Tips on Cultivating a Meditation Practice
There’s no surprise that with a growing consciousness on full body wellness and health in our greater culture, more and more people are exploring awareness practices such as meditation.
The benefits speak for themselves… from increased relaxation and concentration to boosting immunity and cardiovascular health, there are immense reasons to consider slowing down and spending some precious moments on your meditation cushion.
As we learn to treat our overall health systemically, we begin to recognize that our health does not stop at how we move or fuel our body, but also how we care for our mental, emotional and spiritual health too. Cultivating a meditation practice is just one more step towards honoring yourself and ushering more happiness and acceptance into your life while you’re at it too.
Consider these tips and guidance to side track some of the more common hindrances that may rear their heads.
Adjust Your Expectations
Too often, beginner meditators throw in the towel fairly early because they’re convinced they are bad meditators.
“I’ve tried meditating, but I can’t calm my mind.”
Believe me when I say you’re not alone.
After a lifetime of unchecked, freely running thoughts and mental chatter, it may not be surprising to find that the mind is like a wild horse refusing to be tamed the first time you sit.
As Westerner practitioners we’ve been confused in our belief that in order to meditate we must possess the ability to instantaneously silence the mind. If you’re entering a meditation practice with this understanding, you are bound for disappointment.
The habitual patterns of your mind exist due to unfathomable causes and conditions from past experiences. Be patient as you create and nourish, possibly for the first time in your life, the ability to soothe the rapid activity of your mind.
Instead of relating to meditation as a method of stilling the mind, think of it as an opportunity to observe what is happening in the mind.
What is the current and present quality of your mind? Is it stable and easeful? Perhaps it is anxious or even wrathful.
We can adjust our expectations for our practice of witnessing to be as varied and diverse as our immense palate of human emotions.
With time and dedicated practice you can come to see how you can interact with the different states of your mind without resistance, attachment or judgments.
When I come face-to-face with the sloth or lethargy that can come hand in hand with an attempt at meditation practice I stop and consider, “How many hours did I spend today not conscious or aware of the present moment?”
Gift yourself this time.
For every moment spent with our thoughts drifting to past events or future fantasies, it is time well spent investing in honing your concentration and focus on what is happening in the here and now.
Consider beginning with a realistic goal. What if you begin with just 5 minutes a day? With time and consistency, you can build your practice time to 10, 15, 30 minutes or even more.
No Better Time Than Now
Too often, when longing to implement a new growth promoting habit into our life, we find every excuse or reason to halt us from beginning.
There’s too much happening at work right now. That new Netflix original series I’ve been waiting for comes out today. My thoughts race too much due to my coursework at school. I’m the worst at concentrating.
Your mind will always find a hundred and one reasons to procrastinate something that will invite more joy into your routine. Or perhaps you’re lacking the assurance or confidence in the merit of your actions and efforts. Practice discipline and celebrate your capabilities to pursue this practice. It’s not exclusive to anyone type of person or lifestyle, but is available to all who embark on it.
Create a Sanctuary
A great way to support a new practice is to establish a quiet, comfortable and safe space to meditate in.
What do you need in this container to support ease and spaciousness of mind? Is there a space in your home or room that you can return to each day? Maybe you can even build an altar of flowers or crystals, or place a few candles to light each time you arrive to practice.
If you don’t have a physical space at home, you can creatively seek spaces elsewhere, such as a vacant bench in a nearby park or public garden or maybe there’s even an active meditation group or spiritual center nearby that can offer you a place of refuge.
If you find yourself lacking a sanctuary, don’t stress. Regardless of your surroundings, either tranquil or chaotic, you always have the opportunity to stop, drop in with your body and present mind state, tune into your present moment, dissolve the monkey mind, anywhere, anytime.
While a quiet space may support a quiet mind, even the greatest of “disturbances,” from ambulance sirens to loud music, can all be related as anchors to the present moment.
Utilize Your Resources
Are you an absolute beginner and not sure where or how to begin? Thankfully, with the wide accessibility and connection through the Internet, you are not limited to necessity of seeking a meditation teacher or classes.
If you have access to these resources in your local community I encourage you to explore them! These groups or teachers have unfathomable depth in their study, practice and wisdom and can support you in your own personal practice. Also, they can often provide invaluable spiritual comrades.
For those of you who lack these opportunities, do not fret!
There are countless free online resources for the beginner meditator. I encourage you to explore the many different options and techniques. There are a wide diversity of methods taught and shared from, some inspired by tradition and lineage and many adapted to western culture or more modern healing modalities. From vipassana to manifestation practices, affirmations to mantra, there are countless ways to concentrate the focus of the mind. Try one or many and find which one best resonates with your goals and feelings.
A fantastic resource is a free app called Insight Timer. Insight Timer has hundreds of free guided meditations that can be filtered and searched based on how much time you have to meditate to what type of technique you would like to engage. Don’t want to follow an instruction? No problem! This app has an option to meditate simply to a timer. It offers an assortment of bells, singing bowls or gongs to start and end your practice with and will even track and record your progress. The greatest asset of this app is that it connects practitioners like you, creating a virtual spiritual community, offering its users a chance to relate, support and encourage each other along their meditation path.
Your resource support certainly isn’t limited to this app…. Just by doing a simple google or Youtube search for online “meditation instruction” will give you a plethora of options.
Regardless of the route you choose, know that there are resources and people ready to empower and support you along the way. Embrace these recommendations as your initial tool belt, accessible to you if you find yourself feeling challenged or discouraged along the way.
You have the power to transform your life. Grant yourself the freedom to turn your focus inward and inquire what’s within.