How to meditate
1. Come as you are
Meditation requires no skill, no money, no status, just you. Start where you are. What other choice do you have? (Wink wink!) Start where you are; don’t compare yourself to anyone else and have fun with it! Meditation is not a quick fix. Yes, you can reap the benefits relatively soon after but the lasting results come with time, like getting physically fit.
If you were to walk into a gym and start lifting hefty weights like seasoned lifters who have been lifting for years, then you’re only going to hurt yourself or damage your ego. Lifters who are strong with quality muscle development command respect merely with their bodies. It takes consistent discipline and focus for a person to become lean, strong, and fit. If you talk to the long-time lifters, it’s incredible to see where they started years before.
meditation is personal
There is no one right way to meditate. There are multiple avenues to meditate successfully, and the key is finding what works for you. Most women and mamas that I know don’t have an hour in their day to take time to drop everything, sit perfectly still without any distraction. Sometimes it’s only 5 minutes. Sometimes it’s while you’re doing the dishes or folding laundry. We do the best with what we have. It’s more of a mindset rather than the act of meditation.
Once you know what works best for you, embrace your meditation method, and start connecting with your higher self. Remember that meditation is personal. Do what feels right for you. It’s your mind, your body, and your soul.
2. Get comfortable
Make yourself comfortable. Not so comfortable that you fall asleep. Find a position that feels natural to you. Your body will show you what it prefers. Avoid straining or forcing uncomfortable positions that can prevent deep relaxation.
You may prefer to lie down on a yoga mat or sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Some people like to sit cross-legged on the floor, while others need a pillow or a yoga block. Designate a specific piece of furniture as your meditation chair, meditation mat, or meditation cushion.
Perhaps consider trying a few different positions to see which you prefer. Most people close their eyes, while others keep their eyes open. Yes, you can meditate with your eyes open. You can meditate in your house, in your car, in a tree in a park, with a fox in a box; here or there, you can meditate anywhere. (I couldn’t resist the Dr. Seuss reference). All that matters is that you’re able to relax.
3. Let go of expectation
Forget everything you know or don’t know about meditation. Start with a clean slate and set aside any assumptions you have about meditation. Allow the meditation to take you where it will.
Try not to engage your thinking mind. Quieting the mind may be difficult; it becomes easier with time. Step back, and observe your thoughts and your reaction to your thoughts. Do not assign meaning to your thoughts or emotions. Eliminate the words, “should,” “could,” and “would.” Release any judgment you have towards yourself. Let it be what it is. Let it float on by taking the space it needs, to stay or leave.
Remember to breathe. This is so simple yet easy to forget. Your breath is your focus. If your mind wanders, notice where it goes, and bring your attention back to your breath. Focus on your in-breath and focus on your out-breath. When thoughts arise, allow them to float on by. Return to your breath. Your breath is what brings you back to center.
One of the secrets of meditation, yoga, or breathwork is that it will carry over into other parts of your life in a positive way. A few years ago, I had a big exam at work that I had been studying for, and right before they administered the test, I started to panic. At this point, I had been taking yoga classes regularly for about three months, and I felt a calm come over me. I actively started breathing and embraced where I was. I didn’t fight it. I relaxed into the “pose” or the chair that I was sitting in; I dropped my shoulders, relaxed my face, and breathed. I released the anxiety.
I passed the test because I liberated the gripping feelings of stress and anxiety. I relaxed, focused, and calmly answered the questions rather than allowing worry to cause me to underperform.
Notice what is happening with your body and your mind. While you are seated or lying down, pay attention to your muscles; try relaxing the muscles in your face, un-furrow your brow, relax your jaw, tongue, and teeth. Release your shoulders. Stay alert and tell your body’s muscles to let go; stop clenching. Allow any tension to leave your body.
Now breathe. Let your body enjoy the breath of life. Be grateful that you can breathe and that you are alive. Remind your mind to instruct your muscles to relax.
