Meditation may be a word that is dropping more and more regularly into conversations these days. Yet if you have never tried it, and are a beginner, it may not be clear how to start. The truth is there is no right or wrong way to meditate. And you can ignore anyone that tells you any different. However, there are a few things that if you know, you will find it easier to get started.
So try the following, to begin with.
Sit Down: Find yourself a comfortable seated position. The common position you will have seen is a cross-legged one. However, there is nothing to stop you from sitting on your knees, or on a chair. Any seated position where you are comfortable. The more comfortable you are, the easier you will find it to meditate.
Back Straight: This is pretty important. You want your spine to be as straight as possible. This allows the flow of your breath (or prana as it is known in yoga) around your body. Sometimes this can be difficult to maintain for longer meditation periods. If so, try sitting against a wall, or you can even transition to a lying down position during your meditation. In the long run, you will find that you build an ability to sit for longer, especially if you practice the physical asana part of yoga. After all, this is what it was first designed to enable.
Hand position: You have several options on where to place your hands. Again you may have seen photos where yogis have their hands in Jnana Mudra (thumb & index finger touch while pams face up). This is not necessary but you are welcome to try it if it feels comfortable. A few good hand positions depending on what you need from the world.
- On your knees palms facing upwards for energy in from the universe
- On your knees palms facing down to calm you down
Close your eyes: For beginner’s meditation is easier if you close your eyes. This eliminates one of your five senses, making it easier to focus the mind. Personally I sometimes like to meditate with my eyes open. This may be because I am naturally an extrovert that takes energy from the world around me. If your eyes are open, keep them very loosely focussed on one point in front of you. This way you still achieve the desired effect of having them closed, you control the sight sense and reduce distractions for your mind.
Breathe normally: As a starter for ten, breathe at your normal pace. This may be fast, this may be slow. It is entirely personal. The key with the breath is to be able to observe it and feel it. There are meditation techniques that use the breath to bring you into a deeper meditative state, but as a beginner, you just need to become aware of it. Notice how your breath moves through your body and the sensations it brings to each part.
Try and stay as still as possible: It is normal that you will get an itch during your meditation. Your foot may fall asleep. Your body position may become uncomfortable. It is your ability to sit with these things, and still keep your mind focussed, which helps build your mental strength. After some practice you will learn to breathe through any discomfort. An important lesson that may allow you to cope better with issues that arise in your daily lives. For example, when your train is late, or a friend says something that irritates you. I have found that as I grow my meditation practice, I am less irritated by these things or can bring myself back to a state of calm quicker.
Focus on one thing: Your mind conjures up over 60,000 thoughts in any one day. Expecting your mind to stop thinking is near impossible. However, focussing your thoughts on one thing helps you find quiet in the crazy explosion that is our mind. There are a few options on what you should challenge your mind to focus on. The most common is the breath, to focus on the movement of your inhale, your exhale. Simple. However, there are many that are used, for example, mantras, repetitive counting, and visualisations. For the counting, it is always a simple count of “1, 2, 1, 2” or “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4”. To find inspiration for things to focus on try some free guided meditation on apps like calm and insight timer.
Slow and steady: While it is true the more you meditate, the more benefits you will feel. The key is consistency, so start by challenging yourself to 5 minutes a day. Once you have mastered this and found space for it in your life, build it up by adding a minute every week. Much like building up to a maximum rep in a back squat, you want to increase the length slowly and maintain the consistency of your practice. It is said that the ideal length is 20 minutes twice a day. After this point, there is a distinct decline in the benefits. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with meditating for an hour every morning. Most importantly it needs to be something that works for you.
There you have it, maybe give it a try tomorrow. As I say there really is no right or wrong way to do it. So explore what you like and give it a fair chance. It is not something that is easy to commit to, and you may not see the benefits overnight but try and stick with it. It requires a bit of patience that is very rare these days. And if you are struggling, read these tips on how not to quit your meditation practice.
Overall, meditation can help offset many of the stressors we experience in our daily lives. We have, as a society, become very impatient and often we are too quick to judge. Too quick to quit a relationship. Too quick to talk smack about our boss. Too quick to shout at a fellow driver after some road rage incidents. Do not be too quick to quit meditation as it will help you build discipline and focus. It helps develop an ability to sit and breathe through pain and discomfort. This is effectively the superpower we all need to be able to deal with modern society, and why meditation is a word you will hear more and more in the coming years. So stick with it, and see whether you can develop the superpower.