Meditation can have long lasting emotional and physical health benefits. The research shows that practicing meditation can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, help with pain management, improve symptoms IBS, and enhance immunity. In addition, studies have found that a consistent meditation practice can improve focus and concentration, enhance self-awareness, boost self-esteem, aid in emotional regulation, decrease stress, promote happiness, and even foster kindness.
Many of the worlds most influential leaders, CEO’s, executives, and celebrities meditate daily. In the book “Tribe of Mentors”, author Tim Ferris interviewed 140 of the most successful people in their field and found 90% of them had a daily meditation practice.
What is Meditation?
There are several kinds of meditation, which you can read all about here.
Generally speaking, meditation can be categorized as guided (by a teacher who walks you through the process) or unguided (silent).
Guided meditations are great for beginners who are new to the practice and can be found on apps like Headspace and Insight Timer. The most common techniques used in guided meditations include mindfulness, body scan, visualization, reflection, and loving kindness.
Unguided or silent meditation usually involves sitting quietly and focusing your attention on your body, your breathe, and your thoughts. It is learning to be in the present moment and noticing any thoughts or emotions that come up without judgement.
Meditation is not turning off your thoughts completely, which is a common misconception. Instead, it is the practice of observing any thoughts that come up and shifting your awareness back to the present moment using your breathe. I once heard this being referred to as a “mental sit-up”: anytime you get distracted you bring your attention back to your breathe strengthening your awareness muscle. As you practice your mental sit-ups the brain gets used to stillness and its gets easier to cultivate a sense of calmness.
WHO SHOULD MEDITATE?
Meditation is a simple practice that anyone can do.
I believe everyone can benefit from meditation but especially those who have:
- Excessive mind chatter
- High stress jobs
- Difficulty sleeping
- Health issues
- A lack clarity around goals, vision, and purpose
- Resistance around sitting alone with their thoughts
HOW TO START MEDITATING
It seems like such a simple concept to sit and silence and still your mind but it’s more difficult than it sounds and can take discipline to make it a consistent habit.
Personally I tried to make meditation part of my daily practice for years and always struggled to stay consistent with it. I tried everything from guided mediations, apps, music, mantras, and sitting in nature, but I always felt a lot of resistance and never felt motivated.
This is normal. In fact, this is to be expected. Our brains don’t like to be still and our thoughts will most likely jump all over the place when we try. Buddha calls this “the monkey mind”.
Learning to meditate and tame our “monkey minds” feels uncomfortable at first so expect resistance. Meditation is a life long practice and takes some trial and error to figure out what works for you.
Over time I have been able to incorporate different strategies to make meditation a daily practice. Since I started being consistent with it I am much more calm, present, focused, and patient. I am able to manage my anxiety better when it comes up and I have total clarity over my goals and vision. Perhaps the greatest benefit I have personally noticed from meditation is a stronger sense of self-love and self-acceptance.
Because I am able to tap into this more easily, it has helped me in my manifestation practice as well and i have been able to manifest some pretty amazing things in my life.
My practice is far from perfect, but I am happy with my progress and I am proud to say that meditation has become an integral part of my daily routine.
The following are tips and strategies that have helped me get to this point and I hope that they can help you start a beautiful meditation practice of your own.
1. Release your expectations
There is no “right” way to meditate and it will look different for everyone.
When I first tried to meditate I had this idea that it had to look a certain way (i.e. sitting cross legged, back straight, using hand mudras). I quickly realized that this just wasn’t working for me. I didn’t find it comfortable and I didn’t enjoy being in that position at all. The whole point of meditating is to bring awareness to your thoughts and to calm the mind and I have found I am able to do this just fine wrapped in a blanket on the couch, lying down, sitting up in bed, or even walking (see tip #3).
I also thought that I had to “turn off” my thoughts and feelings, which is not only unrealistic but completely misses the point. As I mentioned previously, meditation is about noticing your thoughts when they come up without judging them and re-focusing on your breath. It’s about strengthening your awareness muscle by doing mental sit-ups every time the mind wanders.
I also thought I was meant to have a euphoric feeling after meditating, which definitely can happen, but isn’t something that happens every time. The more you meditate the more likely you will have this blissful experience, but your not doing it wrong if you don’t.
2. Keep it Simple: my meditation 101
I find a quiet space, get in a comfortable position, and close my eyes.
Sometimes I listen to a guided meditation on ‘Insight Timer’ but more often than not I just sit in silence.
I do a four breathe sequence where I take a deep breathe in for 4 counts, hold it at the top for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold it at the bottom for 4 counts before taking another inhale. This is also called ‘box breathing’.
When I first started I did about 10-20 rounds of box breathing, which only takes about 2-5 minutes. I have read that it takes 20 minutes of meditation to see results but I have truly seen a difference even after two minutes. You’re better off doing one minute than none at all.
Over time I have worked on meditating longer and can now go about 20 minutes. But start small!
3. FIND A TIME AND PLACE THAT WORKS FOR YOU
Find a time of day where you can easily incorporate meditation.
For me, it’s in the morning right after I wake up.
Before I make my coffee I put on my diffuser, sit on the couch, and do my breathe cycles.
I have heard many people find success meditating by sitting up in bed with their back against the headboard, but I find it too easy to fall back asleep.
When I first started with my two minute meditations I fell in love with how it made me feel and started to incorporate a few breathe cycles throughout the day before moving on to a new task, like after a workout or right before I start cooking dinner. Remember, all it takes it 2 minutes of breathing. This could be at work at your desk, on the couch, or even if your just sitting out in the sun.
I love the idea of meditating wherever you are and one of my favourite times to practice meditation is when I’m walking. This is called a moving meditation all it entails is taking a few breathe cycles and bringing your awareness to the environment you are in and staying in the present moment. It’s really easy to get caught up in thinking, planning or worrying when walking from place to place so I make an effort to do this every single day. A great way to get started if this is new to you is practice the 3-2-1 mindfulness exercises where you list 3 things you see, 2 things you hear and 1 thing you feel.
Practicing meditation throughout the day has helped me train my brain to be more comfortable being still and I much more mindful and self-aware as a result.
4. Progress not Perfection
Don’t worry if you open your eyes or get lost in your thoughts. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t count and there is no need “re-start”. Meditation doesn’t have to look a certain way and there is no right way to do it. It isn’t something you can perfect and it’s not something you can fail. The more you practice the more natural it will feel and the more results you will see.
It’s called a practice for a reason!
5. Start where you are and BE as CONSISTENT as possible
The best time to start meditating is now.
It doesn’t matter how new you are to the practice. I encourage you all to re-commit to meditation and find a way to make it your own.
Once you decide a time and place to meditate be as consistent as possible and try to incorporate mindfulness throughout the day to see the benefits.
What other challenges do you face with starting a consistent meditation practice? Have you tried incorporating these tips? Let me know!