If you’re new to the practice of meditation and are ready to give it a try, let’s do it together! Here are a few tips to set yourself up for success before you begin.
1. Set yourself up in a comfortable position. Let’s get detailed on this because it’s very important. We’ve all seen the gurus seated cross-legged with perfect posture, their beautifully bald head reaching softly toward the sky… scrap that image from your mind for a moment. If your hips, back, neck or shoulders don’t feel good when in a cross-legged seat, find a different position for yourself. I’ve found that adding a firm cushion or a folded blanket under my butt promotes a more comfortable seated posture for myself and for many of my students. Or try sitting in Virasana (aka Hero pose) with a blanket neatly folded under your knees and feet and a block or a bolster (aka firm, supportive cushion) under your hips. Investigate options to make this better for your body, for example a rolled towel under the tops of your feet/ankle joint could make all of the difference you need. If you’re committed to sitting upright during meditation but feel like your spinal and core muscles aren’t supporting a tall, long torso, try leaning your back up against a wall or sofa. Release yourself from any ideas of what you should do physically because it’s really what happens in the mind and emotions more than your physical position that’s important during mediation.
2. Choose a space that’s free from outside distractions. This can pose an additional challenge for some, especially now that families and households are together at home more. During my personal meditation practice, I’ve found that nature sounds are lovely - not too distracting but just enough to block out the sounds of neighbors doing yard work and dogs barking. You may learn that gentle music or complete silence works better for you. If you aren’t able to set up in a quiet space, put on your headphones and choose a recording that suits you. There are thousands of recordings of nature and meditation music available on all of the platforms (Youtube, Spotify, apps etc) many of which are also free. Lastly, get yourself some earplugs and tune down all outside noise.
3. Add something simple and positive to focus on. This can be almost anything that brings you a sense of peace. Aromatherapy - spray an essential oil based mist around you and on your shirt or have a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers nearby. Repeat a mantra to yourself, such as Om. Have an affirmation in mind that you can return to anytime you find your mind wandering. A visual of a beautiful place you’ve visited or would like to visit someday.
Once you’re ready with your comfortable set up, set a timer for yourself. If you’re just beginning to meditate, 5 minutes is a good start. If your timer goes off and you feel like you were ‘in the zone,’ set it for another 5 or 10 minutes. How long you meditate isn’t as important as making it a regular practice. Something that you can come to do each day, no matter how long or short of a duration it lasts. There are days when I find myself meditating in my car while I wait for a friend to arrive. Work towards a longer duration when you feel ready to do so.
Final reminders about meditating:
You can not do it ‘wrong’ or be 'bad' at it
You will not reach enlightenment after a week or even months of practice
It’s not possible to stop your thoughts or ‘turn off’ your mind
Allow thoughts to arrive, as they naturally will, and acknowledge the thought so you can release it and continue with your practice
Be patient with yourself, this is something to practice, not perfect