Have you been thinking about adding a meditation practice into your life but are unsure how to begin? Or maybe you’ve heard of meditation and the benefits but think it’s something that only yogis do, or something you’d have time to do only if you were on vacation.
Well, think again!
There are plenty of good reasons to meditate, including:
It’s great for your health
Meditation is a great healthy habit and has been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure, stress levels and heart rate, among other things. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Mass General Hospital, found that it changes your brain in positive ways. She looked at brain scans of a study group participating in a meditation practice and found, among other things, that the portion of the brain involved in the stress or “fight or flight” response, actually got smaller. If you're trying to add healthy choices to your routine, meditation is an easy start.
Increases your ability to focus
Who doesn’t need a way to improve their ability to focus, especially while at work? Our lives are filled with distractions and developing a meditation practice helps you build the skill of focusing on one thing at a time.
Helps to visualize and start to actualize goals
Deepak Chopra, an author, public speaker and alternative medicine advocate has written many books that focus on meditation, yoga and other tools for wellness. He says in his book, “The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success” that when we meditate, we create the right environment into which we can plant the seeds of intention.” That might sound rather new-age focused and perhaps is outside your comfort zone, but think of it this way: it’s much easier to plan for your future or visualize yourself achieving a life or business goal when you’re calm and centered rather than running around.
The Pros do it
It’s been validated by many people in public life - including athletes, entrepreneurs and business leaders - as being one of the factors that gives them the edge. From the staff at Google, to five-time Superbowl quarterback Tom Brady, Howard Stern, Russell Simmons, and Michael Jordan, meditation is seen as a time tested tool to help increase focus, visualize goals and create better health.
So, now that we’ve discussed the benefits of meditation, let’s talk about how you can get started:
There is no “right” and “wrong” way to meditate
Many people aren't sure how to meditate, but there's good news: any time you spend sitting still, with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath, is considered meditating. Even if the whole time, your mind is racing, it still counts! Remember, the practice of meditation is training your mind and body; it does not all come together immediately. If you'd rather have more structure, try following guided meditation podcasts.
Pick a time each day where you can devote 10 minutes to sitting still
Try to pick a time where you can consistently sit on a regular basis. This will help in the beginning in terms of making meditating a habit. Most people pick the morning, but if your mornings are always spent rushing or you’re in charge of getting your kids out the door, perhaps before bed is a better time. Start with 10-minute blocks, once a day.
Find a regular spot in your house to sit
Carve out a special place to give your new practice a spot to take root. Find a hard chair (not a couch or bed) or sit on the floor if that’s more comfortable - just be sure you’re able to sit upright. If you want to make it a treat, buy a meditation cushion. You don’t need to sit in any particular way (despite those images you may have in your mind of yogis sitting crossed legged) but you should be upright to prevent dozing off.
If you live with others, share your new goal so that they can support you
Others will need to be quiet and if this is too hard to accommodate, you’ll have to think of another place to go (unless closing the door is sufficient).
Start slow, then build your practice
Start out with a simple practice of sitting tall with your eyes closed and focusing on your breath. Set your cell phone timer for 5 minutes. Simply focus on your breath until the timer goes off. If you want to count to ten a few times, that can sometimes give your mind something to focus on. Once you’ve completed a few days of 5-minute sessions, add a minute to the meditation session every day until you’re up to 10 minutes. From there it’s up to you if you’d like to add more time to the session or stick with what you have for now.
Use a journal to jot down observations of your practice
This could also be a place to jot down any ideas that arose during your practice. Write down any physical feelings and/or challenges you had while sitting, and any meditation techniques you used. It’s also a great place to keep a log that you can look back on when you’re feeling stuck or lacking the energy to stay on track. Write down any benefits you’re starting to feel or notice. It could be that you’re less reactive or maybe you feel less stressed. Anything that you note as a benefit should be added here.
You can always come back to it
If you find after you’ve started your practice for a few days or weeks that you lose the habit, start up again. Don’t make it a big deal; just start again. One of the themes of meditation is that you can always come back to it without fear of judgment.
One other aspect of meditation is to keep the fact that you’ve started to yourself. Many people like to share the fact that they’re meditating as a way to get positive feedback from others. Your meditation practice is for you. Whether or not you do it is your business.
Taking the time to invest in your health by meditating is a personal decision and one that demonstrates that you take your health seriously, as well as being proactive. If you have someone you know who also meditates, use that person for support when you feel stuck.
Also, if you want, look for yoga studios or other wellness-focused centers (some cities even have meditation spaces) where you can meditate with others. But remember, the best place to begin is right where you are. So, don’t wait! Now is the perfect time to start.
Karen Fabian is the Founder of Bare Bones Yoga and a dedicated Ace-up Health Coach. She's passionate about helping people feel better in both their body and mind. She's been teaching yoga for over 10 years, worked in both clinical and business settings for over 25 years and have an advanced degree in health care business. Her goal is to help people move smarter and learn how to use the skills of meditation and mindfulness to create better balance in their life. Book a free consultation with her today to see how she can add healthy choices to your life.