If you're reading this, then that means the idea of developing a meditation practice has piqued your interest! Great! But before I share some tips on how to meditate, I want to share some of the amazing benefits and rewards you can reap from this simple, ancient practice.
Also, please know that there is no religious connotation behind my meditation. For me, it is simply an exercise for the mind that I feel will help you reap innumerable mental health benefits. Just like we work out our bodies, we can work out our minds as well!
You may be saying, “It seems like a good idea, but I don’t have time to set aside to mediate, Austin! I’m a very busy person, you know.”
I get it. We have busy lives, especially in today's day and age. We've become so swept up in our to-do lists and giving away our energy that we hardly spend time to restore and recharge ourselves, let alone spend time without the distraction of our “smart” phones.
So, why take time out of your busy day to meditate?
The good news is that all it takes is as little as 5 minutes to experience the benefits of meditation and to get started. If you really think about it, I’m sure you can find 5 minutes of spare time for yourself and mental health. Did you know some of the spectacular benefits of meditation include reduced stress, anxiety, worry and levels of reactivity? Many people have also experienced deepened presence and awareness, heightened creativity and imagination, improved memory, focus, and concentration from meditating as well.
To be clear, there are many different types of meditations and meditative practices. As far as this article is concerned, I am talking about awareness-based meditation. Awareness-based meditation practice sheds light on our mental addictions and habitual thought patterns and helps us identify what's not working for us in our lives. With regards to our habitual train of thought and mental focus, meditation can help us see through our accumulated “mental fog” with clarity and light.
What’s Your Motive?
Now that you know some of the benefits of meditation, it's important to know your personal motive. I certainly believe motive does matter, and with a compelling reason, you will be much more likely to stick to your commit to sit and meditate even when it may seem difficult to stay. So, what are your reasons for wanting to commit to this amazing practice?
Got your motive? Wonderful! Now you’re ready to begin meditating!
First, find a quiet space where you can be comfortable and undisturbed for a period of time. I personally suggest starting out with the intent to sit for 5 minutes until you build a nice base for your practice. As you deepen your practice, you can increase the amount of time spent in stillness.
Once you’ve found your space, all you have to do is sit comfortably (this is important when you’re just beginning) in an upright position. You can sit on a chair, couch, seat, the floor, a blanket, or against the wall. Or, you can choose another of your own.
When you’re comfortable in your seat, proceed to close your eyes and settle into the present moment. You can place your hands on your lap, or bring them together in a "prayer-like" position with your fingertips touching and palms spread slightly apart. From there, all you have to do is breathe naturally, not attempting to manipulate or control your breath in anyway.
A great tip for someone who is less experienced with meditation can be to count the breaths, one by one, on each inhale and exhale. You can also do a full body scan with your mental awareness, starting at the top of your head, and slowly making your way down through every nook and cranny of your body. Your anatomy and body have a powerful ability to create a powerful mind-body experience.
Any time you notice your mind start to drift off, you can use your hands, your feet, your seat, or any other physical sensation to re-ground you in the present moment. This is the beauty and simplicity of the practice. Each time you get swept up in thought and the mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your physical sensations, beginning again and again and again.
You can use any of your physical senses to bring you back to your body anytime you get caught in the whirlwind of thoughts including sounds. Notice and tune into any sounds as they rise and fall, in one ear and out the other.
Lastly, as you prepare to sit, notice all of your thoughts and feelings that come up, and without attachment, watch them pass as if they were cars on a highway and you were watching them drive by. With practice and a little bit of patience, you will soon discover the impermanence of all things, including your thoughts, stories, and beliefs. Remember, anytime you get caught up in a thought or story line, to resolve to bring your attention back to your physical sensations or breaths.
Don’t get discouraged if you have a hard time sitting still, it is all part of the process. If you begin to fidget and become uncomfortable sitting still (which is very natural and normal for beginning meditators), resolve to do your best to stay with your intention to sit still and watch the impulse and sensations pass by.
It’s also super important to remember that you will never be able to stop your thoughts, but you will develop your ability not to become lost and swept up into thoughts and what I like to call “storyland.” Know that those are just additional thoughts, and with practice, sitting still in silence gets easier and easier and you will be able to dismiss thoughts as they arise. This is where your “why” and intentions will help you stay disciplined!
Here are some more tips and insights to remember as you begin your practice:
Find a time that works for you and try to keep that time slot consistent (I find the morning is the best time for me and allows me to be less reactive throughout my day)
Find a space that is distraction-free.
Set a goal to sit and practice for 10 days in a row to get you kick-started!
And that’s it! You are completely ready now for meditation! You have the tools needed to develop a practice on your own. There are countless resources available to guide you through meditations that you can find online or in the app store. I like to use certain apps and programs, my favorite being Headspace.
It’s important to remember that meditation and its benefits are cumulative. They might not appear right away, but over time they will. The more you practice, the more it will spill over to your everyday life, and leave you with more control over your reactions to your ceaseless thoughts and emotions.
Meditation is the only practice in my life that I make sure to not skip. I may not exercise, or practice yoga every day, but I make sure to spend even just a few minutes each day in meditation. It has literally changed my life for the better, and I can’t remember how I used to live without it. I hope this guide has helped shed light on to the life-long practice of meditation. I wish you well in your practice!
Find your intentions: Why do you want to meditate?
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