I’ve failed at mediation more times than Britney Spears has failed to dodge the paparazzi.
I’ve sat poised in lotus position, hands rested serenely on crossed legs, while inside my mind, a storm of distracted thoughts thrash about – unbeknownst to the outside world, of course.
Leo Babauta (zenhabits.net), author of the book Focus, believes that “Although a great number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually stick with it for the long-term.”
“This is unfortunate,” he says, “And a possible reason is that many beginners do not begin with a mindset needed to make the practice sustainable.”
So, for that reason, I’m gathering tips. For us both (because I’ve sat in on enough mind science conferences to know that meditating is the number-one-most-awesome-thing you can do for your brain health, and for general mental wellbeing.)
Here’s a quick summary of the benefits, from Sam Sample, health writer and founder of Be Genki skincare:
“Research shows that meditation is effective in decreasing stress and anxiety levels, lowering blood pressure, increasing productivity and improving the ability to focus.
“And if that’s not enough to spark interest… 100 per cent of insomnia patients reported improved sleep and 91 per cent either eliminated or reduced their sleeping medication use, as published in The American Journal of Medicine.”
Need more convincing? Probably not. Like me, you’re more likely after some concrete, doable tips.
Here’s a selection of Babauta’s best.
Tips for going from a beginner to a stayer:
- Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day) to be still.
- Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.
- Meditate with Purpose. Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!
- Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as we think “hey, what am I doing here” or “why can’t I just quiet my damn mind already”. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.
- Experiment. Although many of us think of effective meditation as a Yogi sitting cross-legged beneath a Bonsai tree, beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, etc.
- Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.
- Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. Place candles and other spiritual paraphernalia in the room to help you feel at ease.
- Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not ensuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might
- Use a candle. Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue. This can be very powerful.
- Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.
- Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal
time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate.
- Be grateful at the end of your session. Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.
Get on board the peace train.
I’ll let you know how I go. Please let me know how you do.
References available on request