The other day one of my clients asked how she could start a meditation practice. Its seems she had been thinking about it for a while, but wasn’t really sure about how to go about it. She knew mindfulness could really make an impact on her life, but she is very active and the whole idea of sitting still seemed foreign to her. And that was why she hesitated to try a mindfulness practice like meditation.
The thing to remember about meditation is that it is like exercise. The more you do it, the stronger you get. However, you wouldn’t start an exercise program by running a marathon. That’s why I suggest starting with short periods, such as 3 to 5 minutes. If you want to see the results of meditation, or mindfulness, you need to make a commitment to practice, just same way as you commit to exercising. Choose a time that will work for you. Some people choose the morning as a way to set an intention and a mood for their day. Others like to meditate in the evening before bed as a way to calm themselves and bring the day to close in order to ensure a good night’s rest. It is really a question of whatever works for you. Whichever you choose, be consistent. Let the pattern become a habit.
Find a comfortable place to sit. I like to sit cross-legged on the floor using a meditation cushion, but that can be daunting to some. It that seems a little too new-agey or groovy for your taste, just find a comfortable chair where you can keep your back straight and both feet on the floor. Set the timer on your phone for the length of your choice ( 3 to 5 minutes) Don’t worry about what to do with your hands. Just put them in your lap to begin. Later, you can connect your thumb and forefinger or middle finger in the more traditional posture. For now just be comfortable. Close your eyes, and take four deep breaths–breathing in through the nose for four counts, holding for seven counts, and releasing through the mouth for eight counts. This should take a little over a minute. Then breathe in for three counts, and out for five counts. Follow the breath in and out. Concentrate on the breath as it moves through your body. If thoughts distract you (and they will), just let them go. Acknowledge them as a thought, but don’t react to them. Follow your breath until your smartphone timer goes off. There are also apps for timing meditation, but you can use those as it becomes more a part of your life. Commit to practice for seven days. At the end of that time, add a little more time to the session and go for another week. The goal is to reach fifteen to twenty minutes a day.
There are other ways to bring mindfulness into your life. Mindful walking is one of them. Choose to walk with the purpose of being aware of the walk, not the destination. Feel each foot as it hits the ground, the movement of your arms and legs, the breeze on your face. The goal is to be aware of what is happening in the moment. Some people like to practice mindful exercise on the cardio machines. It helps to focus and clear the mind, helping you feel more energized than you do at the end of a normal workout.
One thing to remember about mindfulness and meditation. It is not a religion, nor is it attached to a religion. It is simply a way to bring peace, balance, and awareness into daily life. Some are leary of trying to meditate as they feel it would go against their religious beliefs. Not true. Prayer is a form of meditation, and many Christians meditate daily. Meditation is simply an exercise for the mind. One that has tremendous beneficial results.
If you have been thinking about starting a meditation practice but weren’t sure how to go about, give this a try. Give yourself a week or so to start feeling a difference. I’d love to hear what you think about it. Feel free to comment or post below.