Next, disengage the thinking mind and become the observer. We want the ego to take a break so that we can notice everything without judgment. Nothing is good or bad. Remove all labels and identifying with their associations. It just is. You just are.
6. Start small
Initially, choose a shorter amount of time than you think you can meditate. Do not assume that you have to meditate for an hour every day to receive the benefits. It’s like working out; start slow. Doing less than what you can will prevent burn out. Tease yourself to leave yourself wanting more.
Start with one minute, a small enough time block that won’t disrupt your day. Do this for a few days up to one full week. Or if this is too easy, immediately try two minutes the following day. Once you feel comfortable with this amount of time, add another minute. The strategy is to slowly increase the time every few days to feel like your body wants more.
Another method is to choose multiple times to take little meditation breaks throughout your day. Once you’re comfortable with a minute a day, then try morning and night, so you’ve doubled your meditation time to 2 minutes. Or once you’re comfortable with 5 minutes, you can have three sessions throughout your day, and you’re at 15 minutes! The important thing is that you’re taking time to be calm, reset, and generate kindness towards yourself and others.
By the end of the week, you’re still only spending seven minutes per day. If you like how ‘Week 1’ went, then continue into ‘Week 2’. Like anything else new, start with the basics, be gentle, don’t throw yourself entirely into the deep end without wading in the shallows. Stick with it. Even tiny little breaks can produce tremendous shifts and breakthroughs. When it comes to learning how to meditate, the first step is deciding that you are going to try it more than once. The world is your oyster.d
Meditation quiets the mind. It presses pause on your busy, distracted thoughts. Meditation is a game-changer. One of the most significant benefits is that meditation gives our minds a much-needed reprieve from the overstimulating world in which we live. It can heal mental and physical ailments, change brain chemistry. Meditation allows for divine inspiration making the impossible possible. Meditation releases fear, provides comfort, solace, heals grief, gives us wisdom, and helps us connect worldwide. Meditation makes us better people. Meditation’s benefits are becoming more widely recognized around the globe.
Meditation reduces overall stress, which has innumerable health benefits across the board. Reduced stress leads to an improved immune system, mood, and lifestyle.
- Meditation teaches focus
- Provides clarity
- Refreshes the mind and body
- Become more loving
- Create positive change
- Intimately find greater satisfaction in life
- Lower cortisol levels
- Emotional stabilizer
- Calm confidence booster
- Improved focus
- Improved compassion, empathy & understanding
- Increased self-love
- Increased appreciation
- A positive outlook on life
- Find your life purpose
When thoughts arise, we can separate from our thoughts. We are not bound to our thoughts. We can choose how we respond to our thoughts. With regular meditation, this ability to choose focus on wanted thoughts strengthens.
Many forms of meditation
There are many forms of meditation, as there are many minds, bodies, and hearts. Everyone has difficulties silencing the mind. You are not alone. The struggle is one reason for the various methods used to achieve a meditative state. Try on one approach to see if it resonates with you. If it does, then great! If it doesn’t, then move on. This is the fun part! Try them all for yourself to see what suits you. You can’t get this wrong. Be patient with yourself on this life long journey.
Finding your preferred style of meditation is like learning about your love language. If you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages, I highly recommend it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, your partner, your kids, family members, co-workers, and anyone with whom you’re close.
Once you know what works best for you, embrace your meditation method, and start connecting with your higher self. Remember that meditation is personal. Do what feels right for you. It’s your mind, your body, and your soul.
Meditation takes practice
The practice of quieting your mind is simple. If we’re being honest, simple does not always mean easy. Some of the simplest things in life are the hardest to do. Sitting still without letting bombarding thoughts interrupt your meditation session is almost laughable. Knowing that is half of the battle.
If quieting your mind does not happen as quickly as you anticipated, don’t stress. Meditation is a marathon. If you’re a sprinter by nature, take a step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride. You are not racing to get to the end. Meditation is a part of life that helps you be healthy, happy in your mind, body, and spirit. Meditation is the path, so rather than trying to get it right, relax, and enjoy the process.
