Meditation is a powerful tool for reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, cultivating inner calm, and being “present” for your own life. The real benefit is being aware of what’s really happening during your day “off the cushion” and with your eyes fully open, but without your mind’s “stories” getting in the way. It helps you step back, pause, and act (or not) without the knee jerk reaction that most often causes suffering for you and others. However, starting a meditation practice can be challenging, especially if you're not sure where to begin.
Here is a meditation cheat sheet with tips to help you start and maintain your practice:
1. CHOOSE A QUIET SPACE
Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit and meditate without being disturbed. You may want to consider using a cushion or chair to help you sit comfortably. Sit upright, yet relaxed. Don’t worry about an exact posture when you begin your meditation practice.
2. START WITH SHORT SESSIONS
When starting a meditation practice, it's important to start with shorter sessions, such as five or ten minutes, and gradually increase the length of your practice as you become more comfortable.
3. CHOOSE AN "ANCHOR"
Focus on the breath to bring your attention back when the mind gets “lost in thought.” Many traditions use the breath because it’s automatic and always there. That means there’s no need to change the natural rhythm of your breath. Simply close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath, noticing the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body. If it’s challenging for you to focus on the breath, then choose another anchor to settle your mind, such as the hands on your lap or the bottoms of your feet.
4. DON'T WORRY ABOUT THOUGHTS
Thoughts are natural, and you’re not trying to get rid of them. It's common for even the most seasoned meditators to have thoughts pop up during meditation or feel “fidgety,” and that's okay. Simply acknowledge the thought or restlessness without making yourself wrong and gently bring your focus back to your breath or your chosen meditation anchor.
5. USE GUIDED MEDITATIONS
Guided meditations can be a helpful tool for starting and maintaining a meditation practice. There are many free guided meditation apps and resources available online, such as InsightTimer. You can also visit Pathways to Mind Body Wellness at www.susanhlieberman.com for videos and guided meditations.
6. MAKE IT A HABIT
Consistency is key when it comes to building a meditation practice. Try to meditate at the same time each day and make it a regular part of your routine.
7. BE PATIENT, KIND, AND COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF
Starting a meditation practice can be challenging, and it's important to be patient and compassionate with yourself as you learn and grow. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing it “right.” The good news is that you can’t do it “wrong.”
Sometimes you can get frustrated and want to give up because it seems like nothing is changing in your life. That’s when patience and compassion is most important since the changes can be subtle. For example, people start to notice that you’re calmer and happier. That’s the power of meditation.