Before I started meditating, I never thought about what was going on inside my head — my thoughts would just happen, and I would follow their commands like an automaton. Thankfully now I am more and more aware of what’s going on in my mind, and I can make a conscious choice about whether to follow the commands or not. I actually learned to choose my thoughts, and it feels amazing.
It’s mind over matter, and you can actually guide your mind. Wow, right?
Meditation is amazing. It helps us become more peaceful, more focused, more compassionate, with ourselves and others, less worried about discomfort, more appreciative and attentive to everything in our life. We learn to understand ourselves much better, and develop inner peace and calmness, increased flexibility and joy. You feel better and better, and get better and better, and it’s easy.
So … I highly recommend meditating. Daily. If you’re new to all this, here are a few steps to help you get started and keep you going. You don’t have to implement them all at once. Just be patient with yourself. You can start small. You will get better and better as you practice.
1. Sit for two minutes, just breathing. Otherwise, you’ll be doing NOTHING at all. This will seem ridiculously easy, and that’s perfect. It IS so easy. Start with just two minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week, and then increase again, little by little, until you’ll be meditating for 10 (or more) minutes a day.
2. Do it first thing every morning. If you need, set a reminder or put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.
3. Don’t get caught up in the how — just do it. Don’t worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … that is all nice, but really not that important. Just start by sitting on the ground, your bed, a chair, or on your couch, cross-legged. It’s just for two minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimising it, so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning, it doesn’t matter much, just sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.
4. Check in with how you’re feeling. As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how your body is feeling? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to your meditation session as completely ok.
5. Breathe deeply and count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose, all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.
6. Come back when you wander. Your mind will wander, and it’s ok. When you notice your mind wandering, just smile, and gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. It’s perfectly ok to not stay focused all the time. You will get better with time.
7. Develop a loving attitude. When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude. See them as friends, not intruders or enemies. They are a part of you, though not all of you. Be friendly and never harsh.
8. Don’t worry too much that you may be doing it wrong. You actually can’t get it wrong and never get it done. It’s ok. Just be happy you’re doing it.
9. Don’t worry about clearing your mind. Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.
10. Stay with whatever arises. When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try staying with them awhile. Yes, I know I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for a week, you might also try staying with a thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety… but an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for awhile. Just stay, and be curious.
11. Get to know yourself. This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there? It’s murky, but by watching your mind wander, get frustrated, avoid difficult feelings… you can start to understand yourself.
12. Become friends with yourself. As you get to know yourself, do it with a friendly attitude instead of one of judgement or criticism. You’re getting to know a friend. Smile and give yourself love.
13. Do a body scan. Another thing you can do, once you become a little better at following your breath, is focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start at the soles of your feet — how do they feel? Slowly move to your toes, the top of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.
14. Notice the light, sounds, the energy. Another place to put your attention, again, after you’ve practiced with your breath for at least a week, is the light all around you. Just keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, just focus on noticing sounds. Another day, try to notice the energy in the room all around you (including light and sounds).
15. Really commit yourself. Don’t just say, “Sure, I’ll try this for a couple of days.” Really commit yourself to this. In your mind, be locked in, for at least a month.
16. You can do it anywhere. If you’re traveling or something comes up in the morning, you can do meditation in your office. In the park. While cooking or washing the dishes. As you walk somewhere. Sitting meditation is the best place to start, but in truth, you’re practicing for this kind of mindfulness in your entire life.
17. Follow guided meditation. If it helps, you can try following guided meditations to start with. I love Abraham Hicks’ and Dakota Walker’s guided meditations, and find them very helpful.
18. Check in with friends. Meditating alone is nice, but you can also do it with your love, or child, or a friend. Or just make a commitment with a friend to check in every morning after meditation. It might help you stick with it.
19. Find a community. Even better, find a community of people who are meditating and join them. This might be a Zen or Tibetan community near you (for example), where you go and meditate with them. Or find an online group and check in with them and ask questions, get support, encourage others.
20. Smile when you’re done. When you’re finished with your two minutes, smile. Be grateful that you had this time to yourself, that you stuck with your commitment, that you showed yourself that you’re trustworthy, where you took the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself. That’s an amazing two minutes of your life.
Meditation isn’t always easy or even peaceful. But it has truly amazing benefits, and you can start today, and continue for the rest of your life.