Learn to Meditate in 6 Simple Steps
Meditation practice reminds me of a Marmite: you either love it or hate it. Some people swear by it, but others are not sure what the hype is all about.
Celebrities, healthcare professional and even schoolchildren are recommending mindfulness meditation for its benefits. It is thought that regular practice could help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, calm down one's mind and even increase performance at work/school. But how come some many of us are still sceptical about it?
I must admit that for some time, I considered meditation an overhyped trend and had a slightly distorted view of the whole practice.
I was convinced that to gain any benefits, I would need to sit in a super uncomfortable lotus pose for hours on end.
I also thought I would have to practice every single day while chanting something in a foreign language. I also had the images of smoky rooms full of burning incentive sticks.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience''. Ralph Waldo Emerson
But, after a very stressful patch at work, I have signed up for an '8-week Mindfulness Meditation programme'. It was a good call for me: I started my practice with a well-grounded theory and in a group of likeminded people.
So as it appears, no burning sticks, no lotus pose (unless you really want to) and no need to practise for hours.
However, my teachers did recommend to be consistent with my practices as regular meditation is thought to bring the benefits about.
There is no right or wrong way of doing it as long as after a session, you feel refreshed and somewhat rejuvenated.
The ultimate goal of any mindfulness practices, be it meditation, gratitude journal or other - is to learn to be present in the moment and slow down your thoughts. So give meditation a try and see if it works for you.
In this article:
Pick a Short and an Easy One to Begin with.
Try Several Meditation Types but Stick with the One that You Enjoy.
Master Your Breathing.
Listen to What Your Body Tells You.
Train Your Mind to Stay with the Practice.
Be Inquisitive About Your Experience.
1. Pick a Short and an Easy One To Begin With.
Begin your introduction to meditative practices by trying out a very short version of mindfulness meditation.
Short version could be anything from 1 - 5 minutes.
It could be as simple as sitting with your eyes closed for a minute being aware of your body and your surroundings. Or it could be a 5 minute guided meditation from such apps as Simply Being, Buddhify, Headspace, Insight Timer or any other. Those are the apps I've used on my journey.
Alternatively, there are plenty of meditation videos on Youtube and free resources on various Mindfulness Centres, such as Oxford Mindfulness.
2. Try Several Meditation Types and Stick with the One You Enjoy.
It does not matter what celebrities or influencers like, or what your yoga teacher recommends. Find a practice that talks to you and your soul - and stick with it for some time.
Try out several, find the one you enjoy and listen to it every day. It could be:
A guided meditation with video and music
A guided meditation without music or video
A calming meditation video only
Relaxing music only
Sounds of nature (rain, ocean, birds singing)
You could also choose from various types of meditation practices:
You could also start your journey by reading a book on meditation or mindfulness. Here is a list of 10 of my favourite books that I go to when I feel too overwhelmed about my meditation practice.
Also, check out Headspace or Oxford Mindfulness or this Psycom article with over 25 meditation resources and inspirations.
Research shows that it does not really matter what type of meditation you practice and how lengthy it is - as long as you are consistent with your practices - the results will follow.
3. Master Your Breathing.
Who would have thought that breathing, this ability that comes to us naturally, might need to be mastered.
The thing is, that there are different types of breathing. And learning how to breath most effectively will help us to deal with many unpleasant things in life:
And calm and masterfully paced breathing is what helps us to create that meditative experience and calm our mind.
This simple exercise should help you to make a start.
Breathe in slowly - hold for up to 7 seconds - exhale even slower. Repeat until you feel your body relaxing, and thoughts quieting down.
Do not rush or take too deep a breathe as it might make you feel dizzy.
4. Listen to What Your Body Tells You.
Short meditative practices are beneficial at the beginning of your journey. They could help you to learn to listen to your mind and body and notice any changes or resistance that is happening within you.
If you are feeling anxious or apprehensive and you feel you body tensing, try calming it down by repeating to yourself that 'you are safe'. You might find the following affirmations useful:
I am safe
I am safe, I am loved
I am safe, I am loved, I am supported
I am in a safe place
Meditation is a safe process
I am calm
I am calm, I am safe
I am open to meditation journey
5. Train Your Mind to Stay with the Practice.
As meditation is not something we do regularly in our busy and hustle-prone society, this new and unusual experience might be rather testing for your mind & body. Your mind might start looking for excuses to finish the practice as soon as you started it. Or your inner voice might start telling you that it's not for you.
This is quite normal. Even meditation teachers would have experienced resistance at some point of their journey. Your mind is not used to it. It's used to rushing, hurrying, multitasking. Learning to stay calm and still requires practice and patience.
In yoga and meditation there is this mantra often used by teachers: 'Mind over matter.' It encourages students to be persistent and not allow their immediate sensations to ruin the practice. For example, if you feel an itch, it's advisable you acknowledge it but do not start fidgeting. Or if the practice requires for you to stay completely still - you do just that, and an itch should go away after some time.
6. Be Inquisitive About Your Experience.
Always listen to your mind and body. Ask yourself the following questions before and after a meditation practice to make sure you are aware of the processes that are going on inside you:
Does my body feel lighter or do I feel achy after the practice?
Have I managed to slow down my thoughts or have I been flooded by random and intrusive thoughts during the practice?
Did I feel calm during practice or anxious and unsettled?
Have I noticed any difference between how I felt at the beginning of the practice and after it? (e.g. my mind is less foggy, more clarity in my thought processes, I feel rejuvenated, happy, refreshed, etc.)
If you feel heavy and achy during your practice - don't give up - it is quite normal to feel a slight discomfort. The experience is new to your body. It's like exercising new muscles - it's painful at first, then you get used to it.
Be gentle but persistent. Continue slowly. Practice short meditation for as long as needed. One day you will notice that your feelings and experiences have changed.
According to Headspace website, you can feel the benefits of meditation after one practice. Whether you decide to practice to calm your mind, quieten your thoughts or learn to stay in the moment - you will enjoy it as long as you stay with the practice.
Be gentle with yourself and ease your mind & body slowly into the routine of regular practices.
Start by trying to sit quietly for a minute breathing slowly and being aware of your surroundings.
Experiment with different apps and types of meditative practices. Choose the one you enjoy the most and stick with it until you are ready to move on.
Most of all - remember to have fun!
Do you have any tips on how to start your meditation journey? Please share them with me :)