It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Be still. Breathe. Relax. If it is so inviting to slow down for a few minutes in today’s hectic world, why is meditating so hard to prioritize and so hard to actually do?
We think we should feel like this….
But we actually feel like this!
If you’re sold on the benefits of meditation (there are many!) and you’re ready to give it a try, consider taking the following steps to set yourself up for success along the way:
- Be Realistic: We’ve all seen meditating monks in the movies or during our travels. Although enlightened in their lives, their meditation practice isn’t a sensible aspiration for most people. This is because we are householders with bills, careers, kids, and often overwhelming responsibility. They are not. When you first sit down to quiet your mind, be realistic by expecting it to be flooded with thoughts and worries. It’s almost as if sitting down in the quiet invites the thoughts to invade, but noticing what’s happening in your head is a very positive step in the right direction. In fact, this is the first step to learning how to have a clear mind.
- Get Comfortable: Most meditation teachers will tell you the ideal meditation positions are sitting in a chair with your feet on the floor and your spine straight – or – sitting cross-legged on the floor with your spine straight. There is some merit to this; however, these positions aren’t very comfortable for many people. Give yourself some grace if you’re just starting out. Let yourself recline or lay down if that feels better. You’ll enjoy the experience much more if your body feels good. If this causes you to fall asleep, try meditating at a different time of day.
- Go Guided: It’s easier for most people to learn to relax their bodies before they learn to relax their minds. Listening to a guided meditation is an excellent way to train your body to be still and relaxed, while still allowing your mind to have something to process (i.e.: the words in the meditation).
- Use Your Imagination: Similar to guided meditations, sitting sit, breathing, and allowing your imagination to send a positive emotion, a calming color, or gratitude through your body is a very effective meditation tool. This will allow your body to relax without putting too much pressure on your mind to be empty of thoughts.
- Start Small: Do you remember learning how to ride a bike? Did you start pedaling uphill on your first ride? No. You probably went a few feet in your flat driveway at first. Once that was mastered, you moved to the sidewalk, then eventually to the street, and lastly to the hill. It is the same thing with meditation. If you’re not doing a guided meditation and you’re going to try sitting in the silence, set your timer for one minute. Sit, breath, relax for that one minute. Do that for a few days and then increase it to 3 minutes…then to five minutes…then to eight. It’s all about baby steps. Celebrate your successes, one minute at a time and take stock of how you feel even after a short time of stillness.
- Stick with It: Finding a pattern that works for you is the key to success. A little bit of meditation every day is better than a long meditation two or three days a week. If it feels hard for you one day or your fall asleep, don’t let that discourage you to try again the next day, or the next day. With a little bit of practice, your timer will be going off before you’re ready to stop.