Start a Meditation Practice for the New Year and Make It Stick

Some days you will be able to quiet that mind, other days it will be more challenging, but no less rewarding. And the longer you do it, the better you get -- you are actually training your mind. Simply start and see where it takes you.
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You've heard about the many benefits of meditation. Maybe you've even thought of trying it yourself, but you aren't quite sure where to begin. I'd like to offer some tips to get you started. I can't claim to be an expert, or a guru, just an average person whose life is enhanced by her meditation practice, and this is what helps me keep it up.

Get comfortable.
Find a space in your home that can become your meditation space. It doesn't even have to be a permanent one, but make it easily accessible. Every morning the center of my living room floor becomes my meditation space. I have my favorite pillow tucked away close by that I can just pull out.

Get something to sit on to make you more comfortable. Ideally, your knees should be at about the same level as your hips, so placing cushions or a blanket underneath your bottom will create this lift and allow for more comfort. Sitting in a chair is another option, and sometimes even lying on your back can be the perfect meditative pose. You want to find a position that you can maintain for a while.

Tune in.
Once you have found a comfortable position with a nice straight spine, you can tune your body in, or center yourself. This may be done simply with a few long deep breaths, or you may want to set an intention -- what do you want to get out of meditating? Say it to yourself silently.

Some yoga traditions have mantras to help you tune in. In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, we tune in with the mantra "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" (listen to it here), which means I bow to the teachers who have come before me. I bow to the teacher within myself and to the infinite wisdom that is all around me. Chanting a simple "Om" can center you into that meditative space as well.

Find a focus.
So now you're all tuned in and ready to begin, but how? And what to do with all these thoughts floating around in your head? Luckily, those masters of meditation that have come before us had some ideas to help us out.

Find a focus. There are a few key focus points that can make those thoughts slow down a bit, if not silence themselves all together. They are breath, eye gaze and mantra.

Breath: One simple thing to focus on is the breath. Let your mind watch, and body experience, each inhale and exhale.

Gaze: Another point of focus is your drishti, or eye gaze. The simplest drishti is at your brow point. With closed eyes, draw both eyes up to the space between your eyebrows. This feels a little like you are going cross-eyed at first, but once you get used to the feeling, this focus is quite centering. This also stimulates the pituitary gland, which controls the rest of your glands and hormones, and taps into your intuition.

Sound: If those pesky thoughts are still consuming you, find a mantra. A mantra is a sound, or vibration that carries meaning with it, often in the form of words. You can chant a mantra out loud or say it silently. This may be a word or phrase of your own that has significant meaning, like "Let go," that you repeat in a rhythmic manner.

"Sat Nam" is another good mantra to chant, either aloud or silently -- hearing "Sat" on the inhale and "Nam" on the exhale. "Sat Nam" means truth is my identity. So when we chant this mantra we are connecting to that universal truth that lies within us all, tapping into that "good stuff" we are trying to get at by quieting the mind.

When you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to one of these places -- breath, eye gaze or mantra.

Make time.
Find time -- or I should say, make time. It's easier to stick with a meditation practice if you have a specific time of day that you dedicate to meditation. Don't worry about the amount of time you are sitting in meditation, you can (and will) increase this the longer you do it. Start with three minutes. Once you pick a time and commit to it, you will find that it will be waiting for you every day.

Give yourself a break.
Realize that meditation is called a "practice" for a reason. A huge breakthrough in my meditation practice was realizing just that. Sure, I was sitting down every day in silence, but I didn't think this was actually meditating, I didn't really feel "enlightened" or "transported" and all these thoughts kept popping into my head. This is meditation. Some days you will be able to quiet that mind, other days it will be more challenging, but no less rewarding. And the longer you do it, the better you get -- you are actually training your mind, this is a process.

Just start.
Simply start and see where it takes you.