The Only 5 Things You Need to Know to Begin a Meditation Practice
Always wanted to meditate, but didn’t know how? There’s a lot of confusing information out there about all the different types of mediation. But if you just want to do something basic to see how it positively impacts your life, you really only need to do these five things:
- Find a quiet place–It’s easiest to meditate when you can find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted. This is a time just for you. You might go into your bedroom and shut the door, for example, signaling to family or roommates that you want to be alone. You might also want to choose a time of day when the environment is less busy. Some people find getting up 15 minutes early to meditate before everyone in the house is up is a great time to practice meditation.
- Close your eyes and focus inward–Sit comfortably and close your eyes, focusing on this present moment. You don’t need to sit cross-legged if that isn’t comfortable. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, or even lie down if you can stay alert. Once settled, notice how you feel in your surroundings. Focus only on the moment right now.
- Focus on your Breath--An easy way to focus on your breath is to bring your attention to your abdomen. Feel it rise and fall with each breath. Or, you can focus instead on your nostrils, feeling the warm air coming out of your nose and the cool breath going in. If you are having trouble focusing, you can even think to yourself on the inhalations, “breathing in” and, “breathing out” on the exhalations.
- Connect with your body–Once settled and focused inward, take notice of your body. How does each part feel? You may want to scan your body, starting with your toes and going all the way up to the top of your head. Just notice and really feel the sensations in your body. Notice tight spots, warm places and places that feel comfortable. Remember, there’s no need to change anything about how your body feels. You are just noticing.
- Notice thinking–When your mind wanders, and it will, that’s okay. That’s what our brain is meant to do. When you notice you are thinking instead of focusing on your breath, simply bring your mind gently back to the breath. This is meditation–bringing your mind back, over and over and over. After practicing meditation for a while, you will notice that your mind wanders less and less.
Beginning meditators find it soothing and relaxing to just take a few minutes once or twice a day to stop the busyness of life and check-in with themselves. It’s an easy way to take a break, clear your mind and be able to go back to your normal activities refreshed. You only need 5 or 10 minutes to start enjoying the benefits meditation has to offer.
Video – How to Practice Daily Meditation
For some of us, that is the first thing in the morning when we wake up. For some, it is evening time at the end of a long day, but before the evening activities begin. For others, it is right before bedtime. Any time of the day that you choose, though, set that as your daily time.
Then the next step is to find a place to meditate. Find a comfortable area that can house your meditation tools. Your timer, your cushion, your altar. Photographs that you want to have around you. This way you have a place to go that all the energy from your meditation feeds into.
Then you make your commitment to sit. Start with five minutes every day. When you sit down, close your eyes and feel a calmness come over you. Start to focus on your breath. As the breath moves in, you can silently say ‘inhale,’ and as the breath moves out, you can say ‘exhale.’ Do this as you continue your meditation practice until your timer goes off.
Do this daily. Practice daily, and you will find deep changes in your life, and in your relationships.
But I Don’t Have Time to Meditate
For most of us, the thought of stuffing one more thing into our daily routine is enough to make us scream! There’s always rushing around to do, always somewhere to be and something to do. We often feel we work non-stop from dawn till dusk until we finally collapse in our beds at night in preparation to get a few hours of sleep so that we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.
But is that really living? Or just existing? What about finding joy in our lives and really living each moment to the fullest. Do you think those are ideas that only work for other people? Perhaps, suddenly finding a few minutes to meditate each day doesn’t sound like such a monumental task!
Consistent meditation practice has been proven to improve overall mood and feelings of well-being, reduce stress and anxiety, reduce depression and more tolerance for situations that used to cause stress. Sign me up, right?
But the question still remains – when can you fit in this beneficial activity?
The good news is that you don’t have to commit to hours of meditation a day to see these emotional benefits. In as little as 10-15 minutes a day of consistent meditation is enough to start enjoying life more. Medical studies show that these changes can occur in as little as 8 weeks of daily meditation practice.
Another piece of good news is that mediation is easy to do. Yes, there are many different types of meditation instruction available, but the basic instruction in each form of meditation is the same. Sit quietly, follow your breath and notice when your mind wanders. There’s no need to spend months in classes learning how to do it…you can start right now.
While it’s good to set a time each day to meditate formally in a place where you won’t be distracted, you can also take your meditation on the fly! Try going inside and focusing on your breath while:
- Standing inline
- Taking a coffee break at work
- Stopped at a red light
- Waiting in traffic
- Sitting in meetings
- Stopped for a train
- Sitting at your desk
Taking just 3 focused deep breaths can relax your sympathetic nervous system, which is the center for our fight or flight response.
When the sympathetic nervous system is “turned off,” the parasympathetic nervous system is able to help calm down and regain a balanced mindset.
Since we breath all the time, surely we can take a few chances each day to stop, close our eyes (if possible), and focus on 3 nice, deep breaths.
