Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard that meditation is good for you. However, many people still don’t practice meditation for many reasons. Some may feel that meditation is just another task to add onto their ever-growing “To Do” list, some people don’t want to make the time, some people may find it uncomfortable or silly, and some people would like to practice but have no idea how or where to start.
So what exactly is meditation?
Meditation is a simple but life-transforming skill that can help you to relax, enhance understanding about yourself and develop your inherent potential.
Meditation is the art of focusing 100% of your attention in one area. The practice provides countless health benefits including increased concentration and energy, enhanced immune system, decreased anxiety and depression, better sleep habits, decreased heart disease, and an increase of overall happiness.
Meditation is an amazing skill to develop, but can be very difficult in the beginning. So use the tips below to get started!
Set aside time:
This is the most effective way to start meditating. You will only become skilled in meditation by setting aside a specific time to practice. The amount of time doesn’t have to be extensive. Try just setting aside 2-5 minutes of quiet time while you’re getting the hang of it. Meditating in the early morning seems to be successful for most people because it is generally a peaceful time. Simply set your alarm a little earlier than normal to take advantage of this.
Choose the right environment:
Find a nice, quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure your meditation time will not be interrupted. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake up from their nap, or your coffee pot might whistle, then you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation. You should also make sure the room you meditate is not the same room where you do any sort of work or exercise, as this can be a distraction as well. Lighting candles and/or dimming the lights can also help to set your environment up for meditation success. You also don’t want to be too hot or too cold. Find a room that is at a comfortable temperature and if you are still feeling chilly, you can always keep yourself warm with a blanket or shawl during meditation.
Check your position:
To meditate, sit down, relax, and rest your hands on your lap. You can sit on the floor cross-legged with the support of a meditation cushion, or on any chair with your feet resting on the ground. It is not necessary to force yourself into a lotus position if you are not used to it. Regardless of how you sit, it is important to maintain the natural curve of your back. That means no slouching. People with chronic back problems who cannot sit for a prolonged period of time can explore other meditation positions.
Focus on your breathing:
Close your eyes softly. Begin by taking a few slow and deep breaths — inhaling with your nose and exhaling from your mouth. Don’t force your breathing; let it come naturally. The first few intakes of air are likely to be shallow, but as you allow more air to fill your lungs each time, your breaths will gradually become deeper and fuller. Take as long as you need to breathe slowly and deeply. Deep breathing slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind, and is the ideal way to begin meditating.
Once you have the deep breathing down, you will begin to feel calmer and more relaxed. This is a good sign. You should keep focusing your attention on breathing deeply. Be aware of each breath that you take in through your nose. Be mindful of each breath that you exhale with your mouth. Continue focusing on your breaths for as long as you like. If you find your attention straying away from your breathing, just gently bring it back without getting upset at yourself. It will probably happen many times but you shouldn’t be disheartened. What’s important is to realize that you have wandered and bring your attention back to where it should be. As you develop greater focus power, you will find it easier to concentrate.
Ending the session:
When you are ready to end the session, open your eyes and stand up slowly. Stretch yourself and extend your increased awareness to your next activities. Well done! You did it! You will only continue to get more skilled at meditating from here on out.
Extra tips for beginners:
Listen to music: Some people find it easier to meditate with light music or other relaxing sounds in the background, while others prefer total silence. If you belong to the first group, choose an appropriate music that helps you to calm down, yet won’t distract you from your practice. Some examples are: sounds of nature (such as rain and ocean waves), traditional music (like native American flute music) as well as contemporary meditation music (you can easily find this by searching online). The choice of music, or lack of, is entirely a matter of personal preference. So feel free to experiment and see what works best for you.
Find a partner: Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and will most likely motivate you to practice meditation more often. This new found bonding time will be great for your relationship as well!
Use a timer: A timer tells you your meditating time is up without you having to think about it constantly which can disrupt your session. You can use the timer that is built into your mobile phone or watch. You can also use a free online meditation timer that comes with a few soothing alarm sounds for you to choose from- easily found by searching online. Regardless of which timer you use, just make sure the alarm isn’t so jarring that you’d get a rude shock when it goes off.
Try out a guide: For beginners, audio-guided meditations provide step-by-step instructions that help to introduce meditation in an easy and non-intimidating way. As there are many types of guided meditation available, it is important to be clear of what you are looking for. For instance, there are some guides that are great for deep relaxation, while there are some that are more useful for calming anxious nerves. No matter what your objectives are, you can be sure to find a guided meditation that suits your needs.
Don’t be too full or too hungry: Meditating with an empty or full stomach may be distracting or even uncomfortable. Make sure there is something in your tummy, but not so much that you feel distracted while sitting.
Keep in mind: Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT over-examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go and enjoy the long term health benefits that will be coming your way.