10 tips for beginning meditators
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
The number of people meditating in the U.S. is growing. A recent National Health Interview Survey found that, between 2012 and 2017, meditation by adults increased from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent, while meditation by children increased from 0.6 percent to 5.4 percent.
It’s not surprising because studies have shown us the benefits are many. In addition to the obvious perks, such as increased calmness and emotional well-being, regular meditation may also reduce numerous physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, digestive issues and other stress-related illness.
Perhaps you’ve thought about adding a meditation practice into your life but don’t know where to start or find it intimidating. For example, I have a friend who has been meditating for 20 minutes twice a day for 40 years. That can be a high bar to reach for when just starting out.
Personally, when it comes to mediation, I consider myself more of a dabbler. I’ve tried a number of different types of mediation over the years but didn’t establish a regular meditation routine until fairly recently. Now, I can’t imagine my life without it.
Given that there are so many different approaches to meditation, here are 10 tips to help you get started.
1. Keep it simple.
Don’t book a 10-day meditation retreat that requires you to get up at 4:00 a.m. to begin an all-day meditation practice. This is marathon-level meditation and it requires some training and preparation to do this. Instead, just getting quiet for brief periods every day, away from your phone and computer and the noise of the world will contribute to your sense of well-being.
2. Start with guided meditation.
With smartphones and YouTube, there are hundreds of sources of guided meditation at your fingertips.
Following along with a meditation created by someone else relieves you of the pressure of having “to do” anything more than simply listen and relax. It also means that you don’t have to sit in silence observing the endless thoughts running through your mind.
3. Start with a small commitment.
You don’t have to begin with a lofty goal. Five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening are better than not doing anything.
It’s the same with establishing any new daily habit. Start with the smallest amount possible so that you don’t resist doing it.
4. Choose the same time every day.
Beginning and ending your day with meditation can serve as peaceful bookends to an otherwise hectic day. Having some quiet “me time” in the morning can set the tone for your entire day. Ending your day with a quiet meditation can help you let go of the day’s worries and get a more restful sleep.
5. Select a quiet location with as few distractions as possible.
If your house if full of people, you might need to retreat into your bedroom to meditate or plan to awaken before anyone in your household to ensure that you have that quiet time.
6. Get comfortable.
So that you aren’t distracted by physical or other types of discomfort, you may sit in comfortable chair or couch, meditation cushion, lie on a soft rug or recline in a lounge chair.
Meditating in bed is fine, but there is a risk that you will fall asleep It’s better to be comfortable without signaling to your body that it’s time to sleep.
7. Find a focus.
Some people use a mantra while others focus on a candle or on their breath. The purpose behind this, as you will discover when you begin meditating, is that when we sit still, our minds often become hyperactive.
Instead of simply sitting and watching those thoughts bounce around, focusing the mind on something anchors our attention there.
8. Be patient with yourself.
Enter into the practice of meditation without expecting much at first. It may not even feel as though anything is happening or that you’re receiving any benefits.
Do yourself a favor and stick with it. Long-time meditators promise that this stage will pass, and eventually you’ll recognize the impact physically and psychologically that meditation is having on your daily life.
9. Don’t compare your progress with others.
There are many people that are skilled at meditating for hours per day, typically in the context of workshops, retreats, monasteries, etc. You may never meditate at that level.
However, that doesn’t mean your meditation practice isn’t of value or beneficial. Be careful not to get swept up in that type of comparison. It will only frustrate you and diminish what benefits you are receiving.
10. Notice how you feel afterwards.
Little by little, day by day, with practice, you will notice a difference when you add meditation into your life.
You may feel calmer and more relaxed. You may not react as much to your external world. You may find yourself making healthier choices. You may become more loving and gentler with yourself and others.
Whatever you discover after meditating for a while, make sure to take a moment to acknowledge your progress.
I hope you find this helpful. The main thing to remember is find a practice that feels right for you. Make it yours. Once you get the hang of it, it will become an enjoyable part of your daily routine.
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