Many of us have been told at one time or another, how beneficial a daily meditation practice can be. Many of us have even experienced a powerful meditation—whether it be filled with a completely quiet mind, giving us a break from background mental chatter, or a transformative experience filled with visions or epiphanies. And yet, we still struggle to “find the time” to make meditation a priority.
If you have ever wanted to begin a meditation practice, but struggled to get started or maintain a regular practice, here are some simple tips to help you get started:
1. Set “Low Standards” with a 5 minute goal. For many of us, 20 minutes of stillness or a “Quiet Mind” can be overwhelming. We see these masters of meditation out there, gushing about the magical benefits of their hour-long meditation practice—and we genuinely want to be like THAT—but it’s just too overwhelming to even attempt. Or, life is just too chaotic or busy to commit that much time to be still or empty the mind.
So, give yourself an easy-to-accomplish goal, and set a timer for 5 minutes. Anyone can do that. Taking 5 minutes each day to practice meditation is significantly more than you were doing up until this point, so that is a great success!!!
2. Turn the lights out (it’s ONLY 5 minutes!) and sit comfortably. The more comfortable your body is, the more easily you will be able to relax—which is the ultimate point of this practice. Avoid laying down, but do sit comfortably somewhere that your body can release any tension.
3. Utilize your smart phone. Set a gentle tone to go off after 5 minutes, so that it won’t jar you when it goes off. You can even set a reminder to meditate in your phone, if you anticipate forgetting to do it. Pick a time that fits easily into your schedule each day, to help you get into the habit of meditating at the same time each day, and eventually you won’t need the phone reminder.
4. Attempt to “quiet your mind,” which means, to NOT think about anything or anyone…at all! The mind is often times on overdrive with random thoughts, emotions, memories, and anxieties. So, if quieting your mind is difficult (which it usually is for the majority of us,) practice focusing on your breath. You can do this by simply observing your in and out breaths, or even counting on the inhalation, holding the breath for a certain count, and then slowly counting on the exhalation.
You can also do something called a “body scan,” which is essentially checking in with each area of your body for any tension that you may not realize you are holding onto. Some of the more common areas that people tend to hold tension, are in the shoulders; the eyes, jaw, and neck; and the hands. Check in with these areas, and see if you can relax the muscles, one at a time. This is a great on-going practice to use during meditation, because we tend to get tense very easily, without realizing it. So, even if you just got done releasing the muscles in your shoulders, they might get tense again when you shift your focus to your jaw, etc. Keep checking back in with your body, to help you quiet your mind.
5. As you attempt to “not think” inevitably random thoughts will intrude. Don’t get frustrated by this—after you develop a strong daily practice, you may find that some thoughts come through in the form of inspiration, or resolutions to external conflicts you have been struggling with. So, you don’t want to beat yourself up when thoughts intrude. However, in the beginning of learning to meditate, make efforts to “quiet your mind” and gently release any thoughts that may intrude, for after your timer goes off.
6. After the timer goes off, sit still for a minute or two more in the dark before you move. You may need a moment to readjust to moving and thinking again, or you may have had some insights that you won’t want to forget! Sit still as you open your eyes and come out of the meditation. After you have a moment to reflect on your experience, you may want to jot down some notes. For those “Type A Personality’s,” keeping a little notebook with a short entry for each time you meditate, is also a great way to track your progress. J