When I began meditating, I tried so hard to do it right. Every time my mind wandered, I would get frustrated and felt as if I would never be able to meditate. The simple objective of meditation is to strengthen our attention to the moment, which cultivates mindfulness and compassion. There are many ways to meditate, but the most common is breath focused meditation. This is a great place to begin learning to meditate. Please go to Guided Meditations to use recordings to help you begin and deepen your practice, or use the guides below.
Here are some of my key tips:
- Find a place to sit where you will not be interrupted or easily distracted. (Some people may prefer to lie down, but I find it makes me sleepy)
- When seated, find a comfortable and upright position. Make sure your spine is erected but your body relaxed. If using a chair, have your feet flat on the floor. If using a cushion, make sure to sit closer to the edge so that it supports your spine.
- Find a comfortable place for your hands. Some people will rest the hands gently on their knees face down or face up (which is a way to support a feeling of openness), or rests the hands inside each other in a cup-like position on your lap. As time goes on, you will find your preference, whatever that may be. The key is to relax.
- ACCEPT that your mind will wander. Over time, it will wander less or you will be judge yourself less. It is in the act of GENTLY bringing your attention back to your breath that you are cultivating mindfulness and compassion. Jack Kornfield (another one of my teachers) describes this process as training the puppy.
- LET GO OF JUDGEMENT & EXPECTATIONS. A key part to meditation practice is letting go of what you should be experiencing, looking like or feeling while you meditate. Even if you feel like nothing is happening, rest assured that it is. There have been many times when I have meditated and my mind was racing the whole time. Yet, the fact that I sat and attempted to refocus had an impact. There is quite a bit of research that is showing the cumulative effect of meditation practice. So keep on meditating, especially when you feel resistance.
- PRACTICE DAILY!! It is hard to develop a habit, especially when you feel pulled in a million directions. Even if you only have 2 minutes when you sit up in bed in the morning, take that time to focus on your breath. Whatever you can do EVERYDAY will add up.
- Tara Brach has a free download titled “How to Meditate FAQ.” Check it out here.
- She also offers many talks for all levels of practice. I have found them inspiring and helpful in understanding mindfulness meditation.
- Sharon Salzberg has written a book Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation. I highly recommend this book as a tool to help you explore meditation. It is an accessible book that brings the reader through the basics of meditation (what it is, the benefits and science). It then brings the reader through 4 weeks of practice:
- Mindfulness and the Body
- Mindfulness and Emotions
- Lovingkindness (my personal favorite)
- Sharon Salzeberg has a 10 minute youtube video talking about starting a practice. Click here.
- Mindful magazine has a simple and useful guide to beginning a meditation practice. Click here and be sure to scroll all the way down.
- A brief video introduction on happify daily. Click here.
- The New York Times has put together a useful guide. Click here.