Written by Ted Goldfarb for ZenHabits.net
Meditation is the art of concentrating 100% of your attention in one area. The practice comes with a number of well-publicized health benefits including increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of happiness.
Although a large number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually sticks with it for the long-term. This is unfortunate, and the possible reason is that many beginners do not begin with a mindset needed to make the practice sustainable.
The aim of this article is to provide 20 practical recommendations to help beginners get past the initial hurdles and integrate meditation over the long term:
1) Make it a formal practice.
This will seem to be simple, to just meditate for 2 minutes.
That is ideal. Start with only 2 minutes a day for a week.
When that is perfect, increase by another 2 minutes and also do that for 7 days.
In case all goes good, by increasing only a little at a time, you will be meditating for ten minutes a day in the second month, that is awesome! But start small first.
2) Choose the right time
Good idea is to meditate first thing in the morning, or before you are intending to go to bed.
It will ensure that you don’t lose track of that time during the day, while also either starting off with peaceful energy or quieting your mind before sleep.
3) Don’t get caught up in the how — just do.
Most of the people worry about where you can sit down, how to sit, what cushion to utilize this is almost all good, though it is not really that important to start.
Get started simply by sitting on a chair, or on your couch. Or perhaps on your bed. If you are comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged.
It is just for two minutes in the beginning anyway, therefore just sit.
Later you can be worried about optimizing it so you will be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning, it does not matter very much, simply sit someplace quiet and comfortable.
4) Check-in with just how you are feeling.
As you initially settle into your meditation session, just check to see how you are feeling.
How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you are bringing for this meditation session as completely OK.
5) Start with the breath.
Now that you are settled in, turn the attention of yours to your breath.
Simply put the attention on your breath while it comes in, and follow it via your nose all the way down to your lungs.
Try to count one when you take in the first breath, the next two as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start up once more at one.
6) Come back once you wander.
Your mind will wander. This’s an almost absolute certainty.
There is no difficulty with that. If you notice your mind wandering, smile, and just gently go back to your breath.
Count one once again, and start again. You may feel somewhat frustrated, however, it is entirely Ok to not stay focused, we all do it.
This is the practice, and you will not be good at it for a little while.
7) Create a loving attitude.
Whenever you notice thoughts as well as feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude.
Look at them as friends, not enemies or intruders. They’re a part of you, although not all of you. Be friendly and never aggressive.
8) Don’t worry a lot that you are doing it wrong.
You will worry you are performing it wrong. That is Ok, we all do. You are not performing it wrong.
There is no best way to do it, just be happy you are doing it.
9) Do not worry about clearing the mind.
Plenty of people assume meditation is all about clearing your mind or stopping all thoughts.
It is not. This can often happen, however, it is not the aim of meditation. If you have thoughts, that is normal.
All of us do. Our brains are thought factories, and we cannot simply shut them down.
10) Stay with whatever arises.
When thoughts or perhaps feelings arise, and they will, you may make an effort staying with them awhile.
Of course, I understand I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for 7 days, you may also try remaining with a thought or feeling that comes up.
We are likely to need to stay away from feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety … but an amazingly helpful meditation practice is to stay along with the feeling for some time. Just stay, and be curious.
11) Get to know yourself.
This kind of practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it is about learning how your mind works. What is happening inside there? It is murky, but by observing your mind wander, get frustrated, stay away from difficult feelings … you are able to get started to understand yourself.
12) Become friends with yourself.
As you go to understand yourself, do it with a friendly attitude rather than one of criticism.
You are getting to know a friend. Smile and also give yourself love.
13) Do a body scan.
Another thing you are able to do when you become a little better at following your breath is to focus the attention of yours on one body part at the same time.
Begin at the soles of your feet – just how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all of the way to the top of your head.
14) Notice the light, energy, sounds.
Another place to put your attention, once again, after you have practice with your breath for a minimum of a week, could be the light all around you.
Simply keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light within the room you are in.
Another day, just focus on noticing sounds. One other day, try to observe the energy within the room all around you (including light and sounds).
15) Really commit yourself.
Don’t simply just say, “Sure, I will try this for a few days.” Really commit yourself to this. In your mind, be locked in, for a minimum of a month.
16) You can do it anywhere.
When you are going or maybe something comes up in the early morning, you can do meditation in your office.
In the park. During your commute. As you walk somewhere.
Sitting meditation is the greatest place to begin, but in fact, you are practicing due to this kind of mindfulness in your entire life.
17) Check-in with friends.
While I enjoy meditating alone, you can do it with your child or spouse or a friend.
Or simply make a commitment with a good friend to check in every morning just after meditation. It may assist you to stay with it for longer.
18) Smile when you are done.
When you’re finished with your 2 minutes, smile.
Be pleased that you had this time to yourself that you stuck with your commitment, that you showed yourself that you are trustworthy, that you had taken the time to become familiar with yourself and make friends with yourself.
That’s a great two minutes of your life
19) Feel your body parts.
An excellent practice for starting meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to get hold.
After the mind quiets, set all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the entire body (include your internal organs).
This is extremely healthy and an indicator that you’re on the correct path.
20) Meditate with Purpose.
Beginners must know that meditation is an active process. The art of focusing your attention on a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!
Meditation is not always easy or peaceful. But it has really impressive benefits, and you can start nowadays, and continue for the rest of your life.