Have you ever wanted to start a meditation practice, but don’t know what to do? Or are you worried about “doing meditation” correctly? Well the good news is that it’s easy to get started. Here are six basic steps to get you on the path of a regular meditation practice.
Step 1: Reflect on Your “Why” for Meditation
There are many reasons to begin and sustain a meditation practice. If you create a daily practice, you will reap far more benefits than you can even imagine right now. Before you begin, though, consider getting clear on why you want to meditate. Identify your top two or three priorities, as this will help you stay committed to developing a new habit.
What are your whys? Are you wanting to decrease stress and anxiety? Be more focused at work and able to improve your productivity? Or maybe you want to sleep soundly and wake up refreshed in the morning. Maybe you simply want to be more present and living in the moment during the day rather than being constantly distracted by little things. These are just a few of the possible benefits you can look forward to.
Knowing your “WHY” will also help you design your meditation practice so that you are likely to reach your specific goals. For example, let’s say you are so stressed out and overwhelmed at work that you have a difficult time focusing on one thing and completing it. You may find that a morning practice just before leaving for work, or perhaps one at lunch time, will help you keep better focus and concentration on your daily work priorities.
So, what are your big whys? Write them down, and then move on to the next step.
Step 2: Decide When and Where You Will Meditate
To develop a new habit, it’s helpful to be consistent. So, first decide what time of day you think you’ll best be served by your daily meditation practice. When you meditate will depend, in part, on your life circumstances. If you are a stay-at-home mom with a two-year old, your free time may be solely dependent on the kid’s nap time. If you work at home or in an office, however, set a specific time and stick with it to cement in a solid habit of meditating daily.
Here are some ideas of when and where you can add meditation to your day:
- First thing in the morning upon arising. This is great time because it sets a positive time for your day, and your brain will likely not yet be in “beta”wave state, so meditation might be easier as a result.
- Just after you get to work. If you have kids at home that prevent you from meditating before work, see if you can leave for work 15-20 minutes early, and when you arrive, you can either meditate in your car, or my preference, is to go sit in a conference room. If you are an early morning riser, this can work well, because most people don’t schedule meetings at 7:30 or 8:00 am. You can grab 15 minutes of focused meditation, and that can be a perfect way to start your business day.
- Mid-morning break. For those who work at home, this is a good option, and is my personal favorite. I’m a strange bird in that I can jump out of bed, brush my teeth, grab my first cup of coffee, and then be happily working at my computer. My most productive work time is before 9 am, so I don’t like to chip into that time for meditation. However, after several hours of work, a mid-morning meditation break is perfect for re-charging my mind. I usually precede it with a short walk around the neighborhood to counter the sitting time.
- Lunch time. If you work in the corporate world and have your own office, or some other private place you can retreat to, lunch time is an option for you. When I was working in the corporate environment, I worked in a downtown area and had several cool places I could walk to and then meditate. There was a nearby garden with fountains and tables / chairs, so during good weather, that was my favorite place to meditate. The city library was nearby, and they had private rooms as well as tables hidden in corners.
- When You Arrive Home After Work. Meditation can be a great way to unwind when you get home, especially if you find yourself stressed and too exhausted to consider exercise. With a 15 minute meditation, you might find that you feel good enough to get out for a short walk. Another benefit to meditating post-work, is that if you are a stress eater and eat a lot of food at home in the evenings, sometimes a meditation practice can help curb those tendencies.
- Before Bed. If you are suffering from poor quality sleep, meditating daily at any time of day, will gradually decrease your stress and improve your sleep quality. But it can be especially helpful before bed if you have a hard time quietening your mind enough to fall asleep.
Step 3: Do a Few Stretches
If you are meditating at home or in a private space, I highly recommend doing a few yoga stretches to loosen up the especially tight and tense areas of your body. This doesn’t have to entail much time or effort, say 4 or 5 simple stretches.
Most of us, as a result of spending so much time slouched in front of a computer, have poor posture that leads to tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Stretching can help release some of that stored tension. Because our minds are connected with our bodies and vice versa, if you relax your body some, your mind will follow, so you can use stretching to help move your brain away from the highly active “beta brainwave” towards the calmer “alpha brainwave.”
Step 4: Get Into a Comfortable Seated Position
If you are physically able to, you can sit in the classic Lotus yoga position, as shown in the photo at the top of this post. However, if this position isn’t comfortable, simply sit in a chair, rest your feet on the floor, and lay your hands in your lap in a relaxed position. There is no single “right way” to sit for meditation, except for having your spine in alignment. In other words, you don’t want to slouch over, as this restricts your breathing.
To make sitting in the Lotus position more comfortable, consider getting a meditation cushion, but know that this isn’t needed for you to begin your practice. If your bed is reasonably firm, you could sit lotus style on that if you are meditating at home.
Step 5: Close Your Eyes and Take a Few Slow Deep Breaths
Step 6: Begin Meditating
There are many forms and styles of meditation, but the aim, at least initially, is to quiet your mind so that it’s not jumping all over the place. The process of meditating each day gradually trains you and your brain to be able to be quieter, more focused, more present, and better able to concentrate, along with a lot of other benefits.
The simplest approach when you are starting a meditation practice is to focus on your breath.