Meditating every day is a simple and effective way to reduce stress in your life. Like any healthy habit, you just have to commit — and commit fully — to doing it. If you’re ready to improve your health through meditation, this guide has all the information and tips you need to get going.
Find a Time
Right away in the morning is the best time to meditate. This means before you step out of your bedroom door to take on your day, do your morning exercise, or even cook breakfast. That’s because whatever you do first thing in the morning tends to actually get done! Having a small glass of lemon water or a few sips of tea before you meditate is acceptable if you feel you absolutely need something right away. But if you can manage without these aids, all the better.
Pick a Space
Part of forming a daily meditation practice is about creating a habit/ritual. When you choose the same place to meditate each day you start to form the muscle memory of taking the same steps to show up for yourself and your practice. Many practitioners create “sacred” space by building an altar where they meditate. Do what feels right to you — if sitting on the coach, in a chair or on a meditation pillow without a altar feels better to you, then that is what works. Others use their meditation space to also serve as a reflection of what it is they are currently working on within themselves or in their lives. This is where an altar can serve a dual purpose — place objects, books, or any item within your sacred space that inspires you, and cultivates the emotion you want to feel.
Set a Timer
A timer is a very helpful tool when meditating. It serves as the timekeeper and the “commitment keeper” for your practice. While it is not about the exact numbers and timing, the goal is to grow your daily meditation ritual into a 20 to 30 minute practice. Current research states that 25 minutes is the “sweet spot” for a meditation practice where all of the biological, psychological, mental, emotional and energetic benefits of meditation start to take place. A good starting place is 12 minutes if you have never meditated. From there, move to 15, 20, 25 and 30 minutes over the course of 7-14 days. When you give yourself the gift of 30 minutes to meditate in the morning, this is when you are also gifting yourself lower stress, a lower heart rate, better digestion, and an opportunity to connect with your self and higher Self.
3 WAYS TO MEDITATE
A mantra is a word or phrase repeated during meditation that gives your mind something to “play with,” “chew-on,” or “think” about during meditation. Using a mantra when you first start to meditate is ideal as it alleviates the common misconception that you are not suppose to have thoughts during meditation. Thoughts are completely normal when you meditate, and yet when you are reciting a mantra your mind is less likely to produce as many thoughts because it has its “mind-vehicle” to focus on. “So Hum” is a most perfect mantra to start with when learning to meditate or even once a practice is already established. “So Hum” translates from Sanskrit to “I Am.” When using the mantra we silently repeat “So” on the inhale and “Hum” on the exhale. In ancient texts So Hum is also said to translate to what the breathe sounds like as if you were listening from the inside of your own body. “So” is what the inhale sounds like, “Hum” is the sound of the exhale.
When we use the breath in meditation it can serve as a “mantra,” as well. Meaning, you can sit in an entire meditation and have your sole focus be on following your inhale and exhale. This profoundly connects you to your body and biology, serving as a grounding tool or as a meditation style for your daily practice.
Open Awareness is a meditation technique to use to help you discover what really works for you in meditation. In Open Awareness, the practitioner has their eyes slightly open, often focusing on an object or on one place in front of them. This gives the mind a physical object to focus on so you can actually have the opportunity to meditate. In Open Awareness you simply notice all thoughts, feelings and sensations as they come and go, letting each one pass without attaching.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
When thoughts arise during meditation, return to the mantra, return to you breath, or return to the object of attention. This is the very essence of meditating, and the true heart of practice. A common misconception is that you are not supposed to have thoughts when meditating. In fact, the art of meditating is the practice of bringing yourself back when thoughts, feelings or sensations do arise. This is what makes daily meditation a practice, and allows the muscles of attention to grow. You will notice over time you will be bringing yourself back to your mantra, breathe, or object less and less because your mind will be able to stay with the focus of attention. When this occurs you will find yourself in the space or sometimes referred to as the “gap” of meditation. This is You and your Home. We refer to this as your home energy, because when you experience this spaciousness between thoughts, mind, and sensations then you are bearing the fruits of meditation and arriving to your true home — You.
When we meditate, we can practice “noting” what arises in our experience. During meditation, when thoughts, feelings, or sensations arise, you can simply “note or name” them in order to let them pass. If you a thought arises, you note, “thought,” if you start planning for the future, you note “future,” if you get an image from the past, you think “memory,” or if you have pain in your body, you note “pain”. By noting, we acknowledge the experience or memory, so it may pass through us and we can let it go. We then don’t have to attach to it and think about it during meditation. This is a very powerful tool and technique. We highly encourage this practice if you feel like you are having an overactive mind during your meditations. A few days of noting will encourage the overactive mind to slow down.
Anchors in meditation are little techniques that help you regroup when your practice begins to fall apart. Anchors help alleviate flooding of thoughts, over activity in the mind, and any feelings of restlessness, anxiety, sadness, distress or agitation. These tools are seemingly simple, yet can be very profound in a time of need to support you and your practice.
Hand on Stomach
Place your hand on your stomach and follow your breath, focusing on the inhale and exhale. Have your attention on where your palm touches your stomach, feel a grounding and centering. Feel the safety inherently present here.
Filling Breath to Top of Lungs
When we focus on inhaling to the point where the air fills and touches the very top of our lungs we are doing two things. One, we are taking a very deep breath. By taking this deep breathe, you are signaling to your body that relaxation and de-stressing is okay to happen. Second, you are flooding your body and brain with oxygen, allowing the neurochemical reactions to occur that promote rest and relaxation. Filling your lungs to the very top focuses any mind wandering, and gives your mind an anchor to attach to when needed in meditation. With each inhale notice the air filling the very top tip of your lungs, then exhale and repeat.
There’s a reason why we a call meditation a “practice”… it absolutely and literally takes practice on many different levels. To start a meditation practice is to actively say yes to forming a relationship with your practice, and ultimately with your Self.
Habits and routine are essential. Meditating daily for 20 to 30 minutes once in the morning, or twice a day (morning and afternoon), lays the groundwork for having a practice. This is where the real work lies, in showing up for you and for your practice to give yourself the opportunity to be in meditation. And, over time, experience the many life-changing benefits. Daily practice is also the first step on the path to cultivating mindfulness in every aspect of your life.
Stay With It
If there is one important crossroad to be aware of, it is the moment when you think, “I’m unsure if I have time to meditate today,” or “I’ll do it later,” or “I can skip today.” At this time, the practice actually begins and creates a situation that requires we bring our mindful attention each time we get here. This is where having the commitment to meditate first thing in the morning — and going to the same place to meditate — comes in. We are forming a behavior, habit, and ritual that supports your practice and you.