By far the No. 1 question I get when I let someone know I'm a meditation teacher is, "I know it's good for me, but how do I get started?" I can see the frustration and desire in the eyes of the questioner. There is a longing to crack the code on this recent health craze and somewhat woo woo practice called meditation. The good news (in my opinion) is that meditation is far from a craze, it's here to stay and these three simple tips provide a practical approach to starting a meditation practice.
I'll start by saying that I completely understand where the frustration around meditation comes from and that's a big reason I do the work I do. When I was first introduced to meditation through my yoga practice 15 years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. I would close my eyes as directed by the teacher and breathe, I assumed the "look" of a peaceful meditator.
But I didn't "get it" whatever the "it" was to get, and inside my peaceful appearance was chaos and confusion. As I think back to my first meditation experiences I realize that I had no clue what I was doing because I thought I had to DO something.
Tip #1: Consider being vs. doing.
There is nothing to do during meditation but rather you have to be. Be what? Be present to what is occurring. We have been trained since childhood to "do" which can be seen as an outward act vs. to be which is an inward act. Next time you practice meditation, don't focus on what to do, instead just be present and aware of your state of being.
When I finally learned how "to be" in meditation and connect with my breath, I felt like I could drop it into meditation anytime, anywhere. The downfall of this was that I found myself barely meditating because I didn't have time for my hour long practice.
Tip #2: Consistency over quantity.
What I learned was that if I committed to a 10-minute practice first thing in the morning or at night, I would do it and often it would result in a 15-20 minute practice. Start simple and small. The benefits of meditation come from having a consistent practice. It's better to have five minutes a day than two hours once a month.
I'm going to share a little secret with you, I'm hugely impatient and at times very anxious which may seem ironic for a yoga and meditation teacher but in fact my practices have been the key to my sanity and success. I share this to say that being calm, cool, and collected is a skill and it's one that ANYONE can learn if they are focused.
Tip #3 FOCUS
Follow One Course Until Success. I love this acronym for focus and it can be applied to just about anything including meditation. Regardless of what type of meditation practice you follow, the key is to stay focused especially when you want to give up. For me this meant to stay focused on my breath and follow it in and out of my nose as vigilantly as I could for 10 minutes. Of course my mind would wander but that's what makes it a practice. Staying focused on point is seeing it through to completion is the key to success.
I'll add in a bonus tip to tie it all together, compassion. Meditation is a practice and skill that requires time and attention to build. Expecting your mind to be focused for 20 minutes every day may be unrealistic and lead to frustration. Have compassion towards yourself and acknowledge the progress you make. Remember, every minute counts so rather than beat yourself up for practicing a one minute meditation, celebrate this win.
Mindfulness doesn't require five days in silence or hours under a banyan tree. Sign up to get a free "Press Pause" audio meditation to add a dose of mindfulness to your well being journey in less than five minutes.
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