What is meditation?
Depending on the person you ask, meditation might mean praying, breathing deeply, dancing, or hiking. This post is about meditation for beginners, so let’s define meditation like this: deliberately focusing your attention on something neutral or comforting while you dispassionately observe inner and outer experiences.
In other words, meditation is a way to relax so you can relieve stress, improve focus, regulate emotions, and increase mental performance.
But how do I meditate?
Meditation has been around for a long time and is practiced in a variety of ways. I’ve tried several different approaches to meditation personally and with my therapy clients. I have found that if you’ve never tried it before, it’s best to start simple.
It’s best to meditate in an environment free from distraction. This might mean getting up before the kids, hiding in a bathroom, or hanging out in your car for a few minutes before you go into work. Wherever you decide to do it, just try to make it YOUR time. This means silencing your phone, by the way…It’s okay. You’re worth it.
Put simply, be comfortable. If you’re sitting in a chair don’t slouch or sit straight up. Just sit comfortably. Put your hands in your lap and rest your feet flat on the floor. Keep your head level and close your eyes.
I don’t recommend sitting on the ground if you don’t do that a lot. You’ll get uncomfortable quickly. Avoid lying down, too. You’re likely to fall asleep if you do. Unless, of course, you’re trying to fall asleep.
Your breath is going to be your anchor, guide, and metronome. Start by taking 3 deep breaths, holding each breath for 5 seconds before exhaling. After the 3 initial breaths, just breath normally, but pause for 2 seconds at the top and bottom of each breath.
It goes like this: breathe in…hold for 2 seconds…breathe out…hold for 2 seconds. Each time you exhale you should let your body relax or “melt.”
If you’re anything like me, you are exhausted and stressed by your busy life. While you sit quietly and breathe you might experience anxiety, boredom, sleepiness, distraction, etc. The wonderful thing about meditation is that whatever you experience is OKAY!
Anything that enters your mind or any bodily sensation you feel is fine. Just observe it like you might observe a leaf floating down a river. Once it passes out of sight come back to your breath. This is called “observer’s mind” or “mindfulness.”
Some people like to just focus on their breathing, noticing the sensation of the air entering and leaving their lungs. Others meditate on a topic like a goal, value, virtue, or person they want to get closer to. If you’re going to meditate on a topic, then each time you exhale repeat that topic out loud or in your mind. For example, breathe in…hold for 2 seconds…breathe out and say/think “kindness”…hold for 2 seconds.
I usually recommend 5-10 minutes for beginners. You’re going to get distracted. That’s okay. Like any other skill, you’ll get better with practice. You can do it in the morning to set the tone for the day, in the afternoon to reduce mid-day stress, or in the evening to recover and prepare for sleep. Or you could just do it whenever you darn well please.
Whether you are an exhausted parent, overworked employee, or stressed out student this very simple approach to meditation can dramatically improve the quality of your day. Try it daily for a week and see what happens!
Disclaimer: Reading my blog is not a substitute for one-on-one, face-to-face professional treatment. Interaction with me on this blog does not represent a professional therapeutic relationship. I do not assume liability for any damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with this blog.