Meditation is acceptance. It is the acceptance of life within us, without us and all around us. Acceptance of life is the beginning of human satisfaction. Transformation of life is the culmination of divine satisfaction. — Sri Chinmoy
It’s easy to envy those who seem to glide through life unperturbed by little annoyances. For some, the secret to maintaining such Zen-like calm is a consistent meditation practice that helps combat stress, anxiety, irritability and over thinking.
For many, the word “meditation” conjures images of robed, bald monks taking vows of silence. In reality, meditation doesn’t need to be such a dramatic commitment of time and energy. Your meditation experience can be whatever you make of it. Chances are, no matter how you approach it, the pay-offs will enrich your life.
Here are five tips to get you going.
1. Start small
Make a daily commitment to any amount of time—even three minutes to begin is fine. If possible, be consistent with the time of day and practice location. The most common meditation posture is in a comfortable, seated position with eyes gently closed. Set a timer and turn off potential distractions (like your phone).
Pay attention to your breathing, the air temperature on your skin and the sounds around you. Once the mind quiets, move your attention to sensations you feel in your physical body. Start at your feet and then slowly move up toward the top of your head.
2. Understand the principles of meditation
A common misconception among beginning meditators is that the only way meditation is successful is if you can focus without feeling distracted at all. This isn’t the case. Early on, simply take note of when your mind drifts. Once you realize this has happened, gently lead your attention back to your point of focus. Don’t be self-critical if your mind wanders. That’s what minds do! Just re-focus and move forward with your practice.
3. Experiment until you find a practice that works for you
Your meditation can be five minutes before breakfast seated on your dining room floor, 10 minutes meditating on an inspirational quote you like, or 15 minutes strolling around the block tuning in to everything you see, hear, smell and feel. In other words, there is no “right” way to meditate. Trust whatever feels comfortable for you.
4. Make use of available tools
Take advantage of the many instructional guides and books/podcasts/websites that describe the benefits of deep meditative states. Beginners may enjoy John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are or the free, 21-day meditation challenge hosted by Oprah and Deepak Chopra several times a year.
5. Don’t stress
This is a tricky, yet crucial, step. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, don’t let worry enter your mind. If you feel nervous before, agitated during or unsettled afterwards, don’t beat yourself up about it. When meditating, it’s important to acknowledge that you are simply doing the best you can at any given moment. Best of all, enjoy the journey.
Image taken at the studio of Actively Northwest partner Nourish Northwest.