Last week we talked about five of the best reasons to meditate and I promised this week I’d give you five tips on how to either begin meditating or to make your meditation practice better!
So let’s get right into it.
One of the first things people tell me when they say that meditation hasn’t worked for them is that they just couldn’t stick with it. That’s totally understandable, but how are you ever going to get better at something without consistently practicing every day?
If you aren’t willing to invest a little time each day to practicing something, I question how badly you really want to master it in the first place. I know there have been things in my life that I THOUGHT I wanted, until it came down to the “how to make it happen” part of it and I realized I wasn’t willing to put in the time and effort it would take to achieve it. But the things that have been important to me, I have always committed the time to making them happen.
When it comes to meditation, I’m not suggesting you sit in an uncomfortable position for an hour every day — heck, who could? I do suggest that you commit 110% to at least trying this whole “meditation thing” out. Decide you’re going to commit to meditating every day for a month. Once you’ve committed, just do it! Every. Day. No ifs, ands or buts.
2. Get Rid of Distractions
When you go to your meditation spot, commit to meditating for whatever length of time you’ve chosen and leave the cell phone (on silent) in the other room. Turn off (or at least silence) anything that could distract you while you meditate.
Also, if you’re going to be distracted by the fact that you just can’t get comfortable, figure out how you can! You don’t need to sit with your legs crossed if you have bad knees. Find the seated or prone position that’s most comfortable for you, assume that position, and don’t let yourself fidget. That’s a subtle form of distraction too! If you have an itch or feel a mild form of discomfort, I think you’ll be surprised to find that if you just sit with it and bring your attention back to your breath, it will pass.
Remember that it’ll take time to master this. So be forgiving of yourself in the beginning. Your mind will start to drift and wonder. This is why it’s important to have a focal point – a prayer, a mantra or something positive – to keep you focused. So when other thoughts try to enter your mind, acknowledge what’s happening and then bring your attention back to your breath and focal point. Don’t get frustrated.
3. Quantity is Not Quality
You don’t need to bite off more than you can chew here: If you’re just starting out, you can begin by meditating for 5 minutes. Then, as you begin to get more comfortable, move it up to 7 minutes, then 10. Remember that quantity is not quality when it comes to meditation. Set a timer so you know you won’t go for too long if need be. Do whatever you have to do to protect the time you’ve carved out for yourself and just be consistent with doing it daily so that you build a habit.
4. Eyes Open or Closed
I know I had trouble meditating with my eyes closed at first and preferred to keep my eyes open but just softly focused on a point. (In yoga, they call these types of focal points your drishti.) If you too feel like your mind wanders more when your eyes are closed, try looking at a candle, an om symbol, an inspiring picture or another fixed point and just close your eyes when it feels natural.
Having my eyes closed was far more comfortable for me when I would begin by reading my body. In whatever position you’re in (sitting, lying down, etc.), close your eyes and slowly but surely move your attention from your feet all the way up to your head. You don’t need to move the body parts you’re focusing on. Just bring your awareness to them and move up after a few breaths.
5. Don’t Expect a Heightened Experience
This may sound crazy, but I think a lot of people try meditation because they’re expecting to have an out-of-body or some other heightened experience. You may very well experience something like that at some point, but I just look at meditating as one of the only times in the day when I can just quietly sit with myself.
You know you’ll reap ridiculously awesome benefits from meditation, so you’ve got a strong enough reason to do it. But if you need to add another to the list, set or remind yourself of your intention at the beginning of your meditation time. You’re allowing yourself to just BE. To be present without an agenda. Fully in the moment.
Imagine everything else falling away but your breath and being, just like the outside hubbub of a city falls away when you walk into a hallowed place like a church or cathedral. Bask in the silence. Know that in the space between two thoughts is your God, your authentic self, the Universe, or whatever you acknowledge as the life force behind all things. Meditation is your chance to tap into that at-one-ment for a wee bit before bolting off into the rest of your day.
As usual, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any tips for strengthening your meditation practice?