How to Start a Meditation Practice

Here are some tips on how to start your own meditation practice.


Do

Choose a place that is conducive to meditation. 

This can be a room or special area in your home, your office, or even in your parked car. It’s important that you meditate in a place that is quiet and where you will be undisturbed for the period of time that you choose.

Sit in a position that is comfortable but will not easily allow you to fall asleep. 

Sitting in one of the traditional meditation poses you have most likely seen isn’t a MUST. What’s important is that you are comfortable enough to relax but NOT fall asleep. You can sit cross legged, kneel on a cushion, or sit on the edge of a chair. Your back should be straight but relaxed. Place your hands wherever they feel most comfortable. That could be folded or clasped in your lap, palms down on your knees, palms up on your knees, or in a meditation mudra. Also, I find I meditate best breathing gently through my nose with my mouth and eyes closed. If I am sitting for a longer period of time and am concerned I may become drowsy, I will leave my eyelids cracked so that I can remain more alert.

Set your intention. 

When I meditate, I first take a deep breath and say to myself: This is the most important part of my day. I do this every single time I sit. Setting an intention is critical as it sets the tone for the session. Why are you there meditating? For me, it is to cultivate self-discipline, wisdom, peace of mind, and to better understand the nature of the world through understanding myself. What do you seek through meditation? Help manifest what you are striving towards by setting the right intention.

Create some sort of ritual.

In addition to setting the right intention, building some sort of consistent ritual into your meditation practice is useful because it facilitates the transition from whatever you were doing prior to your meditation session into actual meditation. Many people light incense or say some sort of prayer. Personally, I like to shower and brush my teeth before each time I sit. As I do these things, I think about how I am cleansing my body to prepare myself for meditation. This is my meditation ritual.

Choose an object of meditation. 

Having a meditation object is extremely useful. Meditation objects serve as a focal point on which you build concentration. Through absorption and contemplation of the object of meditation, you begin to cultivate single-pointed concentration. Single-pointed concentration is the foundation of the inner peace people imagine when they think of meditation. One of the most popular objects to use (and my personal preference) is the breath. To do this, you attach your mind to the breath and the way every aspect of it feels. You feel it move past the tip of your nose, through your nostrils, all the way down into your lungs, causing them to expand, and then, as you exhale, you follow it all the way back to the tip of your nose. Whenever I become distracted during meditation, I gently bring my mind back to the breath. Other common objects include: a candle, statue or deity, mental image, or a particular part of the body (chakra).

Start small.

Don’t expect to start off sitting for long intervals if meditation is something new to you. As with anything, you have to take baby steps before you can learn to run. Start small, meditating only 5-10 minutes a day. Once you can successfully maintain concentration on your meditation object for that period of time, extend the length of your sessions.

Meditate every day. 

To get better at anything, you must do it often. Meditation is no exception; but there is another reason you should make meditation a part of your daily routine. As you put more time into your practice, you will begin to cultivate single-pointed concentration and a sense of calm abiding and benefit from these states even when not in meditation. These desirable inner states must be maintained and the best way to do that is through more meditation. If you take time away from meditation, you will feel the positive effects you have gained from it begin to fade.


Don’t

Force yourself to meditate if you are not ready or conditions are not suitable. 

If, after several whole-hearted attempts, you cannot relax enough to meditate then take a break. Take a shower, go for a walk, or do something to clear your mind and release what it is you are distracted by. If your surroundings are too noisy, try to find a more quiet area or wait until you can be undisturbed. Return to meditation when you feel you are ready to become absorbed in it. 5 minutes of quality meditation is more beneficial than 30 minutes of disturbed and distracted meditation.

Try to force yourself to “not think”. 

The purpose of meditation isn’t to “not think” and you are NOT doing it wrong if you become distracted. The purpose of meditation is to transform the mind. How does this occur? The mind’s natural conscious propensity is toward thought. You cannot transform the mind by trying to suppress its nature; the mind is transformed by changing its reaction to itself and so, thoughts and emotions must be allowed to come and go. When a distraction arises, the meditator acknowledges it without reacting to it and then gently returns their attention to the object of meditation. When you first start your meditation practice, you will have to do this often. This is perfectly normal and it is why shorter sessions are recommended. You know you are becoming a more skilled meditator as you naturally spend longer and longer periods absorbed in your meditation object, free from distraction. In practicing acknowledgment and release of your thoughts and emotions instead of being reactive to them, you will begin to experience the benefits of single-pointed concentration and an inner state of calm abiding and this is what ultimately transforms the mind.

Thanks for reading; I hope this has been useful!