Here, we offer basic tips to get you started on a path toward greater equanimity, acceptance and joy. Take a deep breath, and get ready to relax.
So you’ve decided to look into meditating. But, where to begin? And, how does one get started?
Most first-time meditators will find it strange to sit in silence with their innermost thoughts and do what feels like nothing. The mind, in fact, will often resist it. But the practice of meditation began some 3,000 years ago – so it's likely that whatever you're feeling will have been felt by many before you, and even more to come.
Most people who attempt meditation for the first time have a very specific goal: to reduce stress. And while it is fantastic for that, it also benefits your body, mind and soul hugely by way of decreasing blood pressure, lowering cortisol (a stress hormone) as well as cholesterol, increasing creativity and strengthening your immune system.
View this post on Instagram
"The past is just a memory and the future just a thought arising in this moment right now. Even your most meaningful accomplishments and cherished identities are no more than a story or an image presenting itself now. And the present moment, when you try to catch it, can’t be grasped and slips through your fingers." Join me for a free awakening webinar this Saturday, 4/15. (Link in bio.)
The bonus is that the calm you experience seeps into other moments of your day and, in turn, helps you to create balance, more self-compassion and a clearer mind.
The process of meditating is straightforward and easy: simply sit and practice. All you have to do is close your eyes, stay focused on your breathing, and let your mind wander. This is the one skill where you don’t have to strive to achieve something — just a place of stillness where no effort is required.
There are a plethora of great apps that may aide your meditation experience, but for those of you who would prefer to stay away from devices, try this basic how-to technique, adapted from Meditation for Dummies by Stephan Bodian:
Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair. Don't slouch, but your back doesn't need to be totally straight either. Sitting against a wall to support your back is perfectly fine – you can even use extra pillows under your knees or anywhere else to make you comfortable. If this still doesn't feel right, try lying down.
2. Calm yourself however you can
Perhaps put music on, if that helps to calm you before beginning to meditate. Turn it off once you begin.
3. Time yourself
Set a digital timer. Start with five minutes and work your way up to 10, then 15, and eventually 20. It will probably take weeks or months to lengthen the time you practice. Try not to put yourself on a schedule. Whatever your pace, it's fine.
Breathe normally through your nose, with your mouth closed. Your eyes can be open or closed. Focus on the breath moving in and out of your nostrils, or on the rise and fall of your belly.
5. Notice your mind
When you notice your mind wandering, bring it gently back to the breath. Be careful not to drift off; this will be tempting, especially if you're lying down. While shutting off your mind is not the goal of meditation, neither is judging the meditative process. No matter what feelings or thoughts you have, simply bring your focus back to the breath again. And again.
6. Finishing up
When you've decided to finish, form a clear idea about what you’re going to do next. This could range from brushing your teeth to making a cup of tea or going for a walk.
It’s very easy to just jump out of position and lose the sense of calm you've created. So, before you stand up, attempt to carry this awareness with you through to the next activity.
That’s it. That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
For those who still find the practice stressful or difficult, check out Mindful.org's dedicated meditation page here. Here, you will find several audio-led meditation exercises which may make the practice easier for you when you're finding your feet.
Main image by @missscampbell