With the many benefits attributed to meditation – a boost in mood, lowered anxiety, better concentration – you’d think that everyone would be practicing. Unfortunately beginning your meditation journey can be daunting, and it’s hard to know where to begin. Try starting with some of these tips, and hopefully they will assist you in making meditation a meaningful and impactful part of your everyday life.
Before you do anything else, relax. There are a million different ways to meditate and none of them are right or wrong – commit to experimenting and finding what works best for you without putting any pressure on yourself. You don’t want to sabotage yourself before you even begin! The benefits to meditation are varied and endless, and you want to give yourself the full freedom to explore and experience all of them.
Just jump right in
A classic beginner’s mistake is to way overthink the preparation before beginning. It’s very tempting and very easy to fall into – do I have the right pillow, have I researched the right techniques, do I have the right music (do I need music?), should I follow a guided meditation – these questions seem important!
In reality, there is no “right” way to do meditation except your way. Instead of spending endless time preparing and researching, just jump in and start with something. You’ll know soon enough whether it works for you, and if it doesn’t, you can try something else. And don’t forget, you can always buy a new pillow.
Set yourself up for success
There are steps you can take to set yourself up for the best chance at having a successful meditation experience. Try and commit to a regular time of the day; saying you’ll fit it in somewhere during your day without a specific time in mind makes it too easy to put off or forget. Dedicating a specific time to start on this journey will remind you, motivate you, and help you build a long term habit.
Also, try to create a conducive environment – if your house smells of smoke, it will be difficult to focus unless you use an air purifier to help filter out the smell first.
Forget about “clearing your mind”
While you’re at it, forget every cliché you’ve ever heard about meditation. “Clear your mind” is a commonly quoted refrain, but it’s really not practical for beginners. It evokes the image of a completely blank mind, with no stray thoughts floating around, and if you can’t achieve that in your first week it can be extremely discouraging.
You don’t need to worry about stray thoughts, or even thoughts running constantly through your mind. In the beginning, just try and acknowledge the thoughts as they happen, and try to let them go when you can. Trying to force them out of your brain will only make you frustrated and disheartened.
Try doing some light exercise first
It seems counter-intuitive, but sitting still for ten or twenty minutes is a lot harder than it sounds! Only when sitting there will you feel that spot on your back from where you slept wrong, your stiff calf from the gym, and the intense urge to move your legs.
To combat this, try a few stretches or light exercise before you begin. You may want to only do this in the beginning to get accustomed to meditating, or you may want to make it part of your routine, but they can help a lot with soreness and restlessness. Try some simple stretching exercises that you’re comfortable with, and do them for a few minutes before beginning. Work with your body to get comfortable before starting.
Check in with yourself
It is important to check in with how you’re feeling. Are you comfortable? Are you stressed from a hectic day? Are you angry about a confrontation you had with someone? All of those feelings are valid and important – don’t ignore them! Try beginning your session with sorting through each of your feelings, recognizing why you’re feeling them, and moving on to the next one. Try not to get too distracted with this process, but it’s okay if your thoughts wander. Just pull yourself back when you can.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to get to a place of calm where those feelings are not at the forefront of your consciousness anymore. At the beginning, just focus on acknowledging them and not letting them distract you from your meditation.
Another great beginner’s trick to start your session is to count your breaths. Try starting with a few deep breaths in and out, and then moving on to a more typical breathing pattern. Experiment with different combinations – try two deep breaths in and out, and then ten regular breaths.
Being aware of your breathing will do wonders to connect with your body, relax, and focus your mind, which is why it’s a popular tip for those just starting out. Breathing deeply lets oxygen flow throughout your body, stretches your diaphragm, and relaxes your muscles. It also makes you more aware of how your body is working to use each breath, and can make you feel more connected and at peace with yourself. Finally, counting the breaths forces at least part of your mind to focus on a simple, repetitive task, which can really help with letting the other thoughts and feelings fall away.
Stick with it
Put simply, building regular habits can be hard work. Regardless of how excited you are to start out, there will be a point when you want to not do it anymore. Even just skipping a day or two will be so tempting – try not to! Remind yourself why you started this journey, why it’s important to commit to doing it every day, the long term benefits, whatever works to get you sitting on the floor for 10 minutes when all you want to do is lay in bed.
Remember, doing meditation should bring you happiness and peace. It won’t always – the feelings of wanting to quit or skip a day are totally natural. But focus on the good feelings that meditating brings you, and make a point to cultivate and grow those feelings.
Beginning your meditation journey can seem intimidating, but there are many things you can do to help yourself have a great experience. Hopefully some of these tips will help you make meditation a regular and meaningful part of your life, and a source of joy and harmony.