This is Part Two of my Top Tips to Starting a Meditation Practice blog series. For Part One, see here.
Within part two of this blog, I’d like to continue with some further tips that will help you set yourself up for your meditation practice, and in particular, for a seated or lying down mediation.
For any of you out there who find even knowing where or how to begin a meditation practice, this blog is for you.
No. 1 – Set a timer
One rookie mistake I think many of us make is to simply close our eyes and begin to switch off, only to think moments in, “How long has it been?” “Has it been 5 minutes?” “Did I fall asleep?!”
Constantly watching the clock has never been known to make anyone feel relaxed, so I advise you to set an alarm for however long you would like to give yourself ahead of time.
If using your smartphone, put it on airplane mode first so as to avoid being distracted by incoming messages etc. and chose a calming tone to bring you back out of your mediation.
No. 2 – Find a comfortable seat
Most importantly, you want to be comfortable when meditating. Feeling massively uncomfortable within minutes, if not seconds after beginning your practice is far from ideal!
Find a comfortable position for you, whether it’s sitting cross legged, sitting on a cushion, leaning your back against a wall, sitting in a chair or even lying down. If you tend to fall asleep during mediation (especially when you’re lying down) then there’s a reason for it. You need more sleep.
No. 3 – Close your eyes
Closing your eyes helps you to tune in to yourself easier and block out distractions from the outside world. If lying down, I highly recommend using a mediation eye pillow or eye mask. These help to block out any bright lights and allow you to focus your attention inwards easily.
If you struggle to keep your eyes closed for whatever reason, instead try lowering your gaze and focusing on a specific point; whether it’s a photograph of a loved one, a special quote written on a piece of paper or a trinket that means something to you. You can use a candle also or chose a point low in front of you and gently gaze here.
No. 4 – Focus on your breath
Simply becoming aware of your breath, making no effort to control it; but just allowing yourself to breathe naturally and be witness to it is an excellent way to allow yourself to gently gain self-awareness, and prepare your body for meditation.
Focus your attention on your breath and on how your body moves gently with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the quality of your breath, whether it’s deep or shallow. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe in and out. How your chest, rib cage and belly rise and fall.
Know that at this time, all you have to do is focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
No. 5 – Remain still
Your goal is to maintain stillness with minimal fidgeting, nose itching, adjusting and focus breaking. However, the mind is an active place and you’re going to find that distractive thoughts will come up. Accept that your nose may itch, the phone may ring or your partner or child will walk into the room.
– that’s ok!
There are no rules to what makes a good meditation. You don’t fail at it because your nose itched and you broke your stillness to itch it.
What you’re doing is cultivating a good practice and skill of becoming mindful and more present.
We don’t meditate or practice mindfulness to get really good at sitting still with our eyes closed not talking to each other. We take this time out to be mindful, allowing ourselves to let go of what doesn’t matter, reduce our stress levels and ultimately increase our happiness.
If you need to change position, gently move into another one; if you need to itch your nose, itch it. If you need to answer your child or partner’s needs, answer mindfully.
Don’t give these distractions any more attention or energy than they need. Over time your reaction to the distractions will lessen and you’ll simply find a way to sit with them.
No. 6 – Find techniques that work for you
There are many different ways to meditate, from silent, singing, chanting or moving mediations through to meditations using sounds, words, intentions or candles. There are endless ways to free the mind and bring awareness to the now.
Here I will list just a few of the techniques I like for calming a wandering mind, though I encourage you to research further to find what suits you personally.
Use a mantra
Using a mantra during your mediation can help you to keep your focus and stop your mind from wandering off onto creating shopping lists instead of being present. You can say them out loud or silently in your mind.
You can use all number of mantras, from
“I breathe in, I breathe out”
Through to traditional Sanskrit mantras like:
“Om” – Om is the sound of the Universe.
“Om Shanti”. Shanti means ‘peace’. This mantra is a wish of peace for all.
“So Hum” So Hum means ‘I am that’ – See how to do it here.
You might even want to say positive affirmations to yourself like
“I am enough”
“I have enough”
“I deserve love”
One of my personal favourite ways to use these mantras is to connect them to my breath.
For example using ‘”let go”; on an inhale you silently say “Let” and then on an exhale say “go”
The same goes for “I breathe in” on an inhale, and “I breathe out” on your exhale.
By giving the mind a mantra, you harness its energy and give it something calming and productive to focus on.
Focus on your breath and try different breathing techniques
There are many ways to use your breath in your meditation practice, including the one I mentioned earlier.
Another way is the “equal breathing” technique. This is ideal for helping to combat anxiety and helping one to feel more grounded.
The goal is to evenly match the length of your inhale to that of your exhale. A count of 4 is a great place to start. Breathing in for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four. Repeating this for several rounds can work wonders for the body and the mind.
From there, you can work towards a five or six, then maybe seven or even eight.
You can adapt this further by breathing in for four, holding for four and breathing out for four.
I would advise you to search for meditation classes or pop in to a local yoga class for more advice, guidance and support from experienced teachers if this interests you. The world of breath work is endless and absolutely wonderful!
Focus on your senses
Focusing on what’s going on around you – the sounds, smells, touch and sight can all help bring you to the present moment and help you reap the benefits of meditation.
It can be anything from listening to the leaves in the trees rustle, the smell of freshly cut grass wafting past your nose, or even the sound of alarms going off around you or the kids playing in the background. It’s all now, and it’s all ok.
Not everything in life is rosy and picturesque. There will be days that you find yourself meditating and all of a sudden your neighbour decides to mow the lawn, or the dog will simply not stop barking. It’s life, it’s now, and it’s ok. Don’t let it stop you.
Body scan technique
This makes a wonderful guided mediation, often done in yoga classes, but you can also find this on mediation apps or even on Youtube for example. I absolutely love to guide myself through this mediation before bed, and I highly recommend you give it a try.
Other options to look for similar to this would be chakra guided mediation or energy balancing mediation.
I wish you all the best finding out your preferred styles and techniques, and enjoy the benefits 🙂
Emily is a certified 200hr Yoga Teacher who is qualifed to teach mindfulness and meditation techniques
Twitter – @nourishstores
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