For the parents out there, think about when your little ones learned to walk. They walk when they are ready. Some walk as early as nine months while others wait until they 18 months old. Like every flower blooms in its season, we will grow our meditation skills with time and practice.
Before you start your day, breathe in deeply. Exhale. Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out any stress. Ask for whatever you need, whether it be energy, brainpower, focus, patience, organization, time. Breathe in love. Breathe out overwhelm. Breathe in compassion. Breathe out distraction. Breathe in understanding. Breathe out guilt. Breathe out shoulds, coulds, and woulds. Do what you can do. Be where you are. Be grateful for where you are.
Take steps towards what you want, who you want to be. Imagine what you desire in your mind. If it’s calm, quiet, or success you seek, your child or children getting along, being kind, or learning, then see it in your mind, feel it in your heart. You can always return to your breath at any time during your day.
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3 meditation quick wins
1. Return to your breath
- It’s completely normal for your mind to wander
- When you notice your thoughts, return to your in-breath & out-breath
2. Your Meditation Position Doesn’t Matter, as long as you’re:
- Listen to white noise, drums beating, a monk singing ‘om’ or the air conditioner as Abraham-Hicks recommends
- The sound distracts your thinking mind from your thoughts
- Deactivates your thinking mind
If you have been enjoying the process and want to take it one step further, you can find or create your sacred space, a place that is special to you. If you can designate an area as your ‘personal mediation area,’ then do so. Decorate the space; make it special in some way that is meaningful to you. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be by all means, but again it’s entirely up to you to do with as you please. Say a prayer to bless the space and your time spent there, whether it’s five minutes or five hours.
Consider incorporating each of the four elements: fire, air, earth, water. Light a candle for fire. Use stones, crystals, or flowers for the earth element. Meditate in the bathtub or near a small fountain; play the sound of running water. Place a decorative bowl of water with rose petals. Focus on your breath for the air element. If you’re like to be outside, hang wind chimes to represent air.
There is a fifth element, which is called space, ether, or Akasha. Space is not “nothingness.” The akashic records, including your book of life, exist in the Akasha. We have access to this infinite intelligence—experiment tuning-in to this resource by stream-of-consciousness journaling. Designate a journal and a special pen or pencil for this process. Keep your meditation journal in your sacred space.
Tips for those who are new to meditation. If you have difficulty stilling your mind, try these tactics to improve your experience.
- Set a timer – you don’t want to be worried or wondering if you’ve meditated for “long enough.”
- Start with 5 minutes at most for one week.
- Add 1 minute each week.
- Work out before you meditate.
- Journal before you meditate to clear your mind.
- You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed. You can lie down or find a position that suits you.
- Try walking meditation.
- Use a mantra to help distract your mind.
Kinds of meditation
Meditation offers many forms to address the specific challenge you face. Which type of meditation best suits you?
Guided meditation is a great place to start if you’re not sure what to do. Typically you’ll listen to a voice guide you through the process, somewhat like a yoga class. Depending on the length of the meditation, there most likely will be a few minutes of silence to allow you to start to build the muscle of self-practice. There are many styles and types of mediations based on the need.
Guided mediation is like working out with a trainer. If you’re new to lifting weights, it’s good to use a personal trainer or a good friend to demonstrate the proper form. The keep you focused on each movement as well as keeping track of the time for you.
When first starting to meditate in silence can feel like an eternity, and you end up wondering, “How many more minutes do I have left?” Before you know it, you’ve missed your window of being present worrying about the clock or the timer. You can find guided meditations on meeting relaxation meditations, sound bath meditations or loving compassion meditations.
You can practice walking meditation by yourself or in a group. If you search your local neighborhood or city, you should be able to find a place or group that offers this type of meditation. It may be more difficult considering the current state of affairs. There are also videos online if you need to stay safe and social distance. Mindfulness Practice Community of Houston explains that walking meditation “helps us to connect with ourselves and Mother Earth.”
