Do you think meditating is only for certain kinds of people? Like the Zen master sitting by a placid lake. Or perhaps you think of the quiet monk meditating behind old walls. Or maybe, you think of a New Age retreat, with people sitting in a circle meditating.
Meditation is for all these people, and so many more. It is for anyone who wants to train their mind and body to slow down so that he or she can become more aware of feelings, thoughts, and actions. You don’t need to be in a beautiful place, or know foreign verses, or escape your daily life to practice and benefit from meditation. On contrary, you can meditate wherever you are, with whatever you know, and however chaotic your life is.
Before you Start Meditating
Find a Relaxing Place
This can be indoors or out, quiet or loud, dark or bright. The point is to find somewhere you find relaxing. A bedroom, park, or church are all great choices as are your office, in your parked car, or your favorite cafe.
While nowhere will be 100% distraction-free, try your best to find a place and time where you won’t be disturbed. Turn off your cell phone, close your email, and ask roommates and family not to disturb you for a designated amount of time.
Sitting “lotus” style is not required. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, on a bench; you can lay down in the grass or in your favorite recliner; you can even stand if that works best for you. Find a position that is relaxing that you can stay in for a minimum of 2 minutes. Laying down in a bed is not recommended, but the meditation police won’t come to get you if you do.
A Simple Way to Begin Meditating
These five steps are designed to help you begin a routine meditation practice. Start with a goal of two minutes of meditation. Set a timer to go off after your designated time, or simply look at the time when you begin and end. As you become more comfortable with meditating, extend how long you meditate.
1. Pick a Trigger
As the story goes, when the rooster sees the sunrise, he crows. Pick a task that you do regularly, and decide to meditate after completing that task. Your “trigger” can be waking up, brushing your teeth, clocking out for lunch, taking off your shoes after getting home, or after walking the dog. Daily meditation is recommended, so try to pick something you do daily.
2. Sit Quietly
If you’ve ever lived with a cat, you know most of their day is spent quietly sitting in their spot. After your trigger, you do the same. Go to your chosen relaxing spot and sit quietly. Remember to turn off phone and computer notifications. Take note of the time or set a timer for however long you plan to meditate (minimum 2 minutes).
3. Notice Breathing
Whales, for obvious reasons, must be very mindful of their breathing patterns. As you settle into your spot, notice your own breathing patterns. Don’t try to change them just yet. Are you breathing shallowly, or are you taking deep breaths? How far down does the air seem to go in your lungs? What does it feel like when you breathe out? Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? Counting your breaths helps you stay focused on them. Keep your attention on your breath for about 10 breaths.
4. No Judgement. No Trying. No Ignoring Distractions
Have you known a loyal dog who is content with being with someone, despite their accomplishments and flaws? After your initial 10 breaths, try to be that loyal dog for yourself. Let your thoughts meander in and out of your mind. Don’t judge them. Don’t try to think of something in particular, nor nothing at all. Don’t try to shut out the distractions, whether they’re in your head, or outside your control, or even an itch on your nose. Simply acknowledge their presence without reacting. Accept it all as part of your meditation experience.
5. Let Thoughts Go and Return to Breath
Once you accept your thoughts- let them go. It can be helpful to imagine yourself breathing them out. Eventually, you want to focus completely on your breath. This time, mindfully take deep breaths through your nose that pull air to the bottom of your lungs until they’re full, then slowly release the breath completely out of your mouth. If any new thoughts arise, let them go with your breath. Stay focused on your breathing until your time is up.
Continue meditating, and your mind will more easily calm, and your body will more willingly relax. Try extending your amount of time you use to meditate, meditating in new places, and focus on breathing in stressful situations. In time, you will discover a happier, healthier self.