Have you ever tried meditating? I know it can seem daunting at first. You might have wondered how to do it or whether there’s some special thing you have to say or do. Perhaps you’ve tried and worried that you’re doing it wrong. Well, let me tell you a secret: You can’t do it wrong. While there are many guided and traditional options, there really is no elite or precise process you must follow. In this super simple guide to meditation, I’ll share some guidelines that can help you get started and find your path to #meditationjoy.
Set the scene
Space – Find your spot
Create a space that you find calming and quiet. You don’t need to overdo it. Find a spot, lay down your yoga mat, place a cushion or your favourite chair, and make sure you’re comfortable. If you ask me: I love the fresh air, but find a lot of outside noise a bit distracting, so I prefer a spacious but closed off space indoors.
I’m quite a practical girl and don’t have too much time, so I prefer not to fuss too much, but if the smell of incense, a crystal or a Buddha ornament helps you set the mood, add these to your space.
One thing I keep close when meditating is my journal. It stays closed and once the bell rings to bring me back, I pick it and write. I write about everything and anything for about 10 minutes. Sometimes, I have new clarity on an idea and it spills onto the page and sometimes I open and just free-write. I set the timer and continue writing until it goes off. You’ll be surprised at how revealing this can be about your current state of mind.
Music or no music?
Either. Really, there are no rules. Just keep your intention in mind. You are trying become still to tap into your inner guidance. For this reason, I personally prefer no music, as the silence helps me stay connected. There are, of course, times you need to drown out some other noise, or a busy inner-dialogue. If this is the case, opt for the classical or instrumental option so you don’t get sucked into lyrics.
Use a timer
Not too many of us have unlimited time available, which is why I find setting a timer allows me to stay in the present. I know that I won’t be late for my next engagement and I don’t worry whether I am doing it for long enough. Put your phone on do not disturb, set a calming tone as your ringer and keep it close for easy reach. Start with 10 minutes and increase or decrease as you need to.
The key is not to overthink or wait for the perfect moment. Sit down somewhere quiet, get comfortable and you’re 90% of the way there.
What do you meditate about/ for/ to?
While practicing a structured meditation (there are thousands of traditional practices you can follow if you are looking for a methodical or specific style) can have many benefits, it is not required to search for a guru or to focus the next 6 months on resolving your anxiety. Meditation is a lifelong practice that provides a pathway inward, towards your deepest truths. For this, you don’t need a schedule, but a willingness and openness to simply be still and to listen.
Rather than worry about the how, focus on your intention for today’s meditation practice. For most of us, we meditate because we seek connection or answers. Allow me to elaborate.
- To become still and (re)connect to center:
Its primary intention is to stay connected, grounded so you may respond more resourcefully to triggers like stress or overwhelm. (It keeps you cool EMOJI.) When I am consistent with this practice, I honestly feel calmer and more together; I get a lot more done during the day and generally feel like I am moving towards my goals.
- Find an answer to a question (or make a choice):
If something is troubling you, you may find that by simply offering it up to a greater force than yourself, you immediately feel lighter. From this place of relief, you are able to gain a new perspective that leads towards a conscious, connected and considered decision that moves you in the right direction.
It is not uncommon to meditate with a question in mind and not experience a huge moment of clarity during the practice. When this happens, open your journal and write about the question or challenge you are experiencing. It is almost as if the meditation brought a new perspective to the foreground and the writing allows you to see it and discover surprising solutions.
Begin by choosing your intention. If you are choosing to connect, let go of all expectation and focus on your breath and the prompts below. Allow yourself to clear your mind of busy thoughts and stay in tune with your breath.
Should you have a question, keep it in your mind. Try not to add an attached outcome to your question, like “How do I lose 3kgs by December.” Reframe your question in a way that allows for new solutions. Something like, “How do I stay focused on my health goals?” Essentially, you are asking for a new perspective, “How can I solve this problem/ reach this goal? I am open to new ideas.” Perhaps you are facing a choice. If so, you may want to ask, “Which of these options will keep me aligned and move me forward.”
Sit with your legs crossed on the floor or on a cushion. If you have trouble sitting like this for a while, sit on a chair with your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the earth. Rest the backs of your hands on your knees in a gesture of receiving. Lightly allow your eyes to close and take a deep breath in.
Feel the breath start at the base of your spine, move up the length of your back and pull up your torso, shoulders and head and neck. As you exhale, let your shoulders lower and settle into your spine in a comfortable, yet upright position.
Observe your chin and if you’re looking up, perhaps lower it to so that it rests parallel to the ground.
Now, bring your focus to your breath: Inhale through your nose, feeling as your breath travels into the base of the lungs as your belly expands with this new enriching oxygen. As you exhale, notice the reverse. Your belly and ribs collapse to release the air back up and out through your nose. Pause at the top of the outbreath.
After a few continuous rounds of focused breathing, the pause will create a light and spacious feeling in mind and body. Without chasing, keep breathing into that space and that feeling of expansion will gradually grow.
Thoughts will enter your mind. When they do, simply acknowledge them and then choose to let them go for now. Many people imagine the thought drift away on a cloud. Do what you need to do to and bring your attention back to breath. (Even saying the words “inhale,” “exhale,” can be helpful in bringing you back.)
Closing your practice
There are a number of ways you may seal your practice. While you find your preferred manner, I invite you to join me with this sweet and simple mantra of appreciation:
Once your timer goes off, calmly tap it to end the ringing. Then, with your eyes still closed, bring your hands to heart. Pressing your thumbs to your chest, say to yourself:
Thank you for your practice today
You are worthy of this time
I love you
Bow your head to your hands and gently blink your eyes open.
Meditation is a tool that anybody can include in their life. There is no pre-requisite and you can start anytime. Give the above suggestions a try and soon you’ll discover just how effortless and enriching meditation can be.