I hear time and time again from people that they don’t know how to meditate, so they don’t do it. Which truthfully do any of us know HOW to do anything until we try it, and then practice, practice practice! Sure, maybe it seems silly to sit silently or listen to a guided meditation, and many give up thinking they are doing it wrong because they can’t quiet their mind right away. Well, my friends, that is the point! It isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen on the first try, think about the first time you tried anything, was it perfect? Probably not! The thing about meditation is that over time, and with practice, you can gain the ability to control those thoughts, bring yourself back to neutral, focusing on the breath, or recording and eventually those interruptions become fewer and farther between. But it does take practice!
So how can you begin to develop a consistent and effective meditation practice? I have created 5 steps for beginners to get in there and start meditating like a pro!
- Start with 2 minutes. That’s it! Seriously. It’s kind of like running. You build up your capacity for it and the best place to start is 2 minutes. Now, there are many different ways to meditate, however for beginners, I suggest focusing on your inhale and exhale while you sit. Not controlling the breath, but paying attention to it. When your mind wanders, and trust me it will, so when you notice you’ve strayed, refocus back to the inhale, exhale, and as it wanders again, repeat, bring your attention back to the breath. I recommend doing this once or twice a day, morning/evening and only for 2 minutes each time. Do this 2-minute practice every day for one week.
- After one week, Increase your time to 5 minutes. Yep, that’s it! Now sit for another week once or twice a day each time only for 5 minutes. However now that the time is more than doubled, it’s a great idea to incorporate a mantra. There are many mantras available, you can choose one with a meaning that resonates with you. My go to is in Sanskrit and very simple: Sat Nam. Inhale Sat, Exhale Nam. Sat means truth, Nam means identity. You can simply state a positive statement in English, my go-to for that when I’m working through transition is ‘Let go’ I recommend keeping the mantra short when starting out, two syllables like Sat Nam, or Let Go keeps you from thinking too much about what the statement is and lets you fall naturally into the repetition and energy of the statement and will help you to get into the meditative state much easier than a longer mantra that you may have to think about to remember it.
- Two weeks into your practice. Now, you can choose if 5 minutes works for you, then keep yourself at 5 minute meditations, if you are really getting into it and want to go deeper, increase to 10 minutes for a week, and work your way up to 20 minutes 2x/day - once in the morning and once in the evening. Allowing your mind to wander, incorporating a mantra when you desire, feeling your way through what works for you and what doesn’t. Take notice of how your mind wanders less and less away from the intention as you practice more and more consistently. Notice how you feel throughout the day compared to how you have felt before starting your practice. Keeping a journal about your meditations helps so you can recall where you started and where you are now. I do not recommend going past 20 minutes 2x/day so once you work your way there, now we can start exploring within the practice.
- Listening-- Once you are able to more easily quiet the chatter in the mind and maintain focus in your meditation, now we can start to ask questions and listen to our inner guidance, our higher selves, to receive information and answers. At first just like beginning your practice to quiet the mind it will take time to develop the ability to hear and understand the messages when they come to you. Often times we doubt the message unsure of whether or not we are fooling ourselves when we get really in tune with ourselves and our intuition we are better able to identify this information and knowing when it comes to us. We all have this, and when we practice it we can access this at all times, not just during meditation but throughout the day to help guide us and navigate where we go and decisions we make, listen for that knowing, trust it, and the more you practice the more capable you are to access this inner wisdom all the time.
- No Judgement -- When we start to sit and let our minds go our ego will not be happy and will do the most to try and get us to stop quieting its voice. To the ego, meditation can feel like death and it will revolt. That’s the voice that will tell you “this is stupid, this doesn’t work/ help/you’re not doing anything.” when you start your practice. Gently tell it to thank you for your opinion, but I’m still going to try, and carry on with the process. Do not judge yourself for how often this voice chimes in or how long it takes you to wrangle it… just don’t give up. Release yourself from all judgements, be gentle with yourself, and just keeping swimming in the judgment free zone!
I hope this helps you find a way into building a meditation practice. Remember, start slow, be patient, and no judgments allowed.