Starting a meditation practice can be a little daunting if you're brand new or have never done it before. Do I sit down or lay down? If I sit, should it be on the floor or in a chair? How do I keep my mind from wandering? Am I supposed to play music and light incense? What should I meditate about?
Well, you can throw all those questions out the window, because meditation is whatever you want it to be! No expectations or fancy shrine needed (although I've provided a few ideas if you want to go that route...scroll down).
Taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to reflect and sit quietly with yourself AT ALL is a pretty amazing feat! So what are some easy things you can do to help jump start your own meditation practice? Here are some super simple tips that have helped me the most:
1. Get comfy. You can sit or lay however/wherever you want. You can even meditate in the shower (I actually do this a lot)...There are no rules! Just start DOING it.
2. Be consistent. Pick a block of time each day that works best for you. I would suggest first thing in the morning, as it's a great way to start your day and gets your mind prepared for what's to come. Set your alarm 10-15 min earlier and give it a try!
3. As a beginner, I do best with guided meditations. I found an app for this that I REALLY love. It's called buddhify and it's a one-time purchase of $4.99 via iTunes (and only $2.99 for android users...download here). There are several categories and time-frames to choose from, with over 11 hours of content. Highly recommend!
4. The point of meditating is to clear your mind and be present. But our minds don't shut down just because we want them to for 20 minutes. Don't judge yourself for having thoughts wander in and out of your brain while you're trying to meditate. Acknowledge that these thoughts exist, let them go (temporarily, at least) and start focusing on something else. Usually your breath is a good bet. You can even focus on the sounds around you, maybe it's a siren, or a dog barking. Whatever brings you back into the present moment.
5. Try music. If you're not doing a guided meditation, sometimes just playing calm, relaxing music or atmospheric sounds can be helpful. Experiment with different genres and see what works best for you. Check out the playlist linked below!
6. I mentioned focusing on your breath. If I'm not doing a guided meditation, this is really the only other method that seems to keep me mindful and present. Try this exercise for 5 minutes (or longer, depending on how much time you want to spend) and see how it makes you feel:
Take a long, deep breath. Count how many seconds your inhalation takes, then exhale normally. On your next breath, inhale for the same number of seconds and then try to match your exhale to that number. Repeat this over and over, mindfully counting the seconds it takes to inhale, and matching your exhalation accordingly.
This may seem monotonous, but what you're doing is keeping your mind focused on one thing, and that one thing is what's happening RIGHT NOW. Your mind is most-likely not thinking about anything else going on in your life outside of this moment. Mission accomplished! Doing something like this only once a day can do wonders on stress levels and even lower blood pressure!
7. If you WANT to make a shrine, or simply improve your overall meditation experience/environment, here are some of my favorite things to help you make that happen:
More info on mala beads HERE
Check out this meditation playlist to get you started!