Simple Steps to Creating a Meditation Practice
In my field, I get asked about meditation a lot. And I’ve often found a lot of people say they don’t meditate because they don’t know how or can’t clear their mind. Others have said they’ve tried and nothing has happened. Oh and then my favorite- they don’t have time.
Let’s clear some things up: if you can pay attention to your breath, you can meditate. You are not suppose to have a clear mind when you meditate, you just simply want to notice the stream and fluctuations of thoughts without attaching. If you do attach, notice that and return to your focal point. Nothing is suppose to “happen”, just continue to notice your thoughts and breath. You prioritize and make time for the things that matter. If you want something badly enough, you make the time.
I was teaching yoga for a few years before I made a choice to make it daily habit. Choice is the keyword there. For a long time I would attempt to meditate, get distracted and then give up. Feeling frustrated and discouraged.
This month marks 5 years. 5 years of meditation without skipping or missing a single day! 5 years of committing to myself to create better daily habits. 5 years of showing up for myself despite what was going on. This included the morning after my dog was tragically hit and killed by a car, days in Haiti breathing in carbon monoxide, days I was running late. Days when I was at meditation retreats and would be meditating many times throughout the day. Days I didn’t feel like it. Each and every day REGARDLESS. That’s over 1,800 days! Sometimes it’s been 3 minutes, others 20. The time isn’t what matters, it’s the dedication and commitment to clear my head before I head out into the world that matters.
What’s helped me and may help you:
1. Pick a time of day. Morning, noon or night. I’m not a morning person by any means but I find the morning is best for me. I am more awake, less distracted and I love to have a morning routine that sets me up for my day. Plus I know if I don’t do it right away, I keep pushing if off and it won’t get done.
2. Find a quiet place, free of distractions. If you’re like me, you probably get distracted pretty easy. So I have designated a small space for my practice that has a door I can close and it’s comfortable. This happens to be my home office. I leave my yoga mat and bolster out all the time, so it’s a constant reminder. If that won’t work in your current space, find a corner of a room and get a nice pillow you can sit on. The idea is that it’s comfortable and easy for you to relax.
3. Choose a length of time that works and set a timer. I started with 3 minutes because that’s what was manageable at the time. On average now I sit for 5-10 minutes. If you struggle to find a length of time that is going to be right for you, some find it simple enough to think of alucky or favorite number and go with that.
4. Sit comfortably on the floor or a chair. Not on your bed. We associate our beds with sleep, so a chair or floor (with or without a pillow) will work best.
5. Pick an anchor to focus on. Your breath. Your hands. The sounds around you. Whatever works for you. When your mind drifts into thought, notice it and return to the anchor again and again and again.
6. Have patience and compassion for yourself and the practice. This one is key to sustaining the practice everyday. It will be uncomfortable at first and your mind will race. Trust me, some days are going to be better than others. Some days you will sit there and think the whole time. Other days you will be so focused and in the moment you will surprise yourself. It’s a practice and you are human. Stick with it anyways.
7. Look into guided meditations to see if that’s a good fit for you. Insight timer is my favorite. These work great for some people and they have an easier time when someone else is talking them through steps.
8. Commit to it everyday. Regardless. Sit. Breathe. Feel. Over time you will start to notice your thoughts slow down a bit. You will develop a greater awareness of yourself, your reactions and thought patterns. And hopefully you will start to love this little piece of stillness and time with yourself.