Beginning Your Meditation Practice
Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool when it is practiced regularly and well, but I know it can be difficult to get into a routine. People often tell me they are not sure about what they are doing, and are not confident with what they are trying to achieve. You have probably heard of the benefits of meditation, but in general, you are not really sure what you are doing.
The purpose of this article is to help you understand the Why’s and the How’s to meditation and overcome those obstacles that have held you back from it in the past.
The benefits of meditation are numerous. There are reams of research to show that doing small amounts of meditation per day can make a huge difference in our lives. From a health perspective, it reduces our heart rate and blood pressure and decreases our risk of heart disease or stroke. It also greatly reduces the body’s levels of cortisol and easing the body’s response to stress.
Meditation is known to increase neuroplasticity, this means it aids in behavior change by creating new neural pathways that will help us learn and grow more quickly. It also boosts our immune system and increases our body’s immune response, giving our body the power to quickly rid itself of foreign cells that mean to harm or inhibit our healthy cells.
Another added benefit of meditation is improved concentration. Here we are stimulating our frontal cortex, which then allows us to focus for longer periods of time. In today’s society, we are never really allowed time to focus with information bombarding us constantly through different avenues. Sometimes our brains just need time to be quiet and rest.
Meditating for periods of time daily allows us to make space in our mind. We walk around with our heads full of noise. Our minds circulate around our to-do lists, things we need to get done, things we find important in our day-to-day or need to remember and creates a huge amount of stress and pressure on us. Meditation allows us to calm down and slow our minds, and really empty out all of that noise in our heads, so we can hone in on what is really important and what isn’t.
In that quiet space that we create through practiced meditation, we allow all of our most creative ideas to come forward. Often we are stressed because we are seeking that creativity, looking for answers, or reaching for ideas. We are trying to run businesses or do our jobs and we feel stuck. We feel like we are alone in trying to find the answers we are looking for, when in reality, we have a plethora of creativity and intuition available to us. If we can quiet our mind of the noise in our head and become still, we allow ourselves to hear so much more.
It is a powerful thing to know that we always have this voice of intuition that will guide us and is accessible to us all the time. This only works if we get practiced and skilled at learning how to tune in to it with meditation.
So often I hear, “But I don’t have time. I don’t have time to sit down for even 5 or 10 minutes to meditate.” There is a beautiful saying by the Dalai Lama that I always remember. When he was asked how often he meditates per day, he responded, “One hour, unless I’m really busy and then its 2 hours.” This demonstrates that there is a real power within meditation. My personal teacher says he will sit down to meditate even though he feels like he has a ton of things to do, and then after meditation, realizes it wasn’t that much at all.
Meditation helps us to be more productive throughout our day, more focused, and more effective with our time. It makes us realize that the things on our urgent list are actually not that urgent and realigns us with the things that we DO need to spend our time doing.
A study done on meditation found that crime rates were reduced when they placed groups of meditating monks within high crime and low socioeconomic areas.
The power of meditation has a knock-on effect. People feeling good raises the vibration of the area and makes other people feel good as well. When we meditate it affects those around us too. For instance, it can impact our families, our relationships, our colleagues, our business and creates a positive ripple effect when we take care to slow down and quiet our mind.
Preparing Yourself to Meditate
There are many ways of meditating and at the beginning, I admit, it can be a bit overwhelming. It takes commitment, routine, practice, and discipline to let your mind go blank of all the background chatter. Making the decision to commit is going to be most important. Tell yourself, “I get the benefits of this, I know I want to do it,” and that this is what you want and follow through.
Have a Routine
Commit yourself to a time every day that you are going to meditate, and be specific with that time. Obviously things are going to come in life, but you need to stick to this time as much as possible. Ensuring that you are meditating on a daily basis is the only way to find the power in it.
Make the commitment, stick to it, and be disciplined. At the beginning of your meditation practice, you’re going to have a noisy head. The chatter of old stuff is going to come up and out and it’s not going to be easy when you start. You might find that your head gets noisier, or you feel like it’s not working… you have to get through this. You can’t just try meditating for a few days, not see the benefits and give up. Meditating is something that will require practice. It’s a lifelong practice, but it’s a beautiful FREE tool available to you whenever you need.
How to Meditate
Step 1: Sit Quietly
Firstly, choose the amount of time you are going to meditate. I would recommend 10 minutes because 5 is a pretty easy amount of time. With 10 minutes, you start to really hear the noise coming up and can get a decent amount of practice in suppressing that chatter in your brain.
If you are feeling brave and really want to dig deep, try 15 or even 20 minutes. Personally, I like to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. That is quite advanced, so starting with 10 to 15 minutes a day will work. Commit to an amount of time that you can manage that isn’t going to make you feel stressed.
My recommendation is to put your phone away from you and turn any background noise off. I’ll admit you can not make the house go silent while you are trying to meditate, but the key is not to tune into it. If you hear your children playing, or others stirring in the house, you can be grateful for the sound, but then come back to your meditation practice.
Step 2: Focus on Your Breath
Feel your lungs fill up upon your inhalation, and then feel the air leaving through your nose and mouth during exhalation. Try to make this your primary focus, and as your mind wanders, because it absolutely will, make sure you are coming right back to your inhale and exhale.
Step 3: Focus On a Word
An example of this would be to focus on the word “Flower.” Keep thinking of this word… Flower, Flower, Flower… and as you get more into your meditation practice, it will change. It may become just a sound or maybe a pattern or vibration that you have somewhere in the background. As your mind wanders, you can come back to the word that you were using. Get back to repeating it softly in your head… Flower, Flower, Flower…
**Optional: Guided Meditation
There are brilliant apps that allow for guided meditation. Calm and HeadSpace are some of the ones I recommend. These will guide you and almost take you on a journey, rather than you trying to do the work on your own. Sometimes, they can distract away from your personal practice, but still a great way to just sit and get those calming benefits.
Go and Get Trained.
Find a class that will help you to hone your meditation skills. There are often classes in your local area that can teach you more about how to meditate.
Learning Transcendental Meditation
This a very specific type of meditation that some people find very powerful. There are global courses that you can do with a local teacher and will teach you a specific Transcendental Meditation method.
If you are going to meditate you need to decide you’re going to do it, and continue your practice for the rest of life to really reap the benefits.
Get even more out of your meditative practice with my 365 Days of Self Love Emails. Here you’ll receive journal prompts to help you reflect, positive affirmations to carry you through your day, and quotes to inspire and motivate you.