Many people find that they can easily find 10-15 minutes each day to meditate, especially after they experience the calming influence it has on them. Times that work for many people include:
- Getting up 15 minutes earlier before the rest of the house is up
- Turning off the TV or stopping other evening routines 15 minutes earlier
- Right after putting the children to bed
- During a part of their lunch hour
- During a “coffee break”
Mental Benefits of Meditation
Ah, meditation. The art and practice of calming the mind and reducing stress. Yes, meditation does, in fact, help you become calmer and less stressed. The beauty of meditation; however, is that it does so much more. It can make you happier and healthier mentally, emotionally and physically. But it doesn’t stop there! Keep reading to find out what other great benefits can be gained from meditation:
Develops the ability to let go of worry and regrets
Meditation actually helps the mind recognize, acknowledge and redirect what neuroscientists call the “Default Mode Network.” It’s the network that commands common traits like worry, self-doubt, self-reproach, negativity, and regret.
Stimulates feelings of well-being, happiness, and equanimity
Doesn’t it feel good too, well, feel good? Meditation gives us the pleasure of enjoying life better. We learn to appreciate the world and people around us more, and the little irritations in life don’t seem to bother us as much.
Enhancements focus and concentration
Our brains learn how to focus like a laser during meditation. This concentration and focus we have during formal meditation flows over into our regular day so that we get more done in less time.
Encourages compassion towards self and others
Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed, you tend to lash out at people? You’re not alone. Fortunately, meditation can take care of that too. It encourages us to pursue life with a benevolent and curious awareness that leads to more fruitful and healthier relationships, including with ourselves.
Decreases stress, anxiety and depression
There’s more stress in our lives than ever, and more people are being treated for depression and anxiety than ever before. Stress occurs depending on how we respond to a challenging situation, while anxiety results from frequently thinking about the future and depression come from focusing too much on the past. All three of these can be greatly reduced by practicing meditation, where we learn to live in the present moment.
Diminishes negative self-talk
Meditation makes us keenly aware of the negative self-talk that is constantly chattering in the back of our minds. That awareness allows us to recognize self-reproach and self-doubt for what they are—just thoughts. Once we are aware of them and see them for what they are, we can choose not to buy into them. We can stop them before they really get a hold on our peace of mind.
Nurtures acceptance of change
It’s fair to say that most of us hate change. But through meditation, we come to accept change easier. We come to accept that life progresses and changes, and that we must progress and change with it. By cultivating our curious awareness, we can more fully appreciate the transformations that life naturally brings.
Reduces perfectionistic and rigid thinking
Meditation helps us fully understand that perfection does not exist. As meditators, we are better able to contend with our crazy, imperfect, and mostly out of our control world.
Decreases the need for attaching to outcomes
Lastly, meditation frees us from preconceived notions regarding the world around us. We then create fewer expectations. When we have fewer expectations, we can let our lives flow, which increases our happiness and peace of mind.
Types of Meditation: An Introduction
There are many types of meditation instruction, and with our access to information in our modern world, it’s easy to find out about them so that you can choose the one or ones that feel right for you.
Depending on what you want to focus on, you might choose a different type of meditation instruction.
Below is just a shortlist to get you started thinking about what types are available and which ones might be right for you.
Guided meditations are great for every practitioner, especially beginners who might be finding it challenging to calm their minds. Many beginners start with these and then find they can branch out to other forms. You can find many different guided meditations online, in the form of MP3 audio downloads, meditation podcast, and even videos.
They are exactly what the name states–a person guides the meditator through meditation, often through the use of visualizing or using affirmations. Some focus on whole-body relaxations, such as body scans. They come in many different lengths, which is nice. You might choose some shorter ones to use when you don’t have much time and then longer ones when you do.
This type of mediation is making a comeback after it’s popularity in the ’60s and early 70’s. It was very popular with celebrities of the time, including The Beatles, John Denver, and The Beach Boys. Transcendental Meditation is a mantra-based meditation in which a word or phrase is repeated over and over during meditation.
Mantras are used in many traditions to help focus the mind. Practitioners meditate for 15-20 minutes twice a day while reciting their mantra. Mantras are giving to individuals by their Transcendental Meditation teacher. This type of mediation requires you to find a licensed instructor, and there is a fee involved.
Rather than sit with eyes closed, moving meditations focus on the sensations felt in the body while in motion. Many people who like the idea of meditation but not the sitting gravitate to this form of instruction. Some types of moving meditations include Yoga and Qigong. To try these, you can find free and low-cost sources online or take a class in your area.
Mindfulness meditation has its roots in Vipassana meditation, one form of Buddhist meditation. One of its leaders, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, is well-known in the West. Mindfulness meditation is known in the West mostly due to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a doctor who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. This form included sitting and focusing on the present moment and on the breath, attempting not to change anything.
Binaural Beats Meditation
Brainwave synchronization has been used for centuries, but the modern world is just beginning to realize the positive benefits. Studies now report that the use of binaural beats can hasten the process of meditation and let you reach meditative states that you’ve never before been able to achieve.
Binaural beats for meditation selects certain brainwaves to stimulate the brain and cause deeply relaxed meditation or mental alertness, depending on the mental state you desire. All different types of binaural beats meditations can be found online. You can even try some of them out for free to see if they are a good fit for you.