Congratulations! You want to meditate, but you’re not sure what to do.
If you’re one who can’t handle too much esoteric sweetener in your spiritual coffee, here’s a great guide to starting up a meditation practice from scratch.
The benefits of meditation can be easily outmatched by the frustration of actually trying to meditate. Ever try to bathe an excited puppy? Not easy. It doesn’t matter how your dog got downward or dirty. Let’s make the practice of meditation more accessible so you can actually enjoy it.
1. Set a clear intention. Do you really want this? If the answer is yes, f*cking commit.
2. Eliminate excuses. Wipe away eye-crusties. Blow your nose. Turn off the technology. Apply lip-balm. Go to the bathroom.
3. Find a comfortable seated position. This could be in a chair or cross-legged on the floor, hips permitting. Rest your hands on the knees. The active word here is comfortable.
4. …but not too comfortable. The point is to focus awareness, not shut it down. Constantly falling asleep is an indication that you need more rest in general. It could also mean you should sit up while you meditate, lazybones.
5. Keep a tall spine. Inhale, roll the shoulders up to your ears. Exhale, roll them bad boys back and down. This stacks the head atop your neck while floating the shoulders over the hips. Consider this a neutral, tall spine. Every time you feel yourself hunching forward or slumping, reset your spinal situation with this inhale/exhale rolling shoulder magic.
6. Gently close the eyes. Duh.
7. Maintain a simple breath. No rush or pause. You can start out with a few full yogic breaths. For meditation, nasal breathing makes it easier to find a smooth, even pace. If you need to sigh once in a while, go for it. You will not be docked points. All you need to do is follow the breath in and out. Focus on the area between your nostrils and your upper lip. Observe the sensation of the air entering and exiting your body as it passes over this spot. Let this be your default. It may seem easy, but the mind often wanders in pursuit of everything else. When you realize awareness has drifted, gently guide it back to the breath.
8. Give it time. There are days when closing my eyes is like flipping over an old log. Thought bugs scatter and burrow deep into the pulp of my brain. For these first few moments, I’m just trying to stay calm while my mind finds equilibrium.
9. Observe without judgment. The difference between observation and judgment is the attachment of meaning. Don’t try to dissect the why, how, or where. What happens when you chase rabbits? You’ll end up barreling down rabbit holes every time.
10. Don’t go to your thoughts. Let them come to you. When they arrive, avoid holding on. Meditation is like playing a game of chicken with your mind. Try not to react when the crazies knock you down. Just calmly refocus back on awareness of breath.
11. Shift happens. Distractions create discomfort, which causes frustration, which triggers feelings of failure. This is a common pitfall. Observe the reaction (Hulk Smash!!!) and pattern your response (just breathe). There is no fault, only blame. Give yourself credit instead.
12. Move if you must—just not too much. Not everyone who meditates is a serene-faced monk glowing in the light of eternal peace. Legs fall asleep. Itches fire up. Shoulders slump. It takes time to sit comfortably for extended periods of time.
To that point…
Start small. Seriously, five minutes a day is a great start. You’ll feel better adding on than taking away.
Take your time! It’s easy to rocket off once the alarm sounds. Don’t jet off to the next appointment. Slowly unwind yourself. Take some deep breaths. Stretch out.
Remember, this should not be torture. If you need to stop because you’re just not feeling it, follow that intuition. Cultivating meditative sensitivity includes listening to your truth, especially if that truth is “not right now, okay?”