Meditation is a way to calm the mind and help you focus. It can clear away confusion and make life easier by helping you control feelings, or even get rid of certain unhelpful feelings completely. Some call this accessing your inner calm. There are many ways to improve your mental clarity, reduce anxiety, and access your inner calm through meditation. Whatever your reasons may be for meditating, practicing consistently will help you achieve your desired results and may also provide you with unexpected ones.
Choose a quiet space.
Choose a space to meditate in that is quiet and free from distraction. The quieter and cleaner the space the less likely you will be distracted by other objects, sounds, or people. Quiet spaces can sometimes be hard to come by, especially if both your home and work are busy places. If this is the case, you may have to schedule your meditation at a time when a space is quieter than usual, like early in the morning or late in the evening.
You may want to start meditating in a place where you can adjust the lighting to be less distracting, especially if it’s bright.
Try meditating in your bedroom first thing in the morning or just before bed.
There are many options for seated postures in meditation. However, if you are just starting out, it is best to find a way to sit that is comfortable. Don’t worry about how your legs are crossed or in which direction your toes are pointed. Find a comfortable seat, which can even be a small stool or chair, and sit comfortably. If you are sitting on the floor, a mat, or a meditation cushion, try gently crossing your legs.
There are five main sitting postures for seated meditation: full lotus, half lotus (crossed-legs), kneeling, chair sitting, and lying.
Seated postures can also affect your flexibility. You may find that you need to change the way you sit over time.
Over time, you may find that you will need a meditation cushion to properly support your posture. Meditation cushions are relatively cheap and can be purchased through online vendors.
Keep a solid posture.
Keeping an upright and solid posture will help you maintain attention and increase circulation. This may take some strength at first, but over time you core will adjust and be able to support you for longer amounts of time. A general rule for meditation posture is to stay straight and stay relaxed. Try to imagine that the top of your head is connected to a string and that the rest of your spine is hanging with gravity.
If you notice that you begin to slouch or that sitting upright becomes uncomfortable, take a different posture or take a rest.
Soften your gaze or close your eyes.
Different styles of meditation call for different eye positions. However, it’s best to try to find what is most comfortable when you are starting out. Closed eye meditation can be advanced in some traditions and novice in others. If you decide to keep your eyes open, soften your gaze so that your vision almost becomes blurry. Try to focus on a specific point, preferably on the floor so that your gaze is lowered.
Feel free to try both options during the same meditation session. If you feel as though keeping your eyes open is too distracting, close them for a minute or so.
Relax your hands.
Hand positions can vary depending on which tradition you are meditating within. Instead of focusing on specific hand positions, simply rest the palms of your hands gently on your knees. Keeping your hands relaxed will in turn help relax your arms, shoulders, and neck. If you find that you are stretching your arms to place your hands on your knees, simply drag your hands back toward your body until you find a comfortable position.
Other hand positions include touching your thumb to your index finger, or touching your thumb to your ring finger.
Set a timer.
Set a timer for the amount of time you are going to sit and meditate. This can be however long or short you have. If you only have one minute to meditate, then set your timer for one minute.
Try using a soothing alarm to bring you gently back into your day. There are many meditation timers that can be downloaded on mobile devices, like Insight Timer.
Relax and get comfortable. Find your seat, adjust your posture, and set your gaze. There is no reason to rush your initial preparation for meditation. Take your time and find points where your body and mind can relax.
Consider your initial seating with how long you will be sitting. If you haven’t sat in full lotus before, then you might not want to try it for 20 minutes your first time.
Focus on your breath.
Focusing on your breath will help you ease into meditation and loosen your attention. The more fixed on your breath you are, the easier it will be to clear your mind and let go of any thoughts.
It might help to count your breaths when you first begin meditating.
Soften your attention.
Softening your attention is another way of saying that you need to clear your mind and let go of your daily thoughts. Instead of focusing on what you need to do after you finish meditating, or what just happened right before you sat down, clear your head and be present in the space you are currently in. Let your attention drift from everything but the present moment!
However, keep in mind that “ordinary” thoughts are part of the meditative experience. You will come back to schedules, chores, lists, and stories. Don’t get frustrated or hung up on them.
Instead, focus on your breath when your mind inevitably wanders. Return to your breath each time this happens and begin to let these thoughts go.
Think about what you would like to receive from meditation.
There are many great benefits to meditation, from improved memory to reduced anxiety. Spending time thinking about why you would like to meditate and what you would like to gain from meditation will help keep you focused and determined. No reason is too small or insignificant to start meditating. Whatever your reason or intention is, stick to it and stay committed.
Make a consistent schedule.
Meditation, especially for those who are beginners or have not meditated for some time, can be difficult. Many of the effects of meditation only come after significant time and work is spent meditating. The more frequently and consistently you can meditate the better and more developed your results will be. Try to schedule at least some time each day to sit and meditate, even if it is only for two minutes.
A consistent schedule does not mean a demanding schedule. In other words, don’t get caught up in how you are meditating, just do!
Try committing to meditating first thing in the morning, every morning, no matter how long you can meditate for.
It can be difficult, and occasionally frustrating, to start meditating. It takes time to relax and to clear your mind. Instead of giving yourself difficult tasks up front, like sitting for 30 minutes straight, try starting small to ease into your practice. After all, it is called a practice for a reason, and it takes time to improve!
Start by sitting for only a few minutes, like 2 or 3, when you first meditate. Build up minute by minute as you feel you are able. If you increase your time too quickly, don’t worry! Just reduce your meditation by a few minutes the next time you sit.
Remember, meditation, even though it can be hard work, is meant to be relaxing! Don’t insist and don’t resist!
Consider specific styles of meditation.
There are many specific styles and traditions of meditation. Some are associated with certain religions or spiritual practices, like yogic meditation and Tibetan Buddhist meditation, and others that are geared more toward your own experience. Most styles that are associated with other practices have certain ways of meditating that will help benefit the practice itself, like yoga and yogic meditation.
Try researching specific styles of meditation online by visiting blogs and websites, like those on Zen Buddhism.
Research specific styles of meditation if you already practice yoga or other contemplative exercises.
Read books on meditation.
There are many books, from religious to informal, on meditation and practices. Reading a book on meditation can give you further insight into the internal complexities of meditation. Books might also help clear up some of the more vague language or difficult to grasp concepts around attention and mindfulness.
Go to your local bookstore and as an employee if they have any books on meditation.
Check for books on meditation in “Eastern Philosophy,” “Eastern Arts,” “Religion,” and “Self-help” sections of bookstores.
Find a meditation instructor or meditation class.
Meditation classes are a great way to stay committed and get hands-on learning experience. Some meditation classes are offered through contemplative institutions or religious institutions, while others are offered by the community in public spaces. Meditation classes can also provide you with a new community of people, that range in all levels of experience, who share your desire to learn more about meditation.
Look for meditation classes offered near you by looking up community listings by city. You can also find meditation classes throughout the U.S. by looking into specific institutions, like the Sri Chinmoy Centre.