I’ve been teaching meditation classes for some time now, mostly to people who are completely new to it. It seems that meditation is something that we all know can benefit us – reduced stress and stress-related illnesses, calmer and happier disposition, better sleep to name but a few – but most people don’t know how to ‘do it’, or where to begin. If that sounds like you, here are the three keys which I find open the door to a regular, enjoyable meditation practice.
First key – Linking into an existing routine.
When can a busy person like you find the time? Time is the number one concern/reason/excuse for not meditating, but I promise you, it can be overcome. Try this.
What do you already do, without fail, every day? There are tens, maybe hundreds of things, that form part of a person’s daily routine. Now, which of things do you do with a reliable degree of privacy? (I know this is tough with kids, but I’m guessing they go to bed before you, so maybe as you climb into bed is your time.) Your meditation time is going to link to one of these already failsafe routine moments. As an example (and being English!) my time is immediately after putting the kettle on for morning tea. When you link your meditation time to something that you already do, it becomes so much easier to make it a part of your routine.
Second key – Finding your place
Now, have a look around your home. Where might lend itself to meditation? Get creative – my students have come up with some properly crazy places which we’ve had a good laugh about, but it’s whatever works! Obviously you need to bear in mind what else is going on near that place at your chosen time of day, so you can get some peace and quiet. Some people take an extra ten minutes in the bathroom and sit on a folded towel to meditate right before they shower. Some sit up in bed, others get in the car five minutes early and sit there. I like to go outside even if it’s freezing – I just wrap up warm – because I love the cool morning air and saying hello to the new day. When you’ve hit on a good spot, keep a cushion or folded blanket very close by to sit on, as well as a watch or clock – the less messing about finding stuff, the easier it will be. You don’t have to sit cross legged – the only requirement is a straight spine, so legs in a diamond shape or sitting in an upright chair is fine. Don’t lie down unless you’re specifically doing a deep relaxation such as Yoga Nidra though, it’s too easy to doze off. (I will add here that lots of people find timer apps useful. They’re not for me, I like the simplicity of half-opening my eyes to see the clock when I feel that my time is up, but again, it’s whatever works for you. If you use an alarm , choose a soft, gentle tone, not a siren that will make you leap out your skin!)
Third key – Starting small
Like everything worth doing it takes practise, so start small. Don’t try and sit for half an hour the first time you do this – you’ll struggle to fit it into the day, your legs will get cranky, your back will ache and you’ll get frustrated and be put off. I started with just 10 breaths a day, every day. That’s it. 10 full, deep breaths, concentrating only on that breath. From there, you can build it up once the habit starts forming. 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 and so on. Don’t expect to have no thoughts – that’s not possible – but instead become the witness to your thoughts. Let them come and go like passing clouds. When you notice you’ve become involved with a thought and it’s turned into a story, simply leave the thought alone and gently, without getting cross with yourself for being human (I know!), return your attention to the breath. The sound, the feel, the movement of the breath. You might have to do this hundreds of times in a practice, and some days will be easier than others. Eventually the gaps between thoughts will become longer, and you will start to notice the habitual thoughts you have – but you’ll also start to recognise that there’s a difference between having a thought and thinking – and that you shouldn’t believe everything you think!
I hope this helps you – it’s how I got started, and it’s made the most delightful difference to my life. So enjoy the journey on your magic cushion – a space and a time just for you!
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