5 Things to Remember When Starting a Meditation Practice
Uncertainty is the name of the game right now. At best, the uncertainty feels uncomfortable and at worst, it feels like our brains are ablaze with fear and dread of what is to come next. As our collective reality continues to rapidly change, it is important to seek sources of groundedness. I have found no greater source of this than in my meditation practice. Daily meditation helps me to meet the current conditions of unsteadiness and not-knowing with a sense of space and openness.
You can find your way to spaciousness too. Whether you’re just beginning to experiment with meditation or you are a long-time practitioner, these are some tips to guide you toward gaining your own sense of inner balance. Let’s jump in.
Choose a Focal Point of Awareness
You’ll start by positioning the body in whatever way feels comfortable. This can be sitting on a meditation cushion, in a chair, or evening laying down. During meditation, we bring our full awareness to a single point of focus. In most cases, this will likely be the breath. Your breath will be the steady ground you return to again and again as you sit in practice.
Don’t Expect to Clear the Mind
Let go of the expectation that you will completely clear the mind. It is 100 percent, absolutely, never going to happen – which is a good thing because our thoughts have a lot to tell us about our internal experiences! Meditation is all about approaching our thoughts in a much more friendly manner that we are habituated to do. So, when a thought arises or we become distracted during meditation we simply notice – you can even say the word “thinking” to yourself – and use your awareness to gently but firmly, return awareness back to the breath.
Pencil It In
I prefer to do my meditation practice first thing in the morning, within 30 minutes to an hour of waking up. It is helpful for me to deepen the breath in the morning, to steady the mind, and use my practice as an opportunity to begin my day in an intentional way. But maybe morning meditation isn’t your jam. It might be that you meditate in the evening, and it is your time to recalibrate after a day of taking in a barrage of anxiety-inducing news stories. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do it, what matters most is that you get it done.
Quality over Quantity
Chances are you have a lot of extra time on your hands right now. This doesn’t mean that you need to dive straight into meditation with an hour-long session each day. Five to ten minutes of dedicated focus per day will be much more beneficial to you than 20-30 minutes of distracted, unconcentrated focus per day. The science of mindfulness strongly suggests that just five minutes of practice per day goes a long way toward feeling the benefits of meditation. So start small and build your practice at your own pace.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
There are many types of meditation. If mindfulness practice doesn’t feel like your thing, you can explore mantra-based (or repetition) practice, a sound-bath with Himalayan singing bowls, walking and movement-based meditation practice on your daily sanity walk, or mindful-eating, which involves bringing attention to the tastes, smells and flavors of the food you’re eating.
Remember to be kind to yourself. If you’re turning toward meditation, you’re likely looking to release some of the stress that you’re carrying as we continue to make our way through these unprecedented times. The time you give yourself to meditate each day will be nourishing to your internal landscape. You’re cultivating the ability to meet the challenges of fear and anxiety from a space of softness and openness. Take your time and go at your own pace in finding what feels best for you.
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