How do I get started?
Firstly, congratulations on deciding to take one of the most important steps you will ever take – to learn to meditate. The benefits of meditation are many – not just a calmer mind. Meditation de-stresses your whole body, improves your immune system; lowers blood pressure; you will think more clearly and creatively.
Lets start. Find a quiet place where you are unlikely to be interrupted. A place where you feel safe, comfortable and warm. Some people like to meditate in the same place each day as this can strengthen their meditation practice and habit.
There are several positions you might like to adopt but for now sit yourself in a comfortable chair preferably with a straight back. Place both feet on the floor and rest your hands comfortably on your thighs. Make sure your whole body is in a comfortable position. Try to keep this position throughout meditation. However, if you do need to move, you can. So far, learning how to meditate properly is pretty simple isn’t it!
How much time should I allow?
Since you are just beginning you might like to aim for 5 or 10 minutes, building up to 20 minutes over the first few weeks. It takes a little while for the mind to calm and begin to get into a meditative state. Set your phone to let you know when the time is up. Otherwise you will probably find your thoughts telling you to the check the time and it’s your thoughts we want to quiet down!
What do I actually do when practicing meditation?
Just close your eyes. Take three slow, deep breaths – in through your nose and out through slightly parted lips. With each breath you will feel yourself relaxing. Now just breathe normally. Place all of your attention on your breath. Note how it feels as the air enters your body and leaves your body. Give your full attention to every breath you take.
What you will notice is that your thoughts, which are also tied to your emotions, will come and try to take your attention from your breathing. ‘What did my boss really mean? What should I wear that to the party? I wonder if I am breathing properly.’ But it is your thoughts you are going to try to still. You are in search of a quiet, still place where nothing exists but you and your breath. A place where you have pure time with yourself.
How do I control my thoughts when I meditate?
This is never easy even for experienced meditators. But every second your thoughts become still will be of great benefit to you. Your thoughts will do anything to distract you because they are used to being in control of your mind. Continue to focus on your breathing. Be aware, be mindful of every incoming and outgoing breath. Be aware of how it slows or quickens – whether it is deep or shallow. As each thought or feeling comes, acknowledge it, let it go, and return to concentrating on your breath. Do not fight the thought – just be aware, be mindful that it is occurring – acknowledge it, let it go and return to the breath – a simple meditation technique
What is Mindfulness Meditation
The practice you are beginning to follow is one of mindfulness. You will be taking the first steps towards becoming mindful, recognizing that your thoughts and emotions are not you and putting a tiny gap between your thoughts, your emotions and you. Each time you do this your body and mind will become calmer and you will be in greater control of both mind and body. Gradually the practice of mindfulness will reach into all aspects of your life. When you experience signs of anger or stress, instead of exploding and giving way to your emotions you will acknowledge the situation and breathe, establish that little gap that allows you to take control, then deal with the situation in a calm and thoughtful way. Does anyone make good decisions in the heat of an angry moment? You will reap the benefits of mindfulness practice.
When is the best time to practice meditation?
This is up to you. Many people like to meditate early in the morning before their busy activities begin. It does seem to be a good idea to meditate at the same time each day as, like meditating in the same place, it strengthens your habit. As you become more accustomed to meditation you will know the best time for you. What is important is that you commit to meditate every day.
It is also possible to develop the habit of mini-meditations. Just for a few minutes when you are waiting in a queue, sitting on a train, standing in a bus, even without closing your eyes bring your attention to your breathing, be mindful of your thoughts. Mini-meditations can serve as little reminders of that peaceful place where you can find yourself.
Are there are other ways to meditate?
Yes – but meditation is meditation. You can use other methods to aid your concentration. Some people use a mantra, a word such as OM that they repeat and focus on rather than the breath. Sound effects and music may also be used. Omni-Sync Meditation provides a combination of monaural and binaural beats with isochronic tones designed to assist the meditator to reach a meditative state more easily. But the aim is the same. To learn to concentrate. To become mindful. To still our thoughts and emotions.