Five Tips to Begin a Meditation Practice
I began meditating at a time of great tumult in my life. From what I have read, painful moments have been a catalyst for many a meditator! It has been nearly three years now--and most days, I meditate ten minutes every morning. If I am feeling especially burdened by anxiety or strong emotions, I may add an extra session or two amidst the day. Many people have asked me about meditating through the years, so I have assembled some of my best tips here. The benefits of having a regular meditation practice are clear and scientifically backed--but if you would like to familiarize yourself, you can look here and here.
Tips to Begin
Pick a regular time of day to meditate. Be realistic here. I suggest choosing a time that has the least obstacles for you. Mornings and evenings tend to work for most people--either when you first wake up or right before you go to sleep. Having said that, I do know people who begin by putting on some soft music amidst their daily commute and centering their thoughts for the day. Where you have a regular window of time, use it!
Start small. Know yourself. You may wish to meditate for thirty minutes but it is better to create a habit successfully before maximizing the time component. Psychological blocks also may appear if you start too ambitiously. I invite you to consider a 2-10 minute session as a place to begin.
Consider whether you want to experience guided meditation or if you prefer to create your own experience or a mix of the two. When I first started my daily practice, I chose to use the Calm app. It appealed to me for convenience but also because the guided meditation form felt so good to me. I think that having the guidance component helped to naturally reel in my mind a bit. I have experimented with mantra meditations and grief meditations as well. There are so many options to explore. In two minutes, you can center yourself on a "mantra of the day." You can attempt to focus on your breath for your session. You can notice the thoughts are arising in your brain for five minutes, identifying and letting go. This improves your awareness of your mental state. You walk away from the five minutes a bit more aware of what thoughts are pumping through your consciousness. I am back to the Calm app these days. It is just so versatile! I can do walking meditation. I can choose a series on gratitude or happiness or managing emotions. Some other apps I have heard wonderful things about are Headspace or Insight Timer. Do a little research. Be curious. See what works best for you.
Watch your expectations. One of the biggest barriers to a regular meditation practice is high expectations. We have it in our minds that meditating should be a clearing of thoughts. We believe meditation should feel calm and relaxing. The truth is our minds are busy places. It can feel uncomfortable to sit in brain noise. Really! And there may be a lot of it, depending on the day. Accept the thoughts. They come. They go. You aren't doing anything wrong. You aren't a bad meditator because your brain is busy. Besides, there are great insights in noticing how you respond to yourself in these moments. Are you hard on yourself? Judgmental? You have a front row seat in witnessing how you talk to yourself when you are learning something new. Practice acceptance and compassion. Just go back to your breath. Again and again. Meditation is a practice. Stay with it. The benefits come over time.
Be flexible. Over the three years that I have meditated regularly, I have sat on nearly every surface in our home. I have missed sessions. I have substituted grief meditations for my regular meditation. I have meditated two minutes instead of ten minutes. In a recent blog post, I shared how my expectation that I should sit on the floor or in a chair was proving to be a barrier in my regular practice in the mornings. For whatever reason, as the mornings have turned darker and colder, getting out of bed to meditate became a block. Now, I meditate in my bed each morning. By being flexible, I have been able to maintain my daily routine. I have my phone by my bed where it is easy to access, so I can simply sit up in bed (where I am warm and comfortable) and meditate. Be flexible. Test out different scenarios to see what feels best. Notice your experience and make the changes you need to. Watch any impulse toward perfectionism. If you miss a day or a week, all is not lost. Just go back to meditating as you can. Assess the barriers at hand and make changes where it makes sense.
What is your experience with meditation? How has your practice helped you? If you have always wanted to meditate but haven't yet tried, what is keeping you from trying it out? I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for being here!