Mindfulness meditation is being present in all that you do. Letting go of the laundry list of items you have to get through on your day, worrying about what happened yesterday, last week, or last year.
Some meditation practices suggest keeping your eyes open during mindful mediation, noticing everything around you. The room you’re in, the floor, the scent, how your body feels. The key is to notice what is around you without allowing judgement or the thinking mind to engage.
Silent Meditation is sitting silently and observing your breath, turning off your thinking mind. No speaking, no chanting, no “Om” or large loud exhale. Stillness is the goal; it is difficult to do and is not the first type of mediation recommended for a novice. Distraction creeps in before we realize it. Silent meditation can be mindful and mindful meditation can be silent.
Silent meditation does not necessarily mean solitary. There is power in sitting silently with others in a group. There is power in sitting silently with others in a group.
Mantras allow your body to repeat a sound or word to help get you into the right mental state of relaxation for meditation. You could say it’s a proactive form of distraction for our minds. We preoccupy our mind with the mantra, so our mind doesn’t have time to wander off to distract us. If you have loud mental chatter, this may be a suitable type of meditation for you to try.
Like Mantra Meditation, you will be chanting a sound like “Om” or a name or a word that calls to the energy with which you want to connect. There is power in the vibration of sound, especially if you generate the sound from within you. Chanting can be cleansing and a tool to help release stuck energy. It also serves as a buffer against distraction. If you struggle with sitting still, try a chanting meditation.
Journaling is a great way to help clear your mind, to make space for what you want to enter into your life. Journaling is like having a free therapist. Once you get everything out, you somehow feel lighter and rejuvenated. Plus, it’s interesting to look back at old journals to see what you were struggling with and how far you’ve come. Dream journals are useful to help tap into your intuition. Even if you don’t remember your dreams, wake up, and start writing about what you think you were dreaming the next day. Once you do this for a few days, you’ll start remembering your dreams more vividly. It’s like a muscle; the more you use it, the more developed it becomes. The opposite is true, too; if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you’re looking for guidance, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a phenomenal tool.
Automatic writing is a little bit different than journaling in that you will receive answers in response to your inquiries. Some practices suggest asking the question with your dominant hand and writing the answers with your non-dominant hand. Another option is to do a mental dump. Once you’ve mentally cleared your mind of all of the things you have to do for the day, concerns, distractions, then your mind and body transition into a different state. If you need clarification on a question:
- Ask your question.
- Write down whatever comes to mind.
- Don’t think about the answer.
Completely immerse yourself in the stream-of-consciousness writing process.
Yoga has many mental benefits, in addition to physical benefits. Yoga improves the mind-body connection. Often, yoga will gently show you parts of the body that have been neglected, need attention or breath, and overworked areas. We tend to over-compensate due to inactivity or habit. Many times we unknowingly have imbalances. Yoga brings us back to center.
Like meditation, it takes practice, commitment, and dedication to see results. Yoga allows for focused attention to your breathing and movement. Yoga is a beautiful discipline that helps quiet the mind. Notice that at the beginning of class, the yoga instructor may ask you to set your intention for the class. It can be one word, such as love, gratitude, or non-judgment.
“Julia Cameron invented the way people renovate the creative soul.” –The New York Times
Over four million copies sold!
Since its first publication, The Artist’s Way phenomena has inspired the genius of Elizabeth Gilbert, Tim Ferriss, and millions of readers to embark on a creative journey and find a deeper connection to process and purpose. Julia Cameron’s novel approach guides readers in uncovering problems areas and pressure points that may be restricting their creative flow and offers techniques to free up any areas where they might be stuck, opening up opportunities for self-growth and self-discovery.
Overcoming meditation obstacles
I can't meditate
Meditation is an outlet, a joy, a retreat, not another time on our to-do list in our already hectic lives. If you’re not finding peace or enjoyment during your mediation sessions, ask yourself, “Why is this?” Are you physically uncomfortable? Do you feel like you should be spending your time doing something else? Whatever it is, notice it, let it be. Don’t label it.
