does help me sleep better.

Melinda: I like meditating at night. I feel like it's kind of like the icing on the cake, though. I feel like the AM meditation is what sets up my day for success. Whereas, the evening ... The before sleep ... Or, a lot of times I'll do those visualization meditations I was talking about, I'll do those at night too because I just think it's so calming and nice to sort of look back on your day. But I really try hard to do something in the morning. Just, that's where I notice the biggest difference in my life.

Naomi Nakamura: So how long do you meditate in the morning?

Melinda: 10 minutes.

Naomi Nakamura: Okay. So it's not too long.

Melinda: No. 15 if I'm like, you know, really feeling it. But I don't think that anything longer than that I can really stay consistent with. Sometimes people are like, "Oh, you need to do two 20 minute practices a day for this to be a thing." I'm just like, "Nope, that's not what I'm doing."

Naomi Nakamura: I'm glad you said that. So, I promised you that I would not ask you to lead us in a meditation on the podcast, which I feel like yeah that's not really a great thing to do either. But, I would like you to walk us through your process of how you actually start your meditation practice at home. Like, do you have a meditation pillow that you sit on? Do you very dedicated space? What does that look like?

Melinda: Okay. It's gotten a little bit more, I'm not going to say formal because it's totally not formal. It's basically on this blanket that my dog is sleeping on behind me. But I-

Naomi Nakamura: She's meditating right now.

Melinda: She is definitely meditating. I used to sort of meditate all over the house. Like, wherever I ... You know, stop, drop and meditate. Like, I would sit in a chair or I would sit on the floor or whatever. But, of late I have created a little corner in my house that kind of feels a little bit more cozy. I have a blanket and I do have a meditation pillow now that's just like a little soft pillow to sit on that my friend gave me for my birthday. So that's really nice.

Melinda: So, I have my little corner. I usually make myself a hot drink before I meditate. That's part of my process. Yeah, and that's about it. I just sit down, plop down, I usually ... I do wish that somehow the phone wasn't so connected to the meditation because that always can be a deterrent, you know.

But, right now it's Headspace and, yeah. Just sit in my little cozy meditation corner and 10 minutes of head space meditation. Sometimes I'm meditate in bed too.

Naomi Nakamura: I hear you on the whole phone thing because at night ... So, I do have a meditation pillow as well at the foot of my bed. But most of the time I'm actually lying in bed while I'm listening to the meditation. I used to power down my phone every night going to bed. But I was like, I can't do that with the meditation thing because then it kind of breaks up the flow of then having to get up and power down the phone.

Melinda: Yeah. You have to think, what did people do 10 years ago when they didn't ... How did people meditate for the last 1,000 years without their cell phones.

Naomi Nakamura: I know, without their phones.

Melinda: So, yeah. I want to come up with some system with a timer or something so I can get away from the cell phone. That's like my new thing. But right now I have my little streak going with Headspace and I'm just kind of like into it.

Naomi Nakamura: So I'm curious, what's your streak?

Melinda: 118 days.

Naomi Nakamura: Wow.

Melinda: Yeah.

Naomi Nakamura: That is amazing.

Melinda: You know, it's good but sometimes, you know like I said, sometimes I've forgotten and I've had to make up for it at night. Or, this and that. But that app really allows you a lot of flexibility which I think is great just to start a meditation practice.

I've used Insight Timer too. Do you know that one?

Naomi Nakamura: Is that the one with the bell?

Melinda: Yes. It has bell.

Naomi Nakamura: Okay.

Melinda: Yeah. There's a lot of stuff on there. There's so much.

Naomi Nakamura: Well, and that's half the thing too. Because I've gone through a lot of the different apps and half of them there's too much stuff in here where I'm like, "No. No."

Melinda: Yeah. It can be overwhelming for sure.

Naomi Nakamura: It is. So, if someone is listening to this and has never tried meditation, or at least meditation at home before, how would you recommend that they just start? What are some best practices or tips that you can share?

Melinda: I think that the best thing to do with meditation if you're interested in it at all is just to start. I mean, it's one of those things that if you decide that one day that you want to be sitting in a chair, put your feet on the floor and take some deep breaths with your eyes open then that's a great place to start for a few minutes. Then you graduate to closing your eyes, then maybe you try out one of these guided visualizations. I mean, I'm sure you could find a million things on You Tube, or anywhere.

But I think that the most important thing is if you're so inclined just to start it's really that simple. Like, it's just ... I think we make it ... I don't know. We make this, we make meditation into something that is a little bit more out there, or woo-woo, or whatnot then it actually is.

Naomi Nakamura: I have to agree, and I think we also make it more complicated than it needs to be.

Melinda: For sure.

Naomi Nakamura: I know, like I said the first time I tried it I remember I was in Arizona visiting someone and I did the Oprah and Deepak Chopra Challenge. It was long. I was like, "I can't sit here for this long just in silence." That told me a lot about myself as well.

Melinda: Yeah. How long is it?

Naomi Nakamura: I don't remember, but I literally had to scale it back. It was great, because I was visiting my cousin who lived there at the time and she spent a lot of time in Asia so it had become part of her practice as well. She said, "Just start with a minute." If you really just can't sit there in silence for that long start with a minute. If you can't be in your thoughts just start that way. My takeaway was that I was so, I guess, addicted to stimulation from phone noise, my own thoughts that I literally just could not sit there in silence in my own thoughts for very long. That's when I knew that this is something that I had to do even though ut was hard.

For a long time I did have a consistent practice. I did do that challenge, that 21 day challenge. I've done it a few times. But, yeah, it is a ... Like anything else it's a really ... A lesson that I learned about myself.

Melinda: Yeah. For sure. I think that if you're just starting out I think it's important to know that there's a lot of skills to develop too. Like, you can concentrate on your breathing. You can count to 10 and then start over and count to 10 again. You can have a simple mantra. You can do all these different things that will help you to get into that state without just having to think of getting rid of all your thoughts or something like that, you know.

Naomi Nakamura: Anything else to add?

Melinda: No, I just ... I think that everybody should meditate, if you want to. If you think that, that's something that would be beneficial I just feel like it just changed my life. I think it's really, really great. So, give it a shot.

Naomi Nakamura: I think you're really, really great which is why I really, really wanted you to come on and share this with everybody.

Melinda: Aw, thank you. It's been nice talking to you.

Naomi Nakamura: So how can people get in touch with you?

Melinda: Well, I am Check_Please on Instagram, which is C-H-E-C-K_Please. Or, they can check out my blog which is checkplease.com.

Naomi Nakamura: Cool. We will link to that in the show notes.

Melinda: Awesome.

Naomi Nakamura: Thanks so much for joining us.

Melinda: Thank you Naomi.


Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
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