By now, most of us have heard that meditation can significantly improve one’s well-being. It sounds great. Sitting in a serene, Zen retreat, eyes closed, face utterly relaxed as we leave all of our cares and worries behind. However, the harsh reality for most of us is that it’s tough to learn how to begin and then maintain a meditation practice.
Studies have shown that regular meditation increases concentration and attention, reduces anxiety, and helps preserve the aging brain. It can also boost your immune system, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure. So why wouldn’t we prioritize implementing a regular meditation practice?
Perhaps the idea of adding something else to the “to do” list feels overwhelming when our day-to-day activities and responsibilities can already wear us out. Thankfully, adding meditation to your daily schedule will help you feel less overwhelmed and burdened—meditation helps to manage stress and reduce negative feelings, increasing your productivity as a result.
Here is some advice on meditating for beginners a regular meditation practice.
Begin with just 10 minutes a day
Many people feel they cannot commit to meditation because they think they’d need to dedicate a lot of time to it. This is a myth. Turn your telephone off and use something like a kitchen timer. Set a timer for just 10 minutes, and start there.
If you live with other people, ask that they not interrupt you during your meditation practice. Doing a short meditation practice every day is much more effective than doing a long course once or twice a week.
You don’t have to sit cross-legged on a fancy cushion.
Sitting in a comfortable seated position is good enough; you can even sit in a chair. You do not have to sit on the ground with pretzel legs and your palms facing up. Perhaps start by sitting on a pillow or folded blanket and letting your legs relax. It’s normal to fidget and move around initially, so don’t beat yourself up.
Experiment with a couple of different seated poses until you find one or two that work best for you. It is advisable to stay as still as possible and close your eyes while meditating. If you like, shop around for a pretty meditation cushion. When I finally bought one for myself, I found that I meditated more regularly because I had a prop that kept me coming back.
Choose a simple mantra.
Select a phrase or word that you will repeat silently to stay focused during meditation. A mantra is an instrument of the mind—a powerful sound or vibration used to enter a deep state of meditation. The word “mantra” has two parts: “man” (the root of the Sanskrit word for mind) and “tra” (the heart of the word “instrument”).
If you’re at a loss, try something simple like “om”, “breath”, or “inhale, exhale.” I’ve been using the phrase “my heart is wide open, love pours in and out.” You could even choose to whisper the mantra out loud gently. Practising this way may help you relax and focus when learning how to meditate.
Clear a space in your home that Who will use for meditation only
Even if you live in a small space, clear a little corner and set up a few appropriate items—perhaps a tiny blanket, so a mala beads, a live plant, a photograph or still life painting of nature, and a book or two on meditation (or perhaps poetry). Keep it very streamlined and avoid pictures or artwork that may disturb you.
Do not bring your phone or any digital device into your meditation area. Dedicating a space in your home to your meditation practice will inspire you to sit daily.
Do a few gentle stretches before sitting down to meditate.
According to traditional yoga philosophy, the goal of yoga asanas (poses) is to still the physical body so that you can quiet your mind in preparation for meditation. Get into the habit of doing three or four gentle yoga poses before sitting and meditating. Some good suggestions are the downward dog, legs up the wall pose, and cat/cow pose.
Try to spend 1-3 minutes in each pose before beginning your meditation. Know that it is common for your limbs to go numb or tingle after sitting still for long periods—stretching a bit beforehand helps prepare the body for stillness.