Six Simple Steps to Start a Meditation Practice
We hear all the time that meditation is good for us. It relieves stress, manages pain, increases overall health, makes people happy.... but for a lot of us just getting started is the hardest part. All kinds of barriers get in the way, and often when we miss a day, we give up all together. Follow these guidelines for an easy start to meditation. If you miss practice, you can always come back to these to start again.
1. Make a solid commitment. To begin, start with five minutes a day. Most people find 15 minutes optimal, but even just five minutes of meditation is beneficial. Meditation should be daily – think of it like brushing your teeth: once a day you clear away any build up in your mind.
2. Choose the right time. Find a time in your day where you have the least amount of distraction. You want a time that isn't sandwiched in between activities that might lead your mind to wander. You also want to choose a time you can keep regularly.
3. Get real comfortable. Some people like to stretch before meditation, as it loosens the body and helps you relax. This is especially important for folks just starting out who have trouble sitting still for a long period of time. As for your position, choose a relaxing comfortable position. Some folks like to sit and others lie down. Try to keep a straight spine and relax your hands, neck, and shoulders. Use a cushion to support your comfort. You don't have to sit cross legged (lotus position) or in any specific position when starting, it’s more important that you start (try more challenging styles later). If you notice yourself starting to doze off, switch positions.
4. Practice self-compassion. Your mind is going to wander. That's exactly what creative, bright, active minds do. Find gentle loving ways to guide yourself back into a meditative space (focusing on your breathing and your body). The key in meditation is to keep your mind on the present moment and not in the past, or on what you have to do in an hour. Sometimes listening to relaxing music can help in meditation. If you like meditating with music, then go ahead. I also recommend guided meditation for folks who are just beginning and need a little help staying focused.
5. When all else fails, focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Begin by taking a few slow and deep breaths. Don't force your breathing, let it come naturally. Try to gently fill your whole lungs and diaphragm with new air and energy in each inhalation and release all of the stale, used air from your body with each exhalation. Take as long as you need to breathe slowly and deeply. Taking slow deep breaths is the key to feeling calm and relaxed.
6. End your meditation with strength. When you are ready to end your meditation, open your eyes and stand up slowly. Congratulate yourself on maintaining your commitment to this practice each time you end your meditation. Take a moment to celebrate the fact that you stayed true to this commitment!