So you want to start a meditation practice? Maybe you’ve tried it a couple times but didn’t stick to it. Maybe you dabbled in it once before but got discouraged thinking you weren’t doing it right.
Whatever the experience, you’re still curious about it and all the benefits it could bring into your life…if only you actually did it.
In order to start a meditation practice that will serve you, it helps to know the basics: where, when and how.
Good thing is, you can do it. Meditation is not just for hippies, Buddhists or “new-agey” vegans only. It’s for everyone, you and me.
Starting with confidence will encourage you to keep at it. And consistency is key.
Let’s break down the “Foundational 3” of a strong meditation practice.
1. WHERE? Away From The Distractions
If you’re just starting out, keep it simple; don’t bother with what your environment looks like. The zafu pillow, the incense, the mala beads, all tend to distract from the simple purpose of meditation. (In time, you may want to add those things to your dedicated meditation area, but I’d suggest waiting until after you’ve created the habit of meditating.)
Find a comfortable, quiet space where you won’t have any visual or audible distractions.
Typical distractions are people, pets and phones…
- Phones – put them on airplane mode and use your timer only.
- Pets – get them out of the room so they’re not tempted to cuddle you or bark at passersby.
- People – let everyone know your meditation time and where you’re going to be so they respect this time. You have the right to request that they respect your mental health program. Maybe they’ll be inspired to start their own.
Get out of your bedroom so you’re not tempted to fall back asleep; the walk to another room will help wake you up. If you need a blanket so you’re not freezing, use a light one, nothing too heavy.
Try to stick to the same location for each sitting. A room with a door to keep the space protected and private is preferred. Helps to keep the intentional energy swarming about you the entire time.
2. WHEN? Fit It In Daily
Mornings are usually easier to settle the mind because you’re just waking up from a resting period. It’s when your mind is most open and receptive.
Plus, it’s easier to mitigate the typical distractions first thing in the morning, when nothing else has pull over your attention. You aren’t fending off the barrage of information from the day yet. Early enough before the rest of the house wakes up, before duty calls of being a parent or a business owner.
As for how often to meditate, it’s best to have a practice that you can fit in daily, rather than going several days without it because you can’t squeeze it in.
Decide how long you will sit. Then, set your timer and stay seated until it goes off.
A client of mine, Elaine, complained about not being able to fit in 20 minutes of meditation into everyday, so there were days she’d skip it because of her busy schedule.
I encouraged her to fit in at least 10 minutes a day because any amount of time to calm the mind is better than nothing.
So she went off and did 10 minutes daily for a week and reported back that she actually gained more time in her day than the days she went without meditation.
It was as if her schedule cleared up, opened up, meetings were shorter, she was more efficient in her day, people weren’t as needy on her. She was more resourceful and able to delegate. Her mind was better prepared to deal with the challenges of the day in an effective way. And to think, she was convinced she didn’t have time for it.
If you think you don’t have time for it, you’re stuck on the hamster wheel of hustle and stress. Thinking you have to go, go, go. But pausing will help balance you. It will create space in your life for new opportunities and possibilities. New ideas and insights into old problems will help make the few minutes of meditation well worth it.
We don’t have time not to take care of our minds. It will take practice, sure, and after 5 minutes your body might tug at you to get up and go about the day. Stay in it.
I had to train my body and mind to form this new habit.
3. HOW? Sit Up Tall
Sit upright with a straight back—this helps facilitate alertness and circulation so that blood and oxygen go to all the right places. Imagine from your tailbone through the crown of your head, a string pulling your spine erect.
Legs can be crossed if you’re sitting on the floor or on a pillow. You could also sit in a dining chair with feet flat on the floor. Whatever will keep your pelvis rested on a stable surface. Stay away from that comfy sofa or La-Z-Boy recliner, that’s going to put you to sleep.
It helps to have an anchoring focus, something to concentrate your attention on. It could be the sound of your breath or a short phrase, like “I am love” or “I am peaceful.” Keep the phrase light and pleasant.
Whenever your mind wanders, because it will, return to listening to your breath, in and out of your nostrils, or repeating your mantra quietly to yourself. Collect your mind and center it back on your anchor as often as necessary during the session.
With every return to your focus, return the body to relaxation. Drop your shoulders, relax your facial muscles, and unclench your hands.
Some days will be quieter up there, others will be loud like two toddlers fighting over a doll. Both scenarios serve their purpose.
Meditation is not about silencing your mind, it’s about choosing what to think about.
Establish the discipline of centering your thoughts through mindfulness—that’s the point.
Have you ever walked out of the gym after a workout and regretted it? Of course not!
Even if you went in there gritting your teeth, complaining that you don’t want to be there, you eventually get in the groove, endorphins kick in, tension releases, and before you know it, your workout is over. You walk out proud, sweaty and sexy.
Meditation is like that, too. It may not seem like it’s time well spent, but once you give into it, you stop resisting its blessings. You stop resisting and start receiving.
Give yourself the gift of meditation and reap the many rewards.