In this post, Level 1 Life contributing author Christine Wilcox, M.S., shares meditation tips for beginners. Christine is a 200-hour Certified Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coach in Syracuse, NY. To learn more or connect with Christine, visit her bio.
Developing a meditation practice is like anything else – it takes practice! Regular meditation will help you gain a better understanding of and relationship with your own self, while aiding in relaxation and reducing stress. Your body and mind will thank you every day!
Schedule a regular time to practice.
Meditation is about being present; it is all about showing up. Consider what time of day works best for you – your personal nature and your schedule. Early morning before the busyness of the day begins? Evening just before you to go rest? Start with a few minutes each day, slowly working your way up to practicing for 30-45 minutes or longer.
Find a quiet and comfortable space.
Choose a space where you can sit comfortably with minimal distractions. Sit quietly in bed, in a chair, on the couch, on the floor, perhaps with a cushion or blanket, or at your work desk. Arrange the space around you to promote calm and peace. Set the mood! Think fresh air, lighting, soft music or no noise, and incense or essential oils. And turn off all electronics other than a timer if you are using one.
Choose an object of meditation.
One of the most common approaches to meditation is a practice known as concentration meditation. Concentration meditation involves focusing the mind on a single object, such as a word or phrase, a candle flame, an image, or the breath, without interruption. The breath is most often used as the starting place for meditation.
Here is a simple practice for you to try:
Begin by closing your eyes and focusing on the flow of your breath – the breath coming in, the breath going out. Do not try to change your breath in any way, simply notice how your breath is right now. Incoming breath, outgoing breath. Breathing in, breathing out.
Observe the nature of your mind, non-judgmentally.
Hold your attention steady on your breath (or on whichever object of meditation you choose) while using non-judgmental awareness of physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and sounds that arise. Do not try to identify, evaluate, or analyze. Simply observe what is happening from moment to moment. Your mind will wander. Notice when the attention has gone astray and without getting caught up in the thought, gently place your attention again on the breath. Continue in this way attempting to hold your awareness there on your breath with mindfulness and a loving attitude, placing the mind again and again on the breath. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Thoughts come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
With time, patience, and effort we begin to tame the mind, increasing our capacity to focus and concentrate. Our minds become quieter, more peaceful, and we become more aware of our own thoughts and actions. With this increased capacity for awareness, we can begin to make choices that reflect and support who we really are, and we become more appreciative of what we have.