Meditation Tips for Beginners
It seems Western society these days is waking up to what the East has known for millenia. Namely, that having a meditation practice is one of the single best tools you can have to enrich your life. There are so many benefits to meditation that it'd be impractical to list them all here, but they include: decreasing the negative effects of stress and anxiety, lower cholesterol levels, increase in the brain's serotonin production, reduced brain age, increased energy, and increased ability to concentrate. There are literally thousands of benefits to meditation. And the best thing about it is that unless you're doing it wrong, there's literally no negative aspect to a meditation practice whatsoever. So if you're thinking about starting a meditation practice, or just looking for a few tips to improve the one you already have, read on for some simple tips to help you get started.
When you're just beginning to develop your routine, don't try to bite off more than you can chew. Just because Buddhist monks meditate for hours a day doesn't mean you need to. Try doing 10 minutes a day for the first week, and adjust upwards from there if you feel like more would help you.
Do it every day.
It's better not to set a specific time to meditate, because inevitably you'll find ways to not have time for it. Instead tie it to an event in your life. Make it your goal to meditate when you wake up, on your lunch break, after dinner, before you go to bed, or some other time thing that you do every day. Once you get in the habit of doing it, it'll come as easy as brushing your teeth!
Remember to relax.
Nothing will kill your meditation practice more than stressing out about it or doing it while your body is stressed. Maybe some days you'll find it extremely hard to quiet your mind at first, and if this is happening, make sure you do a few of the tips in my article on stress before you begin to meditate. It only takes your body a minute or two to get rid of your stress, and when the body is relaxed, it's much easier for the mind to relax
Don't judge yourself.
One of the most frequent mistakes beginners make is expecting too much at first. Of course your mind won't be disciplined enough to be quiet if you've never trained it to! You'll probably find yourself more distracted than focused at first, so when you find your mind drifting off to something else, just return your focus to the present moment and your breathing, or whatever other thing you've chosen to focus on.
Don't create a negative judgment like “I can't do this” or I've failed.” There's no pressure to get anything perfect. Your meditation is for you, so instead congratulate yourself for noticing that you've drifted off track and return to your focus.
Vary your meditation routine
This is especially important as you begin. The number of ways you can meditate are as many and varied as there are people out there. Close your eyes, open your eyes, focus on your breathing, focus on your heartbeat, sit in lotus position, sit in a chair, lay down, etc. If you're having trouble concentrating on your breathing, use an object, such as a candle, to focus your attention. After a while, you'll develop your own routine that works best for you, but don't forget to keep it fresh to stimulate your mind to grow in different ways!
Always use support
This is mostly for those who choose to start with the traditional lotus meditation position, although an argument could be made for good arch support when you're doing walking meditation too. When you sit in lotus position, especially for longer periods of time, it's critically important to elevate the base of your spine so you don't cause discomfort. If you feel discomfort from any position you do, check to make sure you're doing it correctly, and if the problem persists, adopt a different position that's more comfortable. Remember that it's not nearly as important what your body is doing when you meditate as it is what your mind is doing. Many times a particular position that requires concentration to hold is simply a way to focus the concentration. Check out Zen Mountain Monastery for an overview of some different positions you can use.
These are just a few of the tips (find more on my Squidoo companion lens) that I myself found helpful when I began my meditation practice. Of course, I was hard-headed and didn't listen to advice until I absolutely had to, which made it harder for me in the beginning and nearly caused me to give up very quickly. So, please at least try out the advice here, and you'll see quick improvement in the quality of your meditation. And if you're still not sold on why you should meditate in the first place, check out this Psychology Today article, and this one from the NY Times on how meditation can make your life better. Good luck in your practice!
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