Where to start
You might have heard how meditation is good for you, how it can be used as a tool to calm the mind and body or how it aids better sleep? All of this is true so the next question may be, how do I begin to meditate? It can seem overwhelming with where and how to start.
First of all, let’s start with dispelling the myth that meditation requires you to control or stop your thoughts. Well, this isn’t going to happen and that is not what meditation requires. It’s a losing battle to try and control if your thoughts will arise or not. Let that idea go. In meditation, we are not stopping our thoughts but rather, letting them come about but not attach to them and keep the story going. When we do attach and carry the thoughts on into their story, we gently and kindly become aware of that and start again. It’s completely normal and ok to do this over and over in a meditation.
Meditation styles vary but can be categorized into 2 types:
Concentrative where you sit or lie down, close your eyes, set your intention to be still during this time and focus on one thing such as your breath, a repeated phrase or word, body sensing, a visual or a guided meditation.
Non-directive is where you sit or lie down, close your eyes and set your intention to be still and relaxed during this time. You allow your mind to wander and be aware of your thoughts but not try to change them. Soft sounds are usually played.
Both types of meditation are beneficial and bring the body into a restful state and according to one study reported by the iNLP, non-directive meditations can bring about a deeper state of rest in which to process memories and emotions.
Give your mind something to do
I found, especially in my early years of meditating that giving my mind something to do or focus on was the best way to help it calm down. Counter-intuitive I know but it really works. You can choose to focus on your breath. Being aware of its journey of the inhale to when that stops, pauses and returns on the exhale. Another option can be to use a guided meditation and you bring the focus of your mind back to the words of the guide, over and over again. I find it imperative when using a guided meditation that I like the sound of the guide’s voice in my ear. Another way to give your mind a task during a meditation is to focus on a visual with a soft gaze or eyes partially open. This could be a candle or a picture of something from nature. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the visual.
Sound can also be used effectively for meditation, you can use an affirmation such as ‘I am worthy, I am loved’ or a more traditional Sankrit mantra like ‘Om’ or ‘Ahm’. The use of these practices is to give your mind a task, something to do without it going off into the past or planning the future which takes you away from being present in your meditation. Remember, when your mind stops focusing on your chosen practice, let yourself come back to it with no judgement that you did something wrong or that the meditation isn’t working. Where you focus, your thoughts will go.
A few minutes a day of meditation helps
Be easy on yourself with beginning to meditate. Don’t judge yourself if you are doing it right or wrong or expect instant ease at meditating. It may come easily but go with the journey that presents itself to you. Don’t compare to someone else’s experience. Meditation is simple but not necessarily easy. What it comes down to is the commitment to keep at it. A few minutes a day is enough. Increase to 5-10 minutes if and when that is available. Don’t get caught up in thinking that you need an hour or more to make meditation effective, that’s just not true.
Find yourself a quiet space and bring an open mind free of expectation. It’s important that you make yourself comfortable which can be seated, propped up with pillows behind your back or laying down. When your body is uncomfortable, your thoughts will go there. The commitment to taking this time for yourself is an act of self-care and self-love. With practice, meditation brings insights, clarity, new perspectives, and builds resilience. You will feel more grounded in your life and helps in listening to our inner knowledge. You will be able to access the deep well of stillness within all of us. This will translate into your daily life by being more readily able to respond instead of reacting to what is happening around you.
At Rest & Be we are here to help support and guide you in your meditation practice. We offer a Beginner’s Course of 7 meditations to help you learn, experience and feel at ease with meditation.
With gratitude, Theresa