Today meditation is ingrained as part of my daily life. Like most I have not always enjoyed the benefits of regular meditation.
For me it did not happen over night, though with the right environment, frame of mind, assistance, meditation is within everyone's grasp.
I may have been introduced at a very young age to the concept of meditation but not to the right teachers.
One of the difficult aspects about grasping meditation is that it's not about control, being strong willed or determined. It's not about your ability to master a situation through sheer hard work and effort or being spiritual, intellectual or clever.
It's the pure and simple act of awareness, presence and feeling without judgement or labelling. Yes all just words but let's at least start the inquiring mind with the thought that meditation is at its core very basic.
The reality for most of us is that the ability to sit still is so foreign in our busy live's that just attempting to start to meditate can be an obstacle.
To embark on meditation half heartedly or because someone else is wanting you to do it is likely to end in frustration. This type of approach will simply fuel your mind into a constant background commentary that meditation is too hard or that you're not the meditative type. Your mind will win.
The simple desire to meditate is a great start but it's usually not enough. The guidance of a suitably experienced meditation teacher in most instances is essential to initiate your first meditative experience.
For most joining an interactive group meditation class lead by an experienced teacher is the best opportunity to get a glimpse of what it feels like to meditate.
A good meditation teacher will interact with those present to share both the difficulties and triumphs in a non competitive manner as well as gently guiding the group.
An experienced meditation teacher should be able to tell which one of those around them are actually meditating or if they are blocked, distracted or lost in a daydream. It almost like a sixth sense.
In some cases the mind's desire to meditate is so strong that the sub-conscious mind can take over by creating its own meditation fantasy. Also having a strong or obsessive desire to be "Spiritual" and "Meditative" will mostly lead to disappointment.
A skilled meditation teacher knows how to deal with new students and their potential meditation fantasies. They will be delicate and exercise care so as not to distract or discourage other learners in the group.
Having visions, seeing colors or out of body experiences are all very real states of mind but they are not meditation as I know it.
Guided meditations are probably the easiest way to start and for most the best way to simply continue the practice of meditation either alone or in a group.
Many teachers in group situations start by verbally guiding the group on a inward journey leading into a meditative state. Then they drop the vocal guidance and just allowing the meditation to flow in silence, occasionally breaking the silence to guide back those in the group that may have drifted off.
Background music can be helpful in guided meditations but is not essential and usually becomes irrelevant once a meditative state is reached. I've found the most successful background music usually does not contain singing, has a fluid tempo and is soothing in quality.
Music is also used as a tool to guide the meditator as to the passing of time. Timed background music can give you a clear marker of when to stop rather than give your mind another opportunity to interrupt wondering about the time.
My number one tip is to be comfortable. It is very, very important so that you are not distracted by your own discomfort. The vast majority of meditation approaches advocate that meditation only occurs when the spine is upright, so it is not advisable to be lying down.
When first starting out my recommendation is to be comfortably seated in a firm chair, back slightly supported, feet flat on the ground, hand resting in your lap.
Sitting crossed legged on the floors is the image that comes to mind when most of us think of meditation. That image is rooted with ancient cultures that in many cases always sat that way and could do so in comfort for hours.
If being seated cross legged on the floor is comfortable then by all means use it while meditating.
Unfortunately due to pure and simple economics most places where you can join a group meditation class lack chairs. If you can not get comfortable and you are forced to sit on the floor you realistically have no choice but to move on and find a more accommodating alternative. Even if the teacher is great the discomfort factor will become the overriding obstacle.
Falling asleep is not an uncommon problem for some and it is usually a sign that you are too tired from not getting enough sleep. If you are overtired then the chances of successfully meditating in the evening are further limited.
A good teacher will keeps it simple and does not talk in riddles. If you do not attain a satisfactory outcome in the first one or two guided lessons try an alternative option. The meditative act is joyful and needs collective synergy to work for beginners.
The many rewards of meditation are very much worth the effort of seeking out a meditation teacher and environment that works for you. Either in a class or if your budget permits try a one on one. Also do not discount trying a meditation app or downloading a guided meditation.
So remember keep it simple, be open to changes, stay comfortable and you will be be pleasantly surprised, enjoy.