Have you ever thought about learning to meditate? Perhaps you’ve had a little experience with it already at a yoga class or tried to follow a guided meditation online.
This ancient practice has incredible health benefits that people are increasingly becoming familiar with.
A growing number of scientific studies show that regular meditation can calm anxiety, improve mental health, reduce personal stress, strengthen the heart, improve sleep, manage pain, and more.
Basically, meditation is about quieting the mind to be more fully in the present moment. To quote Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, and author:
We don’t sit in meditation to become good meditators. We sit in mediation so that we’ll be more awake in our lives.
How to begin
If mediation is something that you’re serious about pursuing, here are a few tips to help you to start practising.
1. Find a quiet place
Look for a location where you can be alone and have some privacy. While it’s not necessary to have total silence in your environment, try for a minimal amount of noise.
Remember to turn off phones and other potential distractions ─ better yet, leave them somewhere else to avoid the temptation to check notifications.
2. Schedule a good time
This goes beyond selecting a time where it’s easier to get away from noise and distraction in your surroundings.
You may choose to practice early in the morning as a way to set the tone for your day. This can assist you to get in touch with how you’re feeling and assess your energy level so that you can adjust your day accordingly.
On the other hand, you may find that a short meditation in the evening is a great way to wind down and get a restful sleep.
3. Basic technique
Sit in a comfortable position, keeping your back straight ─ a cushion on the floor is a good option. Close your eyes or lower you gaze.
Pay attention to your breath as it enters and leaves your body, gradually slowing your breathing and taking deeper breaths.
Notice the thoughts that enter your mind and, without judgment or overthinking, let them come and go. Keep gently bringing your focus back to your breathing.
4. Experiment with music
Meditating in silence is one approach. However, there’s evidence that music with a slow tempo has a soothing effect on the mind and this will support your meditation efforts.
After you’ve been meditating for a while, just hearing your sound track’s beginning notes can induce a state of calm and relaxation.
5. Start small
Even five minutes of meditation is better than nothing. Start with a short amount of time and build from there.
For example, if you’re using music, you could begin by meditating for the length of one instrumental piece. Reminding yourself that you can sit for five minutes will help you avoid the urge to skip your practice altogether on certain days.
After all, these are the very days when you likely need to meditate.
Sustaining your practice
1. Don’t get discouraged
You’re going to falter sometimes, so don’t let that get you down. Any new practice takes patience and persistence.
If you miss a day or more, simply follow through the next day with your meditation exercise.
2. Introduce a variety
Expand your experience by trying out different programs. You can experiment with a meditation app or by following an online program.
If you decide to stick with your usual method, you can also introduce a variety of music that you use.
This could be a walking meditation where you bring your attention purposefully to your surroundings, mindfully eating a meal or staying totally in the moment as you complete a household task like folding laundry.
4. Join a community
Whether it’s a class at your local yoga studio, a lesson in the park, or an online community, meditating with others can really boost your resolve to stick with this helpful habit.
In addition, the support you receive and the feeling of having a common purpose with others can increase your enjoyment.
Final words of wisdom
The key to developing a solid meditation practice is to first create the optimum conditions where you are able to begin.
By testing various approaches you’ll quickly learn what works best for you. Beyond that, it’s important to keep your routine fresh by investigating other ways to meditate.
Keep in mind that slip ups are to be expected as you master meditation.
Before long, you’ll notice that through this truly invaluable practice, you’re building personal strength and bringing more balance into your life to manage your mental and physical health.