People have all kinds of notions about meditation, that it is for people who are old and you can never ever meditate calmly when you are living in the everyday world of hustle and bustle.
Meditation helps you to become more peaceful, more focused, less worried about discomfort, more appreciative and attentive to everything in life.
Probably most importantly, it can help you understand your own mind.
When you first sit down to meditate, your mind can feel like a raging waterfall. Racing thoughts, uncomfortable emotions, and physical discomfort can make it seem as though you are not making any progress at all. Know that this is natural. When you experience these things, simply keep focusing on your meditation. With practice, your mind will become calmer, and you will experience a little more space between your thoughts.
I’m not saying it’s easy, you can start small and get better and better as you practice. Don’t expect to be good at first — that’s why it’s called “practice”!
These tips aren’t aimed at helping you to become an expert … they should help you get started and keep going. You don’t have to implement them all at once — try a few, come back to this article, try one or two more.
Sit for just 2 minutes. Start with just 2 minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another 2 minutes and do that for a week. If all goes well, by increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for 10 minutes a day in the 2nd month, which is amazing! But start small first.
1. Do it first thing each morning. Set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.
2. Don’t worry about the details, just do it. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use etc but it’s not that important to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or on your bed. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for 2 minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about increasing the duration, so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, just sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.
3. Check in with how you’re feeling. As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely OK.
4. Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.
5. Pull your mind back from wandering. Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and simply gently return to your breath. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and you won’t be good at it for a little while. Another way is to be a witness to your thoughts and think they are not your thoughts.
6. Develop a loving attitude. When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude. See them as friends, not intruders or enemies. They are a part of you, though not all of you. Be friendly and not harsh.
7. Don’t worry about clearing the mind. Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.
8. Stay with whatever arises. When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try staying with them awhile. Yes, I know I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for a week, you might also try staying with a thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety … but an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for awhile. Just stay, and be curious.
9. Get to know yourself. This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there? It’s murky, but by watching your mind wander, get frustrated, avoid difficult feelings … you can start to understand yourself. You’re getting to know a friend. Smile and give yourself love.
10. Do a body scan. Another thing you can do, once you become a little better at following your breath, is focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start at the soles of your feet — how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.
11. Really commit yourself. Don’t just say, “Sure, I’ll try this for a couple of days.” Really commit yourself to this. In your mind, be locked in, for at least a month.
12. You can do it anywhere. If you’re travelling or something comes up in the morning, you can do meditation in your office. In the park. During your commute. As you walk somewhere. Sitting meditation is the best place to start, but in truth, you’re practicing for this kind of mindfulness in your entire life.
13. Follow guided meditation. If it helps, you can try following guided meditations to start with. There are quite a few on YouTube.
14. Smile when you’re done. When you’re finished with your two minutes, smile. Be grateful that you had this time to yourself; that you stuck with your commitment, that you showed yourself that you’re trustworthy. That’s an amazing two minutes of your life.
Meditation isn’t always easy or even peaceful. But it has truly amazing benefits, and you can start today, and continue for the rest of your life.
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