Tips on Starting a Meditation Practice
By now, most of us have heard about the positive effects of meditation on our mental health and wellness. But if beginning a meditation practice seems daunting or overwhelming, here are a few tips that you may find helpful when starting out.
Tip 1: Many things can be meditative
When most people think of meditation, they think of sitting still on a cushion for a long period of time. While that works for some folks, getting started can seem like a difficult task. For some of us, sitting still may also not be an option. This is where it’s important to remember that most things can be a meditative practice. Riding a bike, walking, washing the dishes and knitting are all examples of activities that we can use for meditation. When we approach an activity mindfully, we aim to be present and fully focus on the activity, and even a simple movement can become meditative. Next time you feel stuck on your cushion, see if you can move around a bit while focusing on how your body moves, how your feet touch the ground, and the emotions that arise.
Tip 2: Start small
Another common belief about meditation is that it needs to be a certain length. While there have been different benefits shown at different time lengths, meditation is often a lot more about consistent practice. When starting meditation for the first time, sitting for 20 minutes straight can be intimidating. If that’s the case, consider setting a timer for 3 minutes, and then don’t do anything but sit quietly. Then set another 3 minute timer the next day and the day after that. Whenever the time starts to feel manageable, consider increasing the amount of time that you meditate. Make sure to go at your own pace and reflect on how far you’ve come.
Tip 3: Anchoring ourselves can help
One of the things that folks point to as a difficulty in meditation is their mind running away with thoughts. The point of meditation isn’t to get rid of our thoughts, but we do want to observe them rather than follow them. This is where using an anchor can help us stay present and keep us from getting caught up in every passing thought. We can use our breath as an anchor, where we can observe and even count our breaths to help us in our practice. We can focus on the expansion and contraction of our bellies, the pauses between inhales and exhales, and we can imagine our breath as a field that moves in and out of us. Other anchors that can be helpful are carefully noticing the sensation of our bodies on our seat or the ground, focusing on the sounds around us, or observing the feelings that are arising within our minds and bodies.