Continue with your minute of meditation. Remember that you are growing your meditation muscle, expanding your capabilities. Trust the process. It will get better. Give yourself credit for starting. Celebrate the little victories, even sitting still for one minute, for making an effort. Reward yourself. The next time it will be more comfortable and more manageable, and then you will add time. You’ll stretch yourself, and in one month to three months, you’ll be amazed at the difference.
I can't turn off my mind
If your mind is continuously racing, that’s okay. Try going for a walk or run, doing some push-ups, or dance around your home before your meditation session. Get moving and release pent up energy. The release of your feel-good hormones will create a better association with the meditation process.
Try a yoga class. I found that yoga and meditation reduce mental noise over time. It started in a yoga class for me about ten years ago. At first, I felt stupid and was laughing at myself and everyone else in the room. But then I decided to stop being rude, pay attention, and try to follow along. Once I let go of whatever expectation I had and relaxed, I started realizing meditation’s power—focusing on the body, the breath, and being present in the moment. Learning to settle-in to uncomfortable positions, surrendering. The yoga instructor was terrific. I wish I remembered her name. I am forever grateful to her for showing me how quiet the mind – this is where the real magic is. If I can do it, you can do it.
Monks' brains are different
If you are wondering, “How are monks’ brains different?” then you are not alone. Thousands of monks’ brains have been studied over the years by many different neuroscientists. They want to know how exactly meditation affects the brain, the three pounds or so of grey matter residing in our skull. Typically the benefits of meditation are listed in regards to the mind of a person’s mental state. Mentally, meditation helps reduce stress, anxiety, addiction, and improve concentration, memory, kindness, and more. Over the past decade or so, meditation research shows that the brain is also positively affected by meditation (4). The mind and the brain link to one another, but they are not synonymous. It’s a feedback loop system. Our thoughts make connections and create neural pathways based on our beliefs. Our repetitive thoughts reinforce our neural pathways, strengthening the mental connection. Our repeated thought patterns promote tendencies and behaviors. Studies have shown that mediation encourages positive pathways and weakens the undesired neurological roads.
Meditation is healthy for the mind, and the brain, like physical exercise, is good for the body. Meditation slows the aging process, most likely due to lower stress levels (3). Over time, with practice and experience, our body and brain adjust, adapt, learn, and become more efficient. The body is smart and lazy. It figures out how to achieve the best results with the least amount of work. Have you ever noticed how the best of the best in their industry, whether it be a musician, an athlete a speaker, all make it look effortless? It’s not that they don’t apply effort. They’ve done it so many times that their body is on autopilot in a sense. They’ve honed their skills to the point of mastery. They have confirmed this with meditation.
There is an abundance of information on this topic and an entire book on how meditation affects the brain. The Mind & Life Institute is an excellent resource with hundreds of videos dating back to 2011 on their youtube channel.
Celebrities who meditate
Life is busy. It can be overwhelming and seem like there isn’t enough time to add meditation to your to-do list. Let’s shift our mindset; look at mediation from another perspective.
First, you create your day every day. You can choose how and what you do with your time: your work, the people you spend time with, reading, watching tv, social media.
There are many highly successful people with jam-packed schedules who prioritize morning meditation. They purposely choose how they spend their time; they don’t allow their day to dictate their actions. They choose empowerment. You can be empowered, too, starting right now. Take a look at this list of famous people who do or did meditate regularly:
- Bill Gates: Microsoft, investor, philanthropist
- Gerard Butler: Actor in P.S I Love You, The Bounty Hunter, 300, The Ugly Truth, Olympus Has Fallen, Law Abiding Citizen
- Ray Dalio – Founder of Bridgewater Associates. “Steve Jobs of Investing” and named one of the 100 Most Influential People by TIME Magazine.
Books are our teachers. They have been my source of comfort and encouragement over the years. See what calls to you.
(2) https://www.dictionary.com/browse/meditate?s=t (3)https://www.livescience.com/buddhist-monk-meditation-brain.html