Starting your own meditation practice is never an easy task. While putting 10 minutes aside each day may seem fairly simple to achieve, 10 minutes also has a tendency to simply disappear into the day. For a lot of us, 10 minutes of non-doing seems less important than 10 minutes of doing, planning, working, or otherwise simply looking for a spare 10 minutes of time in our busy everyday life. What if we need 20, 30 or 60 minutes to meditate? What if we get distracted during our practice? What if we forget, fall asleep, or get bored? And, most importantly, how do we meditate? When do we do our practice? Where do we choose to meditate? What do we do while meditating? Why should we spend our precious time meditating at all?
These are the questions that ran through my mind, and still occasionally do so, as I am starting my own meditation practice. An 8-week mindfulness course has helped me answer some of the questions I listed above, and as mindfulness gains popularity, more and more courses are becoming available online and offline. However, a majority of these questions can only be answered when we embark on our own personal journey. And for each person, the answers may be different. But in this post, I will answer these questions from my current perspective: a 25-year old woman who is just starting her practice.
I find that when starting to meditate, guided meditations may be useful, and YouTube is full of them! If you use YouTube, you can be flexible with finding a length, voice of narrator, background music, and any other feature that you prefer. I started by using this 10-minute guided mindfulness meditation from The Honest Guys. You can do most meditations sitting on the floor, sitting on a chair or even lying down, so make sure you get comfortable enough to maintain this position for at least 10 minutes (or 3, or 5, or however long you have chosen to meditate for!). If you decide to sit on the floor, a meditation cushion can make you more comfortable (I got mine from Blue Banyan!). While there are a lot of tips out online on how to meditate, the most important tip I can give you here is to experiment with different positions, guided meditations, CDs, apps, music, times, and places, and find what works for you!
Again, this will be based on personal choice, but I (and a lot of other meditators I have talked to) prefer to meditate in the mornings. I find that there are two benefits of starting my day with meditation practice. Firstly, it gives me an alternative to starting the day the way most of us usually do – checking social media and emails. It prepares me for the day ahead before I get too involved in my to-do lists, my phone, and my work. Secondly, it reduces the likelihood of me skipping meditation because I am too tired, too hungry, finished work late, or simply forgot by the end of the day.
The good thing about meditation is that it can be done almost anywhere. The tricky part, however, is that you will want to reduce possible distractions to enhance your practice. Find a place where you will not be disturbed – somewhere quiet where you will be alone for the duration of your practice. It is also important to take into account external factors such as temperature (your mind will have a hard time focusing if you feel cold!), potential outside noise (another reason why mornings are ideal for meditation) and phone notifications (switch your phone off!) . While internal sensations (such as hunger) may also distract you from your practice, internal factors may actually have an important contribution to your experience as well. It is almost impossible to find a time to meditate where your body or mind feel absolutely nothing (e.g., fatigue, stress, anxiety, soreness, thirst, stiffness, worry, boredom, I could go on and on). Instead of being discouraged from meditation when you feel any of those things, use it as part of your practice. When your mind gets drawn to one of these sensations, simply let it go and bring your mind back to the present moment. Notice when your mind wanders and bring it back over and over again in an accepting and non-judgemental way.
The question of what to do when meditating may be the most difficult of all, but has a very simply answer. Don’t DO or expect anything. Most people think that meditating means clearing your mind of all thoughts, but this is not the case. Enter the state of non-doing and simply BE. Then every meditation session you do will be a success!
The why of mindfulness meditation can be split into objective and subjective reasons. Objectively speaking, research into mindfulness and its benefits has shown that regular meditation practice can reduce stress, depression and anxiety, increase cognitive functioning, intelligence and attention, and generally contribute to greater mental well-being. For the subjective reasons, I now leave you to think about your own personal reasons for showing an interest in mindfulness. How did you come across this blog? Why are you interested in mindfulness meditation? What benefits could you gain from it? Perhaps, once you start your practice, these reasons will change. You don’t even need to decide on your reasons right now. Maybe, it’s simply something worth trying.