Whether you are new to meditation, have a modest practice, or meditate regularly, it's important to keep it simple and let the energy flow naturally. Some days, it's a breeze. Other days, it's challenging. I find that getting back to a beginner's mind and some simple techniques helps me move along in my practice. Common questions I tend to hear:
“Isn’t meditation just concentrating? What does it mean to meditate anyway?”
“I’ve heard it’s good for you, but I’m not really sure why. What are the benefits?”
“Where and when is the best place to meditate?”
“How long should I meditate if I’m just starting out?”
Are you nodding your head like “yep, I’ve had these same questions run through my mind”? Well, I’m here to answer some of these questions for you by providing 5 tips to help you move forward in your new meditation journey.
TIP 1: Refer to the A,B,C’s of meditation
A - Awareness: Pay attention to your physical body. What happens to your body if you stop moving? Do you want to move? Does all of your attention go to physical aches and pains? Do you become agitated or can you find stillness?
B - Breath: Find the beauty in following your breath with the inhalation and the exhalation. Gently close your eyes and tune in to the subtle shifts that happen when you become aware of your breath.
C - Connection: What is it that you are trying to connect to? From your inner voice, the God within, or your divine spark to the energy of peace or quieting the mind, take a moment to think about the connection you seek.
At its core, meditation is practicing awareness and calming the mind. It’s not so much concentrating on just any ol’ thing versus concentrating on an intention or mantra. With so many things vying for our attention every day, it might be challenging to settle into the meditation mindset in the first few minutes or to sit through the duration of meditation.
My first tip is to be aware of your physical body, let your breath be your guide, and think about what you want to connect to. Breathing just happens, so much so that we don’t even pay attention to it most the time. When we learn to control our breathing, we control our heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen intake. A great way to prepare yourself for meditation is to take 3-5 deep cleansing breathes. The next time you meditate, try and match your inhalations to your exhalations (3-count inhale, 3-count hold, 3-count exhale). It should feel like normal, calm breathing so use whatever count that works best with your breath cycle.
TIP 2: Write Down How You Feel After You Meditate
According to these EcoInstitute and Washington Post articles, meditation has been shown to:
• Reduce anger, anxiety, and stress
• Increase focus, mental clarity, and memory
• Increase compassion and empathy
• Increase self-relevance and mood regulation
Some people feel these effects immediately the first time meditating. For others, it can take months, even years. And, it’s also hard to tell exactly when these effects have taken place. Some of the most effective, deeper change I’ve witnessed have been students that have completed the yoga and meditation retreat that I guide.
My second tip is to write down how feel after meditating. Meditate everyday for 1 week (a minimum of 10 minutes). Afterwards, write down not only how you feel but if any other thoughts or feelings came up. After the week is over, see if you notice any patterns. Ask a friend or loved one if they notice anything different about you.
TIP 3: Meditate in a space that helps you relax and where you feel comfortable.
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again” - Joseph Campbell
The best place is as unique as each one of us. For some of us it’s a class with guided meditation, for others it’s sitting in a quiet room, under a favorite tree, the beach, surfing, in a yoga class, and so on. This is a place that speaks to you.
My third tip is to not worry so much about “where” meditation happens, rather, focus on conditions that allow time to tune out externally and tune in internally.