Meditation can have many benefits and positive side effects. However, when starting a meditation practice, it can be extremely challenging at first to sit down and be still when one is accustomed to multi-tasking or what I like to call digital ADD. Another foe to a positive practice can be the need for instant gratification. For these reasons, I have compiled some ideas that may help to make it easier for you to switch to sitting and being still (physically and mentally).
The basic message here is to set yourself up for success. Going from driving our minds at NASCAR speeds with constant inputs to hiking slowly through the woods can cause something akin to mental whiplash. So make this easy for yourself. Throw away “prescribed” notions on what meditation looks like. Create your own practice, which may look very different from the practice that works for others.
– Turn on the music or TV, at a lower volume (as your mind begins to quiet, other sounds can be amplified). This may fly in the face of what most recommend for a “good” meditation practice. However, I would argue that when we are use to processing 500 different inputs, simultaneously, that we may find it easier to focus if part of our minds is occupied.
– Set the bar low. Initially, plan to only sit still for 20 seconds at the most. Yes, this also seems to be counter-intuitive. However, in our fast-paced world of perpetual movement, 20 seconds of stillness can seem like an eternity. As you get the hang of stillness, you can increase your meditation duration.
– Meditate throughout the day. Take multiple “mini-meditations,” to help gain more practice with less frustration.
– Sit in a chair if the floor is not comfortable. Lie down in bed if sitting does not work for you (just try to avoid falling asleep).
– Start with guided meditations to stretch your time spent in meditation through the use of visualizations.
– Progressive Muscle Relaxation.(Here’s one by The Cleveland Clinic) This is a great way to relax the body in an active way, which can induce mental relaxation.
– Buy or find a free app. I initially used Buddhist Meditation, a free app that gradually increases the meditation duration. It shows a revolving set of quotes that can be used as a focal point (I usually have my own). It also gives reminders to meditate.
– Attend a group meditation. There is a synergy when people come together and work towards a common goal that allows for a better meditation. This is similar to road races where we often perform better at a race than we do on our own.
– Ok, light a candle. Light some incense. Set the ambiance that works for you to get relaxed.
– Take a hot bath or shower first.
– Find a ritual that lets your mind and body know that you are about to meditate. Put on a scarf or wear a set of mala beads. Whatever seems natural to you.
– Find a focal point upon which to focus. Something you can bring your attention back to when your mind wanders.
– Exercise your body before you sit down to meditate. Endorphins released during exercise may help you to relax more deeply.
– Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to learn what works best for you. After all, you won’t know until you try. You might surprise yourself.Avoid telling yourself to relax. I have found that for myself and for my clients that being told to simply relax makes us more tense. Try to avoid saying this to yourself when you start meditating. Allow your mind to wander without getting frustrated, as frustration will only impede your practice.
Please share any meditation tips that you find are helpful.
Be well and take your first steps to mental de-clutterification!