Perhaps no practice in the wellness field is wrapped in more mystique than meditating. Meditation can conjure up images of gurus and yogis, levitating above their mats in an ancient ashram in India.
But meditating is a far more common and popular technique all over the world. It’s practiced by millions of people every day, from intense spiritual seekers to celebrities and sports figures to soccer moms.
Even science is getting in on meditation with studies showing myriad benefits of a regular meditation practice, including:
• Increases immune function;
• More positive emotional responses and self-control;
• Decreases inflammation at the cellular level;
• Increases social connection;
• Decreases stress, anxiety and depression; and
• Improves memory.
And that’s just a few!
If you’re just starting a meditation practice—or don’t quite know where to begin—go easy on yourself. There’s no one “right” way to meditate. In fact, there are over a dozen different schools or types of meditation.
The most popular in the western world is mindfulness meditation, combining awareness of your thoughts as they pass through your mind with concentration, on your breath for example.
The best way to begin is to simply … begin. There are no special tools or mantras or cushions required. There are, however, a few tips to help you stay consistent with your practice.
1. Try meditating at the same time every day.
This makes it more of a practice, and you’re more likely to do it consistently. For many, the best time of day is in the morning before breakfast. Others prefer to meditate after work, as a way to calm the mind and transition into the evening. Either time coincides with nature’s rhythms of sunrise and sunset.
2. Sit straight and comfortably in a chair or on the floor.
There’s no need for special poses or hand positions, but try not to lay down. If you do, you’re more likely to fall asleep as the mind relaxes.
3. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
It’s a myth that one has to meditate for hours a day to get the benefits. Experts recommend between 10 and 20 minutes.
Close your eyes. Breathe deeply, focusing on your breath for a few moments. Then let your breath be gentle. As your breathing relaxes, your mind will relax.
4. Thoughts will come up while meditating. Let them.
Many people believe that their mind should be blank while meditating. Having thoughts means they’re “not doing it right.” On the contrary, clearing your mind makes space for lots of thoughts to come up. Try not to focus on the thoughts or judge yourself (or them). The classic instruction is to observe your thoughts as clouds in the sky, and just let them drift by. And, if your nose itches, scratch it. Otherwise you’ll be consumed with the thought of an itchy nose!
5. Guided or not, music or not—the choice is yours.
There are lots of free apps available to help you with your meditation practice. Some provide timed intervals with soothing music, others provide a guided meditation with a meditation teacher. Try a few and see what works best for you:
• Art of Living TV – featuring guided meditations with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
6. Try meditating in a group.
If you have trouble settling in to a meditation on your own, try meditating in a group. When we’re part of a group, it’s easier to shift into that vibration. Think about attending a concert or a sporting event. We’re swept up in the group’s energy and cheer along with the crowd. It works for meditation, too!
Here at Feeling Groovy Wellness, several yoga classes end with a meditation throughout the week. And, we offer two group meditation sessions:
Mindfulness & Meditation: Tuesdays at 6 pm
Let Go! Meditation: Thursdays at 7 pm
The most important thing about meditating is that the more you do it, and the more consistent you are with your practice, the more benefits you will see in your life, your health, and your overall wellbeing.