Amazing people like Katy Perry, Dan Harris, and Jim Carrey have learned how to meditate. Why? Probably because we all know that we’re capable of having lots of ‘stuff’ going on in our day, yet we all know that it takes focus to achieve our real goals and live the life we want. We are used to making time on our calendar for meetings, spending time with family, or a getaway vacation, but how often do we really set aside time to be silent, get deeper in touch with who we are and what we want, and train our minds to move towards these goals? That’s what meditation is for and it’s not just the next yoga-like trend - according to last month’s Harvard Business article, the busier you are, the more you need quiet time and as 18million people in the US already know, some of the best quality quiet time is available right now is through meditation.
And guess what? You are already meditating. Right now you are where you are, your attention is moving though this article (or somewhere else), you are breathing, you are experiencing the world, and you have some awareness of who you are. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Meditating is really about training our minds to do more of what we want, like to be sustainably happy, so it’s just about learning to do what we already do, but with better results. Becoming an accomplished meditator takes about as much practice as learning how to play piano, but we all start by playing a few notes or singing the tunes to our favorite songs. Here’s a list of things to do that will get you meditating better right away:
Most people would agree, the act of sitting down to meditate for even a few minutes can have a noticeable effect on the rest of your day. Not only that, it is the best way to start getting more out of meditation and to build a deeper practice. Maybe some people want to learn to run by trying to do a bunch of miles the first day, but it’s probably easier to start with a jog down the street. Learning meditation is the same - you start small and can then keep going longer. Meditation starts with the first breath, so even if you take just one breath you are already on your way. See if you can meditate for 3 minutes, experience what it’s like and see what happens. If you can get to 5 minutes per day you definitely have a growing meditation practice. Many people find it calms their morning to sit with eyes closed right after getting out of bed.
Watch your breathing
You’ve probably heard about this and it’s true - watching your breath is the best and most common way to learn to meditate. It’s not the only thing you’ll do in meditation, but it can help you build better focus and attention that continues outside of meditation. Breath is the warm up practice like if you were a dancer you might start with some routines or if you wanted to be a pilot you would do flight training. See if you can count your breaths like exhale, inhale, 1, exhale, inhale, 2… Can you get to 3 without thinking of something besides your breath? It’s normal to need to start over a lot as you realize you’re thinking about something else besides counting - just celebrate the fact that you started your count again. If you are doing a guided meditation (see below) there might be some breath-attention instructions. If you get really good at watching your breath you’ll be able to count up to 10 without having to start over. Like we said before, even one breath is good!
Sit In A Good Place
It’s important to have the right place to sit for whatever you do. Think about it, you sit in a car to drive, on an office chair to work, and on a sofa to watch tv, so why should meditation be any different. Find yourself a great place to sit comfortably, where you won’t have to think about your body and can focus on your thoughts. It could be in a chair, on a park bench, or best of all on your favorite meditation cushion. Meditation cushions have been used for thousands of years because they allow you to both relax your body and have proper alignment with you back straight while seated. Having one cushion that never moves (maybe it’s in a little area next to your bed, or in your living room) is the ideal way to build self-practice. Whatever you do, get yourself in a position where you can sit tall and comfortably so you can focus on your thoughts. You wouldn’t stand at the movie theatre would you? It's much more enjoyable to focus all of our attention on what's happening on the screen, rather than how our body is.
Try guided meditations
Before you learn to drive, it’s easier to let someone else do the steering and enjoy the ride. There’s no shortage of great guided meditations out there and finding them is easy. You can try apps like Headspace and Insight Timer, or use sites like Deepak Chopra Center or Tara Brach or Buddhist site The Knowledge Base. Great topics to begin with are compassion and loving kindness, but the most important thing is to try what looks most helpful and interesting to you.
Already know a little yoga? Great! Some people would say that yoga was created as a warm up to meditation, as a way to connect mind and body through breath. The better your connection when you take your seat to meditate, the easier it will be for you to settle in and train your mind on all that is possible.