We all know how en vogue meditation is right now. Unfortunately, while mainstream, most people will tell you they aren’t good at it or that they know they should do it but they can’t get around to it. And when it comes to meditation, this is all of us. In this article, I’ll cover some simple, yet not commonly mentioned, ways to build a meditation practice that sticks.
It is interesting to talk to people about meditation because it is one of those activities that beginners bring so much mental baggage to. I also find that people don’t really know what meditation is, which is completely legit.
There are so many forms of meditation on the market right know, it’s not a wonder the idea overwhelms anyone who might be interested. For example, there is transcendental meditation, zen meditation, walking meditation, kundalini meditation, guided visualization, qui gong, zazen, heart rhythm meditation, vipassana…you get the idea.
For the purposes of this article, we are talking about mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the simple observation of your own thoughts. As an observer, you don’t engage with them. You just let them pass. Dismiss them and return to your focus which is either your breath or some other concentration focal point in your immediate present state.
Instead of breath, many people use a body scan technique, observing each individual body part as they sit or lay down. Others observe the lights that appear when we close our eyes. Science nerds, these are called phosphenes. Scientists aren’t exactly sure where this light comes from but suspect the light originates from light generated from the cells inside our own eye. Whoa! Regardless of where the light show comes from, it can be a helpful tool in staying on track during mindfulness meditation.
Meditation’s benefits on the mind and body is robust and well documented to say the least. It includes improved mental focus, stress reduction, addiction cessation, insomnia resolution, weight loss, and anxiety and depression relief.
However, the goal of mindfulness meditation is to train our brains to put space between our thoughts and our actions so we can break down our conditioned responses to our feelings about life, many of which cause us stress, anxiety, or anger. Mindfulness also shows us what thoughts our mind goes back to most often or a pattern of thinking that isn’t serving us.
The yoga world overflows with tips and instructions designed to help people get their meditation practice started, enhance it, and the stick with it. So be sure to start your meditation research with a Google search to see what the internet has to tell you and then refer back to this article for a few tips and ideas I haven’t seen on the web.
Pro tip: proper meditation preparation does not require a high colonic, taro card reading, or a sage burning in order for it to work; don’t trust everything you read on the Internet.
Before you even sit down
One of the things I have noticed most often about meditation practices is that people, myself included, aren’t doing the right kind of preparation. The standard meditation instructions typically go like this: 1) find an easy seated position 2) close your eyes 3) begin by observing your breath…
The funny thing about our brain is that it will find ways to entertain itself while we are trying to quite it. It is very much like a toddler at bedtime in this way. Suddenly we need to fidget, we have an itch EVERYWHERE, we have to go pee, we are hungry oh and also thirsty. We don’t like the guided meditation we chose and want to download a different one. It is too cold/too hot and our hands feel weird. This is the practice. This is all of us.
1. Remember what’s harder than doing nothing
Make a list of all of the things that you have done that are more difficult than sitting still for 5-7 minutes. Have you given birth to a child? Gone to the dentist? Taken a really difficult test? Given a Board presentation? Those are all things that are more difficult and much higher stakes than sitting still for a few minutes.
And if you crash and burn during your meditation session, who cares? No one will know and you can try again tomorrow.
2. Find a comfortable position
Finding a comfortable position, seated or otherwise, for meditation is harder than it sounds. Even people who don’t have chronic aches and pains or an injury have trouble staying seated in meditation comfortably. It’s important to remember a few things about this.
The first is that you should spend time other than when you are trying to meditate deciding what your meditation posture will be. Try it out while you are watching TV. Try different cushions, leaning against a wall, cross legged or straight legged, in a chair or on the floor. The options are endless but meditation time isn’t the time to figure it out. Have a go-to position and the props you need ready before you decide to meditate.
The other thing is that your meditation duration will likely be less than 10 minutes. Much anxiety about comfort comes from the irrational fear that we are going to be stuck in one position forever and we obsess about making sure it is just exactly right since we will be trapped there without any means of escape. Chill, it’s just a few minutes and you can always move if you need to.
3. Figure out what you are going to do with your hands
Not knowing what to do with our hands is a common meditation concern. And, much like with the sitting position, you are going to need to experiment to see what feels best. Some people rest their hands on their knees or clasp them lightly in their lap. Here is a link to the two most common mudras, or meditation hand positions; chin mudra and dhyana mudra.
4. Select your meditation soundtrack
Music for meditation is such a personal choice, I have trouble even recommending anything. Some people need musical melodies, some need silence, monotonous sounds, waves crashing, or birds chirping. Anyway, there is a little bit of all of that in the list of links to meditation soundtracks below.
5. Select your guided meditation
If you decided that a meditation soundtrack isn’t for you, I suggest you start with some guided meditations. There are so many great guided meditation apps on the market right now. Most of them are free with the option to upgrade or make in-app purchases. I recommend you give these a try to see if one of them works for you.
6. Have a light snack
Meditation is hungry and thirsty work. Sitting for 10 minutes really seems to take it out of us and our brain wants to think about how hungry we are. An easy way to shut that thought down is to remind your brain that there is no way it could be hungry or thirsty because you just ate and had some water.
7. Go to the bathroom
Oh hey, we just ate and had some water. Don’t we have to get up and pee now? Nope, because you are going to go the bathroom right before you sit down. Sorry, brain, try again.
8. Set a timer for 7 minutes
This is a guideline. Many people want to start a meditation with just 5 minutes on the clock and if that is what it takes to get them there, than that’s perfect. However, it takes the brain several minutes to settle into the meditation groove, particularly for new meditators, so if you can do 10 minutes do 10. 7 minutes is a nice compromise. Meditation, once you are in it, has the ability to make time meaningless and when the session is over, you may not have much sense of how long you were seated.
Establishing a strong and consistent meditation practice is something that requires physical and mental discipline. Even if your brain refuses to observe and dismiss thought and instead takes you on the guided tour of your most embarrassing junior high school moments, stay. Give your brain something to do by counting your exhales. Use this as an opportunity to make your body comfortable with the idea of stillness.
Want more of this?
Visit the Tips & Tricks section for more great ideas from yours truly. Then, poke around on the rest of the site to see what else you find that lights your fire. Oh, and don’t forget to comment below with any additional real world tips you have for meditators.
This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.