If you would like to start a meditation practice, but you are unsure how to begin, here are some tips to get you on the right path.
How do I Meditate Right Now?
Read this paragraph and practice right away. You need about five minutes of quiet time and space. Your posture should be upright and relaxed; you can sit on a chair. There is no need for any specific yoga posture. The key is to be comfortable, upright, and relaxed.
1) Observe your breathing with no special technique for a few minutes. Feel where your inhale initiates from. What about your exhale?
2) Take a few inhales through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
3) Inhale through your nose and count to four, feel how your chest expands, and then exhale, counting to four again very slightly contracting your belly, which will bring your belly button closer to the spine (no forceful movements here).
4) Repeat the previous step 12 times.
5) Return your breathing to normal and observe. How do you feel right now?
Congratulations on your first meditation practice. Well done!
Now, if you would like to dive deeper, let’s explore some more, shall we?
1) What is Meditation?
Meditation is not specific to any religion. The practice originated in India. There is some evidence in the wall arts in the Indian subcontinent from approximately 5,000 to 3,500 BCE showing ancient people seated in meditative postures with half-closed eyes. The first written text referencing meditation was found in the Vedas (sacred texts of Hinduism – around 1500 BCE).
Meditation is a practice for focusing the mind.
2) How Often Should I Meditate?
Ideally, you should have a daily practice. It helps to have some guidance in the beginning. Typically, a teacher can craft a customized meditation practice that would depend on how much time you have, your goals, and your aspirations.
My daily meditation practice is short and sweet – anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes. It has evolved during the last 20 years of my journey. Thankfully, I have been able to remain consistent in my practice.
And no, you don’t need to sit cross-legged with an empty mind atop the Himalayas. The whole purpose of practicing meditation is to be more present with your life here and now.
Keep it simple and consistent.
3) What are the benefits?
If you want to know if your meditation is working, listen to your inner dialog and observe your relationships.
- Become friends with yourself. Once you learn how to treat yourself well, it will automatically translate into your relationships with others and the world.
- Learn how to manage stress. In our culture, we demonize stress. Yet, stress is not something that happens to us but rather a physical reaction to our circumstances. Both pain and stress are reactions multiplied by resistance.
- Cultivate focus.
- Reduce brain chatter.
I can attribute many changes in my life to my daily practice of meditation – from quitting booze and cigarettes to finding love, moving to my dream place, and losing weight. Of course, many factors have contributed to my progress and achieving my goals. Nonetheless, I believe that my meditation practice has been the biggest factor in my journey.
4) How is Yoga Different from Meditation?
Yoga and meditation are similar in practice. In a typical session, we always start with some physical movement – all movement is linked with breath. It helps to prepare the body for the next step, which is focused breathing.
A teacher can help us to choose an object of meditation. It can be anything from celestial bodies (moon, sun, or stars), natural objects (mountains, lakes, or forest). Students may meditate on the deity of their belief or ideas like feelings of ease and gratitude. Since we are all unique, it helps to be guided by a skilled teacher at the beginning of our journey.
5) What if I Can’t Focus?
Our fast-paced minds are keeping us alive. Without them, we would cease to exist. But, we use our time of meditation to quiet the chatter. Imagine trying to train a puppy to walk on a leash. You wouldn’t yell at a puppy. You would gently bring it back to training. The same goes for your meditation practice. When thoughts are racing through your head, gently bring your mind back to breathing.
My mind is hyper-busy and wanders at all times. But I won’t let this discourage me. For instance, I may be trying to focus on my breath, but instead, my mind is knocking and asking me, “What’s for breakfast?” I simply reply, “Thank you, but not right now.”
I hope these tips are helpful for you as you begin your journey with meditation. Please feel free to share your own tips and experiences in the comments below.