I asked my Facebook friends to help me with a blog post about the excuses people give on not having a regular meditation practice. It lead me to decide that that blog post should come another day, because the most common response my friends gave me was that they weren’t sure they knew how to meditate effectively. So it felt necessary to prioritize making a post explaining how to meditate.
First of all, I wanted to clear something up: as long as your efforts are coming from a positive place, there is no wrong way to meditate. A quick Google search will connect you to tons of meditation resources and even YouTube videos of guided meditations that you could listen to every day. I strongly encourage you to explore all of these resources so as to make your practice fit you exactly how it needs. Just remember that meditation shouldn’t be that complicated. For that reason, I’m going to make my advice as simple as possible.
Meditation can alleviate pain, stress, and fear. Meditation has the potential to make anyone a healthier and more balanced human being. However, the most important thing to remember is that this is a process for connecting to yourself and getting the most out of your mind. If you truly want to take everything you can get from this life, it’s time to start being intentional with your mind.
It’s about consistency.
Bruce Lee once said, “Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.” This statement applies to any exercise, and that’s just what meditation is: a mental exercise. Anytime you can meditate it will bless your mind, but the more consistently you adhere to your practice the closer you may come to self-mastery.
Start small. Twice a day, find a quite place to sit comfortably with good posture. You could turn off the lights or turn on a tranquil noise loop. Turn your phone off or on airplane mode. Set your timer, and just allow your mind to enter a relaxed trance state. You may like to start with 5 or 10 minutes, and eventually move your way up to 20 or 30 minutes twice a day. If you can’t give yourself an extra 20 minutes to an hour to simply be still, something in your life is too important to you. That intentional time should be as mandatory and natural as brushing your teeth.
Focus on your breath.
For the first week or so, you may want to simply allow your thoughts to wonder wherever they would like to go. As you relax your mind and your body, allow your breath to be what centers you. When you focus on your breath, you are brought back to the present. When you connect your mind to the present, all stress can progressively fall away. When others stress, they are typically ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, neither of which exist now. When you focus on every breath that moves inside you and nourishes you, you can come back to the present, because you don’t get nostalgic, anxious, or excited about the breath in your lungs. It simply is.
You may also find it helpful to relax your body with every breath. Pay attention to every muscle you have relax starting with the muscles in your face, and moving progressively down to the muscles in your toes (or reverse if you’d prefer). If you have an itch, use it to help you know how relaxed you are by letting that feeling fade away on it’s own, with every breath. As you exhale, imagine you are sinking deeper into the couch or chair beneath you. All the while, with every inhale, you breath in good thoughts and feelings, and with every exhale, you release bad thoughts and feelings.
Set your intention.
Many like to use meditation to abandon sense of self or to open their minds. The reason for doing this is to release the erroneous predisposition that there is anything separating us from the rest of the universe. Personally, I find it easier and maybe even more beneficial to start your meditation practice by focusing on one thing rather than nothing at all.
I recommend setting the simplest intention possible. It may be peace, motivation, self-control, confidence, and the list goes on. You may like to come up with a personal mantra such as, “It feels good to work hard,” or “I’m proud of myself today.” Keep all your thoughts on experiencing that intention. You could play a song in your head that connects you to that intention. You may go back to a memory that helps you connect to that intention. Feel it, see it, and hear it. You may just want to repeat that one word over and over again in your mind. Just remember to keep it positive. If you were to repeat, “Don’t be afraid of pigeons” over and over in your mind, all you would be reminding yourself is how much you actually fear pigeons. If I were to say, “Don’t think about a pink elephant,” what would be the first thing to pop into your head?
You will fall asleep. You will get distracted. You will forget to take the time. Get over it. Don’t get mad at getting distracted. Those distractions are as much apart of this universe as your intention is. Simply let it go, return to your breath, and go back to your intention. Sometimes, I find it rewarding to just see how those random distractions could be relevant to my intention. It’s just important to know that this is an exercise that takes practice to master. I truly believe that the reward lies within the understanding that simply taking the time is showing love to yourself.
Soon, I’ll be sharing what I believe to be the subtlest difference between self-hypnosis and meditation. If you have any specific questions, I would be happy to answer them personally. Remember that to access your unconscious is one of the greatest gifts you could give your life.