Starting a new meditation practice can be difficult. With all the information, apps, gadgets and books out there on the topic, it can feel like information overload. And all that information is probably keeping you from starting a practice that can help you manage all that overload.
I’ve put together a quick resource guide with some basics to get you started without getting overwhelmed. We’re not going to get into specific approaches and nuances. That’s simply more overload at this point. You want to know where to start and where you can learn more. And here it is.
What Meditation Is Not
Meditation does not involve sitting in a lotus position and zenning out for an hour (although it could). In fact, you don’t even have to sit down. There are many forms of meditation: walking, eating, cooking, moving. Check out the infographic below for more ideas.
Meditation does not involve completely clearing your mind and keeping in that state. The human brain wasn’t designed to work that way. Most long-time meditators can’t keep a clear mind for more than a minute or two (I know I can’t).
Check out my article: How to Create a Meditation Practice When Your Mind Won’t Stop Spinning
Meditation isn’t something you practice once a week or so and expect benefits. To reap some of the benefits you read about, it’s something that needs to be done almost every day. Small daily doses are much more effective than longer infrequent session.
Meditation isn’t goal- or accomplishment-oriented. The goal isn’t to clear your mind or be relaxed. It’s all about the process and the practice. Every time you meditate, it’s about noticing when your mind wanders and bringing it back to the present moment and your chosen point of focus (breath, candle, mantra, etc.). When you practice noticing and refocusing, you’re strengthening your ability to focus which pays dividends everywhere else in your life.
There’s No “Right Way”
There are no right or wrong ways of meditating. It doesn’t matter how or where you sit, whether you have your eyes open or closed, how you’re breathing, whether you’re silent or repeating a mantra or anything else. It’s all about the noticing and refocusing.
It’s up to you find your own “right way” – the way that works for you. Everyone is different. That’s why there are so many forms of meditation: transcendental, mindfulness, kundalini, zazen, guided… Like yoga, someone is dreaming up a new type every day.
Some people like to use apps for reminders, timers and guidance. Others completely avoid technology in their practice.
Experiment with many different methods. Mix and match to put together what works for you. Every so often, change things a bit because you’re always changing.
With the abundance of information out there, you can end up procrastinating and never starting your practice. Don’t make it difficult.
If you can breathe, you can meditate.
To start, you’ll need to make the time. I know, I know. You’re too busy and can’t even find five minutes. Reality alert: you just made the time to read this article and probably a few others. Where did that time come from?
If you need an excuse, call it a form of exercise. You’re exercising your mind. The stronger your mind gets with this exercise, the more effective you’ll be in everything else you do.
Carve out just five minutes to start. Even if you have an established practice, it feels so good to take five minutes outside of the normal times you practice to sit, breathe and be fully present.
In those five minutes, sit down wherever you want, close your eyes, relax your body (especially your face and jaw) and notice your breathing and any sensations in your body. Notice any sounds or smells. Notice the things you normally don’t think about or try to block from your mind.
Notice all this without judgment. Everything simply ‘is’ until you create a story about it. Don’t wish away aches and pains. Get objectively curious about them.
When you start thinking of anything in the past or the future or all your to-do’s (which will take a nanosecond to happen), notice it, don’t judge yourself as ‘bad’ for doing it (you’re human), and come back to the present and whatever you were initially noticing (i.e. your breath).
That’s all there is to it.
Learn More About Meditation
Beyond that very basic introduction to meditation, there’s an endless ocean of ways you can deepen and grow your practice.
If guided meditation is your thing, there are audios, videos and many apps available.
If you like variety and need some guidance to get started, for only $5 per month, you can have a meditation video emailed to you every day by going to Daily Meditation [aff].
Simple Habit is an app with a multitude of five to twenty minute guided meditations that you can use throughout your day. Just choose what you’re doing, and there’s a meditation for that. It also includes podcasts and tons of other info on meditation from a variety of teachers.
Another great app is 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics from Dan Harris. The app includes many of the big names in meditation in informative interviews and guided meditations. There are Q&A sections to answer all your questions.
There are endless books, videos, courses and other resources out there to help you with your meditation practice. The choices can be overwhelming. A course I found particularly helpful for all levels is Master Your Mind [aff] from LiveAndDare.com, a site devoted to meditation, where you can find answers to all of your questions about meditation.
The Master Your Mind program introduces you to a variety of meditation principles and techniques over the course of 35 days to start you on a daily habit of meditating.
The first few days only ask you to meditate for 2-3 minutes each day. Anyone can do that. In addition to the actual meditation practice, the program helps you to establish triggers and other supports for your new habit. It also helps you manage the inevitable distractions that will come up.
Throughout the 35 days, you’ll be introduced to a variety of techniques as you grow your practice to 20 minutes each day. Although I’ve been meditating for many years, I learned more about how I can deepen my practice and gain more benefits from it.
There are also online forums and sixty days of email access to the creator of the program. While I would have expected the program to cost a few hundred dollars, it’s quite accessible at only $59 for lifetime access. That’s a small investment for a lifetime of returns.
To make your practice more comfortable, you can put together your own pillows, blankets and cushions to sit on or invest in a zafu (cushion) and zabuton (mat) at Samadhi Cushions. The company is in Vermont and has been around for over forty years. They make their own products by hand and ship world-wide.
For a list of other meditation resources on the web, check out “Top 40 Meditation Blogs” (of which I’m one). It’s a great resource to learn about different approaches to the practice. You’re sure to find one that works for you here.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one baby step at a time.
Now sit and breathe.
Infographic created with Visme
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