I've been meditating and practicing mindfulness for eight years now. Both practices have given me so many positive benefits--reduced anxiety, stress relief, control over my emotions--that I never want to stop. But, I can still remember eight years ago being a bit intimidated by the word meditation. I'm a constant thinker, and felt totally overwhelmed with having to sit and quiet my thoughts. I pictured a Buddhist monk sitting on a mountain somewhere in Asia and thought there was no way I could ever be like them.
Well, what I learned over the past eight years is that meditation is for everyone--whether you are a Buddhist monk or a beginning meditator--you are trying to reach the same state of stillness of the mind. Here we'll go through a step by step guide on how you can begin meditating starting today.
10 Tips for beginning a meditation practice
1. Get comfortable
Sit cross legged or sit upright on a chair. If this isn't comfortable for you, then you also have the option to lie down. You should make sure you aren't too warm or too cold. If needed, you can cover yourself with a blanket. Meditation should be done in room that is free of distraction or noise. You can meditate at any time during the day, you just have to find what works for you.
2. Stick to the same time for one month
Routine is key here. To form a habit with meditation, you really want to do this ideally at the same time every day, for at least one month.This will help to create a ritual around your meditation, which will help you to develop a practice out of it.
3. Start with 5-10 minutes of meditating
When you are comfortable in your position, you can close your eyes. Start to bring the attention to your body. Notice how it feels to be sitting or lying down. Also notice how your breathing is. During this time, you are just observing your body and the sensations that come up.
After you feel more settled you can begin taking deep calming breaths. Slowly breathe in and slowly breathe out. If it helps you, you can silently count the breaths you are taking. This will help you to focus inwards and free yourself of the many thoughts that come rushing to your head as a beginning meditator.
4. Notice your thoughts and let them go
At this point you probably will begin to have a bunch of thoughts come up in your mind. Don't worry, this is totally normal. One of the biggest barriers to beginner meditators is to let go all of the mental chatter your mind has. Be aware that this is stage everyone must pass through. During this time, it is important to acknowledge the thoughts that come up and let them go. If you have a really hard time letting go of the thoughts, you can gently tell yourself that you are taking the time to meditate and you will come back to them in a few minutes. I try to imagine each thought as a balloon and as I tell myself to let go of the thought I see it floating and drifting away.
5. Be kind to your thoughts
This goes hand in hand with the above step. As mentioned above, it's ok to have thoughts pop up in your head. But, what isn't ok is trying to control those feelings or make yourself feel bad over having those thoughts. During meditation, we don't want to avoid the thoughts that come up, but rather detach ourselves from the thoughts. This part definitely takes some training of the mind, but as you meditate more and more it becomes easier to let your thoughts go. Notice the thoughts as they come up as you breathe in, and as you breathe out let them go.
6. It's OK if you miss a few days, just don't stop
Ideally you should stick with the practice for a month to begin with. But, maybe a day or two slipped by. That is more than ok. Just get back into your practice as soon as you can. Remember that two minutes of meditating is better than nothing at all. If you find yourself very busy in a particular week, allot yourself as much time as you have available, and return to your normal practice as soon as you can.
7. Start to deepen your meditation practice
You will see over time that it becomes easier to let go of the thoughts that come into your head and your mind during meditation becomes completely still. Eventually you will start to have brief moments of complete silence while you are meditating. Your mind becomes still without all the chatter of your mind popping up while meditating.
8. It doesn't always have to be perfect
This is another thing that is very important to take note of as a beginning meditator. Meditation is never going to be perfect every single time. Some days during meditation you will have brief moments where your mind is completely still. You feel totally at peace. Other days you may barely be able to sit still and keep all your thoughts at bay. All of this is ok.
9. Develop your own practice
Over time, you can decide what works best for you in regards to meditation. There are many different types of meditation you can explore. You can also start to try out different things like listening to calming music or ocean waves. Or maybe you would like to try guided meditations. You have to find what works best for you. I often vary my forms of meditation between complete silence and darkness to ones that are guided with light from a candle. You also might find that a different time of day works for you. If you suffer from period insomnia like me, then the nighttime would be ideal for you. I do a guided meditation at night when I can't sleep that helps me to drift off to sleep. It's the best natural sleep remedy I can recommend.
10. Enjoy the process
Meditation shouldn't feel as if it is a chore, but rather should be a special moment in your day. As you deepen your practice with time, you will feel as if you are coming home to a place in your soul every time you meditate. Over time your mind will be trained to quickly reach a state of inner peace and stillness.
Meditation will transform your life in many different ways. By being able to train the mind to be still in quiet you can reach a meditative state at any time during the day. All you need is five minutes and you can begin your journey into the practice of meditation.
This post was originally posted on Everyday Power Blog.