Nourish - Top Tips for Starting a Meditation Practice (Part One)
Meditation is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. It is an awareness of the present moment. It is the ability to acknowledge and accept one’s thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations calmly and without judgement or attachment.
In essence, whatever you do with awareness is meditation. “Watching your breath” can be called meditation. Listening to the birds is meditation. Or engaging in a single activity like gardening or running can be called meditation.
As long as these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation.
In short, meditation describes a state of consciousness, when the mind is free of scattered thoughts.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has wonderfully positive effects on the brain. In fact, it’s shown to help:
- dramatically reduce stress and anxiety
- lower blood pressure and heart rate
- promote productivity
- improve focus
- encourage deeper relaxation and restful sleep
There are even studies to show that meditation actually rewires the neural pathways of your mind and makes you feel happier!
The fact is though, meditation is hard, and it is intimidating for many of us. Scrap that. It can be hard for everyone.
Many people often feel discouraged when they close their eyes and sit with themselves for seconds or even minutes. Immediately they find that their mind is a sea of thoughts, ideas, lists and judgements and give up. Often it’s even a surprise to realise how much is going on in there, with many finding it quite uncomfortable. The reality is that the nature of the mind is busy.
So for those of you struggling, or simply curious about developing a meditation practice, here are some tips to help you on your way:
No. 1 – Realise There is No Right or Wrong Way to Meditate
Many beginners to meditation think that meditation should be a certain way: an empty mind that is peaceful, relaxing and maybe even enlightened. Whilst it can be all these things, it can also be frustrating, challenging and even a little mundane. And we haven’t even mentioned the endless clutter of thoughts that can go round and round and round.
I’d like to throw some encouraging light on the situation here by saying that there is no being ‘good at meditation’. There is no wrong or right way to meditate.
For many people, when they try to meditate they believe that they’ve failed because they can’t stop thinking. They assume they are not good at meditation when this happens.
I have great news for you: Your mind isn’t supposed to be totally blank.
Your aim is to simply stay present for whatever comes up, allow it to pass by without dwelling on it or judging it, and to simply just be.
Meditation is mostly about becoming the “watcher” of your own mind.
The goal of meditation isn’t to rid your mind of thoughts. Instead, it is to simply observe these thoughts and let them flow freely through your mind without becoming attached to them to making a judgement of them.
The nature of the mind is to wander, and therefore there will be times when thoughts come up. This isn’t a bad thing or a good thing. It’s simply a thing. It just is.
No. 2 – Make it a Part of Your Daily Routine
One of the most common excuses people give for avoiding meditation is that they don’t have time to do it. Many believe they need a minimum of 20 or 30 minutes to do it and they just can’t make the time. Or that anything less than 30 minutes isn’t worth doing,
If you truly want meditation and all its benefits to become part of your life, then the first thing you have to do is stop making excuses. In reality, just 5 minutes a day of meditation is better than no meditation at all.
And just like healthy eating and exercise, meditation is a practice that offers the most benefits when it’s made into a consistent habit that is done every day.
Schedule your meditation around the same time every day, whether that’s in the morning, afternoon or night for you. You’ll be much more likely to succeed than if you just wing it and say you’ll try doing it at some point today. Make it a part of your routine as much as possible, and eventually, it’ll stick.
And if noise or distractive environments are your excuses, there’s nothing a decent pair of headphones (or even regular earplugs!) can’t fix!
Have a read over this blog for some more helpful 2-minute habits:
No. 3 – Start Slowly
Although it may be tempting to jump right into your new meditation practise with the commitment of 30 minutes or 1 hour a day, I would encourage you to choose a more realistic goal to start off with.
Carving out half an hour to an hour of time a day is challenging for many. Plus it tends to add more unnecessary pressure and the feeling of failure if it’s not achieved.
A sweet spot for a lot of beginners to mediation tends to be between 10 to 12 minutes. Naturally, feel free to do less if you have less time or more as you get more comfortable with practice.
I would suggest if you’re somebody who tends to procrastinate, make excuses or give up easily, that you start with just 2 minutes each day. Everyone has 2 minutes to spare at some point in their day. This way you can’t convince yourself you didn’t have time that day to squeeze in some mindfulness meditation. It’s just for 2 minutes.
No. 4 – Do it Anywhere and Everywhere
There are no restrictions!
The beauty of practising mindfulness and mediation is that it doesn’t require you to be in any one place for any set amount of time. It’s easy to do it anywhere!
Maybe it’s the first thing in the morning to help you focus for the day. Perhaps it’s the last thing at night before bed to calm your mind so that you get a good night’s sleep. Maybe it’s after a stressful phone call or meeting. Before an interview or after a long flight. You can do it anywhere at any time.
Don’t feel restricted to only being able to meditate ‘correctly’ by sitting in a candlelit room with a mediation cushion and soft music in the background. You can do it anywhere and at any time you need to refocus and come back to yourself.
Emily is a certified 200hr Yoga Teacher who is qualified to teach mindfulness and meditation techniques
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