Have you always wanted to meditate and did not know where to start? If so, then you are certainly not alone.
Before my mindfulness journey, I believed that meditation was just for Buddhists and monks in monasteries in some mysterious far away mountain. I also held this misconception that people who meditate generally exude this aura of unshakable calmness and serenity and at any moment, they are going to say something transcendental like…”Do or Do Not. There is no try” (Yoda).
In reality, meditation is not as complicated as I made it out to be. In fact, meditation can be done with just a mat/chair, an attitude of openness, and your breath. Meditation is actually a simple yet life changing practice that can reduce stress, increase the feeling of calmness and promote happiness. Anyone can do it and the benefits are endless.
In this blog, I offer you simple steps to start a meditation practice that hopefully will serve you during the good times…and more especially, the more turbulent moments. I have also included some tips I call “Get Real” based on my experiences since I can’t be perfect all the time…..
1. A quiet time and place
If possible, have a dedicated space exclusively for your daily sitting. It also helps if you set a regular time to practice.
Get real: However, if you are like me and you set an intention to always meditate in the morning but somehow end up sleeping in or got busy preparing lunch for Olivia and getting her ready for school…don’t worry about it. I learned to just “chill” and just meditate at night or on the train on my way to work. The important part is actually realistically committing to meditate at some point during the day.
Sit cross legged on a meditation cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Don’t lean back. Instead, sit with a dignified yet relaxed pose. Place your hands, palms facing down on your thighs. Let your eyes close, or if you prefer, keep your eyes open, softening your gaze.
Get real: I started my meditation practice sitting on a chair. I initially thought “aren’t I supposed to be sitting on the floor in a lotus position?” and “should I go out and buy a meditation cushion (zafu)?” Nope. Basically, you have to throw out all the misconceptions you may have heard or read about meditation. Go with what works for you. If you don’t have those pretty zafus and zabutons, or you are not able to do a full lotus (or a half lotus, for that matter), or if you want to close your eyes rather than keep them open (my eyes feel really dry so I keep mine closed)…it’s ok. Work with what you’ve got and what you are comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way to meditating.
3. Notice your breath…AND FOLLOW THEM.
Place your attention on your breath as you breathe in and out.
Get real: “Wait, what? How do you do that? “–that was the question exploding inside my head when I first started. It had to be explained to me that if you pay close attention, you will notice how cold the air is as you breath it in or how your belly goes up and down. You don’t have to force anything or think about how you are breathing. Just notice……
Did you also notice the smallest of pauses between the in-breath and the out-breath?
4. Notice your thoughts….and DON’T FOLLOW THEM!!!
At some point, you will notice that your mind will wander and your attention is taken away from the breath. Just acknowledge that you are “thinking” and congratulate yourself that you have caught yourself ….and once again begin on focusing on your breath. No need to judge or belittle yourself. Just say ” Oh, I’m thinking.”..and begin again.
Get real: I congratulated myself a lot. I still do. I find that in the first few minutes, my mind is really on overdrive and there is a lot of chatter. Sometimes, on really stressful days when there are so many thoughts that are clamouring for my attention, I scream inside my head… “SETTLE DOWN!!!”. Interestingly enough, this works for me. Figure out what works for you.
Remember….be kind to yourself. No need for be so hard or angry with yourself when your mind starts to wander. You can always begin again.
5. End your session
After your allotted time, you can consider your meditation period complete! Congratulations!
Get real: I started with a 20 minute meditation practice. However you can start with just 5 minutes a day and you can increase as you get more comfortable. I also chose a little gesture that gave me closure…I take a deep breath, put my hands together in front of my heart and say “Namaste” quietly. Find one that resonates with you.
Congratulations, you just finished meditating!
In future blogs, I will cover other aspects of how to improve your meditation practice using helpful tools like what apps and meditation accessories I found useful (and those I did not!) and questions that I had such as “how long should I be sitting?” or ” am I doing this right?”. I’m thinking you would probably have the same questions I did!
As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to join me in my journey of healthy and mindful living….don’t forget to click on the link and follow me!!!
Have a good weekend, everyone!