A bicep curl for your brain… what does that that even mean. Think of it as your ability to play a video game: I can either play it intelligently, learning more in each round, or lose the same way every time.
Life can be messy. Even at the best of times, the hectic pace and non-stop demands of the modern world can leave us feeling stressed, overworked, tired and even unhappy. Meditation is an easy, simple and free way to quiet your mind and relax your body, creating a place of calm from which you can better control the chaos of day-to-day life.
Beginners often feel intimidated when they start or even consider meditation. They imagine a monk sitting cross-legged for hours on top of a mountain. But in reality, meditation is much easier and accessible than most people think.
Here are 10 simple steps to get you started with meditation:
1. Sit tall
The best place to start is to sit. Sit on the floor, in a chair or on a stool. If you are seated on the floor, you can sit cross-legged on a cushion. But many people find it less intimidating to sit in a straight-backed chair. Either is fine, and comfort is key. But sit straight and tall. How? Imagine a thread extending from the top of your head, pulling your back, neck and head straight up towards the ceiling in a straight line. That’s what it means to sit tall.
2. Relax your body
Close your eyes and do a quick scan your body, relaxing each body part one at a time. Then, try to focus your attention on the sensations your body is receiving – heat, cold, anxiety, calm, noises – rather than the form of your body.
3. Be still
Now that you are sitting tall and you are relaxed, take a moment to be still. Just sit. Since aware of your surroundings, your body, and the input from your environment, you only be aware.
Focus your attention to your breath, wherever it is most obvious to you – at your nose, your chest or your abdomen. Breathe in and out through your nose, slowly and deeply. Don’t anticipate or reach for your breath, just accept it as it flows in and out, following each breath for its entirety.
5. Establish a mantra (optional)
If it helps you, you can focus on a mantra – a sound, word or phrase that can be repeated throughout your meditation. Mantras can have spiritual, vibrational and transformative benefits, or they can simply provide a point of focus during meditation. They can be spoken aloud or silently to yourself. A simple and easy mantra for beginners is to silently say with each breath, I am breathing in, I am breathing out.
6. Calm your mind
As you focus on your breath or mantra, your mind will begin to calm and become present. This does not mean that thoughts will cease to arise. As thoughts come to you, simply acknowledge them, set them aside, and return your attention to your breath or mantra. Don’t dwell on your thoughts. Some days your mind will be busy and filled with inner chatter, other days it will remain calm and focused. Neither is good, nor bad.
7. When to end your practice
There is no correct length of time to practice meditation, however when first beginning it is often easier to sit for shorter periods of time (5 to 10 minutes). As you become more comfortable with your practice, meditate longer. Set an alarm if you prefer to sit for a predetermined length of time. Another option is to decide on the number of breaths you will count before ending your practice. A mala is a helpful tool to use when counting breaths.
8. How to end your practice
When you are ready to end your practice, slowing bring your conscious attention back to your surroundings. Acknowledge your presence in the space around you. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes. Begin to move your hands, feet, arms and legs. Open your eyes. Move slowly and take your time getting up.
9. Practice often
Consistency is more important than quantity. Meditating for 5 minutes every day will reward you with far greater benefits than meditating for two hours, one day a week.
10. Practice everywhere
Most beginners find it easier to meditate in a quiet space at home, but as you become more comfortable, begin exploring new places to practice. Meditating outdoors in nature can be very peaceful, and taking the opportunity to meditate on the bus or in your office chair can be an excellent stress reliever.
Meditation is a simple, effective and convenient way to calm your busy mind, relax your body, become grounded and find inner peace amidst the chaos of day-to-day life. Begin meditating today and reap the rewards.