How to Start a Meditation Practice
You have probably heard that meditation is great for stress reduction, increasing self-awareness, and supporting a healthy lifestyle. In our busy lives, meditation can easily feel like one more activity we need to add to our lengthy to-do lists. After all, how can we possibly have time to sit still when we have so much going on? We start to question: Can meditation really work for me?
If you have been thinking that meditation might help you, chances are it will. Meditation is becoming much more mainstream and many celebrities, businesswomen, and educators are sharing the benefits of taking time to center themselves each day and slow down the mind.
“The one thing I want to do is center myself every day and make that a practice for myself. Because I'm 1,000 percent better when I do that." -Oprah
What is meditation?
By definition, meditation is a mental training that helps us tune into the present moment while moving beyond our habitual thoughts and patterns. Over time, we become aware of our true nature and feel a deep sense of peace. In many Eastern traditions, our ‘true nature’ is often described as love.
There are many different types of meditation and most of them have an element of quietness, limited distraction, specific postures (sitting, lying down, even walking) and a focused attention on the breath, a phrase (or mantra), or visual image. Many practices encourage keeping a neutral mind, staying away from judging feelings or thoughts that surface during the practice.
Current research is proving what ancient mystics have known for thousands of years. When we learn to pay attention to each moment we become more open, kind, grounded and able to handle any situation life hands us. Meditation is all about coming home to ourselves, surrendering to each moment with grace, and recognizing more of who we really are.
Despite how the media portrays meditation, it has very little to do with sitting cross legged on a hillside with our eyes closed, and very much to do with learning to be present in all areas of our life. Here’s the beauty of it all: starting a meditation practice can be very simple. With just a few small adjustments to your daily routine, you can build a foundation that you can count on for the rest of your life. Read on to learn four simple steps for starting a practice.
You Have The Time
We’re all busy and it often seems like we have no time to see our close girlfriends, let alone meditate. The reality is that every choice we make during a day is a reflection of what we give the most energy to in our lives. When we overwork ourselves at our jobs (at the expense of our well being) we’re giving our energy to our careers, finances, or our bosses. When we ruminate about a conversation we had with our partners we give our energy to a belief that we can control our relationships. The old saying goes, ‘where awareness goes, energy flows.'
What if for just a few minutes each day, you chose to give your energy to yourself? The truth is that when we slow down and take care of ourselves we have much more to offer each other. From that perspective, commit to taking five minutes each morning to cultivate a meditation practice. You have the time—it’s simply a matter of prioritizing and trusting that conditions will improve once you decide to meditate.
Start Where You Are
There is so much information on starting a meditation practice, that it may cause you to feel anxious—it’s normal in the beginning to worry if you are doing it right. Here are some basic suggestions to help ease your mind and get you practicing:
Sit quietly in a chair or on the floor where you feel comfortable and with as few distractions as possible.
Set a timer for 5 minutes.
Place your attention on your breath and breathe slowly in and out of your nose.
Each time you become aware of your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breath.
When the timer goes off close your practice by thinking of one thing you are grateful for.
Repeat this practice 2-3 times a week and gradually build to a daily practice.
When you miss a day or days or even weeks, don’t beat yourself up. Simply start where you are and begin again.
"It feels good. Kinda like when you have to shut your computer down; just sometimes when it goes crazy, you just shut it down, and when you turn it on, it's OK again. That's what meditation is for me." - Ellen DeGeneres
Take it Slow
Like learning any new skill, it takes time to develop a meditation practice. You wouldn’t sit down in front of a piano and expect to be able to play a beautiful piece of music upon your first try. You would likely start by learning a few notes and playing scales for a while before you took on your first full piece of music. Meditation is the same way: It’s always best to start slow and build gradually. There is no rush to the finish line because our internal work is never complete. Each time you practice you are putting a deposit in your meditation bank that will eventually benefit you in ways beyond the imaginable.
Once you get into your practice stick with it. The greatest benefits come from dedicated practice over time. Think of meditation as a way to check in with yourself each day, like your own mental exercise program. Our bodies have much more energy and health when we work out regularly. The same is true with our minds. Consistent meditation practice builds mental clarity, boosts energy, and stabilizes emotions. Just think about how much you can accomplish from a regular practice!
Above all meditation teaches us how to just be in each moment. From the most humble beginnings we discover more of who we are, one breath at a time. Meditation teaches us how to live with authenticity, generosity, radical kindness, mindfulness, and true purpose.
Instead of making meditation one more task on our to-do list, meditation can be the key to unlock our true potential. By taking just a few minutes each day to come back to your center you will have more energy to do the things that matter to you the most.
Inspired to meditate? We would love to know how it goes! Keep us in the loop by leaving a comment below.