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The truth is, meditation is both underestimated, and often misunderstood. Think to a movie (any movie) that features it. They are usually on a mountain top at the crack of dawn, sitting in the lotus position, hands in OM (fun fact: the hand position often shown on tv is called ‘lam’ and ‘yam’ and are not the ‘om’ position), and humming to themselves for an hour straight – right? Yikes. Count me out. I mean by all means, if that is your bread and butter ritual PLEASE GO FOR IT! But for the rest of us, we already tuned out. The good news for the rest of us is, that’s not a complete representation of meditation so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to meditate, read on!
What is Meditation?
Meditation in its simplest form is communion with yourself. It’s a deep and spiritual connection with your mind, body, and soul. Beyond that, there are actually dozens of different types of meditations, and each has its own focus point.
It’s easy to assume that meditation is about becoming a better person or even transforming into a different person, but the truth is, that’s not the purpose at all. The purpose is awareness.
Awareness of self.
Awareness of body.
Awareness of mind.
Awareness of soul.
Awareness of thoughts.
Awareness of emotions.
...you get the point.
Meditation is often a mysterious and elusive experience that people more often than not think they are doing wrong. The truth is, it’s much simpler than you think and I promise, it’s for everyone, and it’s not even difficult to learn how to meditate!
In short, it’s a practice of intentionally focusing one’s mind for a period of time. A common misconception is that meditation is done while sitting in the lotus position, closing one’s eyes, and chanting or humming for a period of time (and if the TV were real, a sunrise mountain top is also a requirement)!
The truth is, there are many different types of meditation, in part simply because they have different focuses. Some may focus on healing your chakras or balancing your mind, body, and spirit. Others may focus on answering a question weighing on you or finding relaxation. Because of these focus areas, they all work differently: chanting, humming, silence, thinking, not thinking, guided, movement, etc. (just to name a few). You can learn more about the different types in my article, Why Are There So Many Different Types of Meditation?
So Can I learn How to Meditate?
If you’ve never meditated before its best to start simple.
1 | Find somewhere quiet to sit, free from kids, TV, road traffic etc.
If you can only limit the ambient noise so much, or have a hard time quieting your mind, find some meditation music to help drown it out.
Tip: Search on YouTube for free meditation music or download my favorite (FOR FREE) right here!
Bonus Tip: Sometimes ambient noise can be its own form of meditation sound! The rocking of a washing machine, the rumble of the dishwasher, a train horn in the background – it’s part of life. And more importantly, it’s part of your life. Don’t be afraid to embrace it, and use it to your advantage!
2 | Get comfortable.
Notice I didn’t say sit in the lotus position. If that’s comfortable for you, please do so. Cross-legged, on your knees, in a comfy chair, on the bed, even taking a shower counts. You don’t need a fancy mediation pillow, although I personally use this one and would recommend it if you are going to add mediation to your daily routine. But getting started? Heck no. Grab the closest pillow to you for floor sitting! Other comfortable positions may be yoga routines (but only memorized ones, nothing you need to actively think about), walks, and fitness machines (such as recumbent bikes or ellipticals – things that require balance but not necessarily concentration).
Tip: Be warned to avoid SUPER comfy chairs, and laying down though as you may fall asleep (especially at the beginning of your meditation journey)! Walking and showering are great for beginners to get into the practice of mindfulness, while yoga may be for more advanced as it requires a great deal of physical focus while keeping your mind clear!
3 | Set a timer.
This isn’t necessary if you’ve been meditating for a while. But if you’re brand new, or have had difficulties in the past its best to start with a timer for 2 minutes. After a week or two of getting comfortable with 2 minutes, increase to 5 minutes. Then 10, 15, and finally 20 when you are ready. There is no rush, and while I would recommend everyone try 20 minutes at least once in their life, I don’t believe that you have to meditate for 20 minutes to reap the benefits of meditation. You may find your sweet spot at 5 minutes, and that is perfectly ok!
