What does it mean to meditate... a lot of people do not quite know and have never meditated in their life. I recently met a 76 year old whom tried meditation for the very first time. I want to explain on this blog some facts about meditation with the intention that you try it and may be even get into the habit of taking a few minutes a day just for you to meditate.
- Reduce Stress is one benefit that people are aware of. But meditation helps with many other things. For example, helps quit smoking, ADHD attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and burnt out, eating disorders, anxiety, slowing ageing, positive emotions and well being, the list goes on and on!
Now that you know this, aren't you ready and willing to try it? Make this practice a daily routine in your life? You can start with five minutes a day! Here are some tips on how to get you started:
- Sit for just five minutes. This will seem easy. Start with just five minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week.
- Do it first thing each morning. It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Instead, set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.
- Don’t get caught up in the how — just do. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is all nice, but it’s not that important to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or on your couch. Or on your bed. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for five minutes at first anyway, so just sit.
- Check in with how you’re feeling. As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely OK.
- Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.
- Come back when you wander. Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and simply gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and you won’t be good at it for a little while.
- Develop a loving attitude. When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude. See them as friends, not intruders or enemies. They are a part of you, though not all of you.
- Don’t worry too much that you’re doing it wrong. You will worry you’re doing it wrong. That’s OK, we all do. You’re not doing it wrong. There’s no perfect way to do it, just be happy you’re doing it.
- Don’t worry about clearing the mind. Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.
- Stay with whatever arises. When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try staying with them awhile, you might also try staying with a thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety … but an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for awhile. Just stay, and be curious. These thoughts and feelings are answers and guidance for you.
- Get to know yourself. This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there?
- Become friends with yourself. As you get to know yourself, do it with a friendly attitude instead of one of criticism. You’re getting to know a friend. Smile and give yourself love.
- Do a body scan. Another thing you can do, once you become a little better at following your breath, is focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start at the soles of your feet — how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.
- Notice the light, sounds, energy. Another place to put your attention, again, after you’ve practice with your breath for at least a week, is the light all around you. Just keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, just focus on noticing sounds. Another day, try to notice the energy in the room all around you (including light and sounds).
- Really commit yourself. You will notice a difference in your life, within yourself, your attitude towards situations and people and your own personal relationship with yourself.
I hope you find this blog helpful and you feel ready to start this practice. If you have any questions or comments please send me a note.