Meditation has been a relatively new addition to my habits this year, and one that I have to want to do for it to happen. If I have “should” thoughts, where I say to myself “Ugh, I should meditate,” it just doesn’t happen. I’ve started changing my “should” thoughts to “want” statements, where instead I say to Alex, “I want to meditate tonight.” Not only does this create a much more positive emotional attachment to the action, Alex will hold me accountable to my statement and I’m much more likely to actually meditate that day.
Maybe you want to start a mediation practice too, but aren’t sure where to start. As a beginner myself, here are my best tips to get started.
Attach positive emotions to the practice - As I said before, this has to do with actually wanting to practice, not just telling yourself you “should.” Once you’ve meditated a few times you’ll start to attach positive experience to the action, it will become easier and easier as you gain more practice. When returning to the cushion (chair or otherwise) a good indicator that you are on the right track is a desire to sit. If mediation begins to feel like a chore that’s a sign that you should take a step back and see where that negativity is coming from.
Know your why - With any action or habit or practice you want to take on you should know WHY you’re starting. For me, meditation allows me to handle my emotions and makes me feel more connected to my mind and body. Knowing why you’re doing something motivates you to actually do it and keeps you going even when it’s challenging.
Do yoga or a light workout first - One of the hardest things for me when I was starting to practice meditation was going from 100 to 0 right away. It’s often easier transitioning from a fast-past task-oriented mindset to a calm and still demeanor if you recenter yourself in your body through a physical activity first. After I set up a relaxed space and before I sit for mediation I like doing yoga first, it reunites my movement and breath. There are so many different physical actives that would be useful for this, yoga is just one example. Mediation isn’t just about your mind after all, it is about your holistic existence. Mind and body may feel separate during our daily activities, but yoga and mediation can reunite the two. “When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way” - Shunryu Suzuki.
Follow the breath in and out - The best way to get into a meditative state is to just breathe. Follow your in breath down to the pit of your lungs and feel your chest or stomach rise. As you breathe out notice the change in temperature of your breath and feel your chest or stomach fall. Don’t worry about clearing your mind, just keep your focus on your breath as thoughts enter your mind. Allow them to pass without focusing on them, just return to your breath. Be careful not to have too many expectations. It may take a long time to quiet your mind, both in your short term practice and your long term practice. Always remember to be patient with yourself, and let your mind become calm at it’s own pace. Trying to rush results will only make you frustrated.
- Do it first thing in the morning and last thing at night - This practice is based off of a mantra by Thich Nhat Hahn, which is for waking up first thing the morning. Each part of the mantra is attached to the breath, so when I first wake up I think through the mantra a few times while breathing deeply. Based off this morning mantra I also made an evening mantra, which helps me relax and signals my mind and body that it’s time for sleep.
I created a poster with both of these mantras that hangs above my bedside table so just glancing at it reminds me of my practice first thing in the morning and last thing at night. To get a copy of this poster and begin using these mantras yourself click the button below!