Tip: If possible use a watch or app with vibration or light warning. A harsh beep or chime can break your concentration and state of mind with an abrupt almost painful snap that can arguably destroy the benefits you gained from doing the meditation in the first place! If you can’t change the sound, try turning it down to the lowest volume setting instead!
4 | Close your eyes* and start the timer.
*Only if you are in a sitting position. Please don’t do this if you are showering, doing yoga, on a fitness machine, walking, etc.
In a closed eye position, focus on the spot directly in front of your face (yes with your eyes closed!). It may appear black, it may have swirls of color or just simply white. There is nothing wrong with whatever it looks like. Focus on this. Don’t let your eyes follow the swirls, stare only at the center. If your eyes are open try to find something around you to focus on. This is safer if you are doing yoga, or on a fitness machine. Consider a lit candle, a horizon line, a spot on the wall, etc. If you are moving (walking, showering, etc.) don’t focus on a spot. Instead, be mindful of your steps, try to walk somewhere safe where you won’t be interrupted by cars honking or kids playing.
Tip: Morning’s are generally the easiest for concentration for meditation, however, feel free to play around with times. You may find it more effective for a relaxing release after a long day at work, directly following an intense workout, or a peaceful shut off right before bed.
5 | Concentrate on breathing.
Focus on the way it feels to fill up your lungs, hold before slowly letting it out. Notice the way to feels in your nose. Observe the way your body responds and moves while breathing. Concentrate on taking deep breaths that fill your lungs all the way and slowly exhale through your nose.
Tip: Remember that with proper breathing you should feel your lungs expand, your stomach seems to get bigger as you inhale, and retreat as your exhale. Be mindful of this as you concentrate on your breathing, it’s easy to reverse this action.
6 | Forgive yourself.
You will mess up. You will forget to concentrate on your breathing and instead start counting breaths. You will forget to stare straight ahead and find yourself following the swirls of light. You will forget to not think and slowly find yourself wondering what is next on your to-do list. You will start fidgeting, thumping your foot, wiggling your fingers. And that is fine. When you notice that you sway from meditating, simply remind yourself what you are doing and forgive your mistake. You will find over time your mind wanders less the more you practice meditation but in the beginning, it can feel frustrating when you wander quickly. Simply forgive yourself and move on.
Tip: Sometimes a quick “I forgive myself for my thoughts interrupting this session” can establish the forgiveness as you move back to “not thinking”. Also PS: wiggling and fidgeting are TOTALLY fine during a meditation session (as long as you aren’t thinking about it!).
OPTIONAL: Write it out
I highly recommend grabbing a journal or notebook and writing briefly after your meditation session. Make sure you date and time it for future reference. Record anything and everything! How did you feel before, during, and after the session? Did you get distracted a lot? What things or thoughts distracted you? How did you react to those distractions? How long did your session last? Where did you sit, or what were you doing during the session? Were you listening to anything? Did you realize anything coming out of the session? Were unasked questions answered?
TIP: Go back a month from now and reread your old entries. You will be pleasantly surprised at your progress; how less often you get distracted, what your subject matter is focused on, realizations you are having, etc. Now appreciate it and keep going!
That’s it on How to Meditate?
The short answer is yes. That’s how to meditate. You don’t even need to be sitting. You can literally wash the dishes or drink your morning tea and be meditating through mindfulness.
The long answer is a bit, well, longer. If you explore the article about different types of meditation you’ll find variations to the mindful mediation we just talked about. There are more focused and intense versions. Some require a master to walk you through a specific process, or others are more simply guided voices on a meditation music soundtrack. Others still require you to speak scripts or repeat mantras. As previously mentioned, this where your specific focus point comes into play. But once you have the basics down, it can be fun to explore other types of meditation and bring in more elements such as the 5 senses! You may also find the need to remove negative energy from your home as you start meditating regularly!
Do you meditate, or tempted to try after learning how simple it really is? Leave your thoughts, tips, and questions below!