Are you actually ready to give meditation a try but not quite sure where to begin? Take the mystery out of the mindful practice with these two words; just sit. So, there really are no excuses; the power of self-discipline is all you need. In this article, you’re going to learn exactly how to meditate with a quick start guide.
There are also lots of tips on sitting and placing your attention in the moment.
The No-Excuse Meditation Guide
So you have decided that you actually want to start meditating. Maybe a friend told you how great it is, that it would change your life. Perhaps you’ve tried it in the past, and it didn’t go so well; after 60 seconds, you started to feel as though you were doing it wrong or the timing was off or your ankle bones hurt, or there was something more important you just had to attend to, such as bleaching the bath. Or maybe it just felt too uncomfortable or awkward.
Well, guess what? That is normal.
Every single person I know who has tried meditation meets resistance to it. Before most of us actually even get to step one, the actual sitting, we come up with all the reasons why we cannot or will not do it. It is tedious, we’re too busy, we’re too unholy or too inflexible or too hairy. Or we agree that it’s great stuff – for other people.
No Excuses; the Power of Self-Discipline
The big nonsecret with meditation is that it can and usually does feel stupid, pointless, and counterproductive in the beginning. Starting something new and unknown can suck; it can make you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable; it can bring up all sorts of insecurities you’d just rather not deal with. This is why, as adults, when we try something new, we so often quit before we give it a real chance. The challenge is not over once you do manage to take that first step; showing up and being consistent can be even trickier.
Instead of enduring the unsafe, exposed, why on earth am I doing this phase, we fall back into making excuses. We have given it a go, but it is too hard, it is a waste of time, it is not for me. Or we blame something outside of ourselves, such as our schedule or our family, or we blame ourselves.
Meditation Isn’t That Complicated
There is undoubtedly not a soul on this planet who could not benefit from meditation. It is probably the best gift you can give yourself; you just will not know that until you experience it. Then, you will probably ask yourself, why did I wait so long? Not to worry; you can start right now, and we’ll help you.
You Weren’t Really Procrastinating
Perhaps you may have already done a lot of thinking about meditation. You have read articles, downloaded guided sessions and apps, talked about it with friends, recommended it without actually knowing that much about it. During that time, you haven’t even been meditating, but all of that effort has been more helpful than you think. It is a way of laying the groundwork and planting the seeds.
The problem is that this planning and preparation phase is a little too comfortable. It’s effortless to move here and retire. That is where I come in; to help you get from the couch to the cushion, wake you up properly and get out of the prepping phase, and into the actual meditating phase.
What is the Power of Self-Discipline in Our Life?
Meditation is actually a way of training your mind to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter, to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, that is going on in your brain. It is seen as a workout for the mind, which undoubtedly means that it takes discipline, work, practice, in the same way, that working out takes work, training, and discipline. And, just like working out, results do not come overnight, but after consistency, time and effort. You might feel much better after your first day back in an exercise class, but a one-off visit probably won’t help you to lose those 10 pounds.
It’s the same with meditation. Just like a new exercise regime, you have to start, just do it, jump in. Enough with the avoiding it, the procrastination, the talking about it, the thinking about it. You already know how to meditate.
It is in you. So try it for two minutes. Set your timer right now and give it a shot.
10 Tips for Newbies (and Oldies)
- Keep it short and sweet
- Resist trying to make sense of it
- Don’t describe it to yourself or try to reach conclusions
- Avoid judgement or critiques
- Just do it and then throw it away
- Sit and move on. Tomorrow will be a different experience (not necessarily better or worse)
- Let your memory of the last meditation go
- Every time you sit, act as if it’s for the first time
- Allow yourself to be surprised
What Meditation Isn’t
Here are a few things that meditation isn’t about. It’s not a way to stop your thoughts or empty your mind. Unless you’re dead, the mind doesn’t empty, and ideas don’t stop. Meditation is actually a way to slow down and observe your mind, not kill it.
It’s not a cosmic light show (that’s what Burning Man is for). And it’s not a spiritual bliss-out. Some people try meditation because they’re looking for a spiritual orgasm. We haven’t experienced that, but hey, who knows, you might.
You may be surprised that meditation also isn’t about absolute stillness. Absolute anything doesn’t really help. And anyway, what does “absolute stillness” even mean? And it’s not just a 20-minute checkout from reality. (That’s what TV is for).
Some people think it’s a way to relax or tune out. A strong drink, decorating your Pinterest board; those are ways to check out. Meditation is the opposite of drinking or surrendering to social media; it tunes you in. And it’s not a happy pill.
Sorry, ain’t no such thing. If there were, we’d all have taken it already.
Easy Ways to Get Started
Instructions for Sitting
- Sit: The specifics don’t matter; sit in a chair, cross-legged on the floor, in a tree. Just sit.
- Close your eyes: If you actually prefer to keep them open, give them something to softly focus on, such as a spot on the wall.
- Arms and hands: Rest your hands on your thighs and relax.
- Legs and feet: Keep your spine straight. Keep your feet on the floor if you are in a chair. If you are on a cushion, keep your knees below your hips.
- Set a timer: Start with two minutes and increase the time from there.
- Warm-up: Note what is going on in your body. What about your legs? How does your back feel?
- Take 10 deep breaths. This will actually activate your parasympathetic nervous system, like warming up pre-workout.
- Take a moment: Pay attention to the many thoughts that are racing around. Things such as: “I don’t have time for this right now.” “This is stupid.” All of this chatter is normal and will probably intensify as you sit.
Where to Place Your Attention
- Breathe: Focus on your breath. Notice its sound as you inhale and exhale, and the sensation of the rise and fall of your belly.
- Anchor: An anchor can be words (a mantra), counting or tracking your breath, or an image (if your eyes are open). Sometimes it’s easiest to use your breath and a mantra together as an anchor. Try this; while breathing in, mentally say, “Sat,” while breathing out, mentally say, “Nam.”
- Thoughts: These will come often. If you get discouraged or annoyed, that’s okay. The key here is gentleness. Whenever you can recognise that you’re thinking, gently bring your focus back to your breath and let the thoughts slide away.
Surf the Moods
How to negotiate more smoothly the roller coaster of moods that gets us in its grip when stress levels are high? By learning meditation techniques that teach us how to observe and stand back from our emotions and feelings, rather than being so helplessly entangled in them.
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You do not have to join a sect or spend hours trying to clear your mind; today, meditation comes in bite-sized, user-friendly ten-minute chunks, such as the Headspace app created by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe (getsomeheadspace.com; the first ten-day course is free, so you can get an idea of whether it’s for you). All you have to do is sit down and listen.
Blue Sky Thinking
“When you think of a clear blue sky, it feels nice. But think of a dark, cloudy sky, you do not feel so good. If you took a plane up through the clouds, though, you would find the sky was still that blue colour.We get so obsessed by the clouds that we forget the sky is still blue Click To Tweet
It is a useful analogy. Rather than trying to create that desired state of blue sky, of calm and happiness, it is more a question of relaxing in the garden and waiting for the unwanted clouds to pass.”
Think about this when the dark clouds of jealousy or sadness roll in. See them for what they actually are, and wait for them to pass. Once you have identified and observed them, you may find they disappear more quickly by themselves.
Schedule Your Relaxation Time
No actual time to meditate? Then schedule it. You may feel daft, writing “meditation” or even “time out” in your diary, as if it were an important assignment. Still, from the point of view of your wellbeing, it should be given a place on your priority list.
The modern world is a frantic place, with multiple assaults on our senses as well as various demands on our time, which all raise our stress levels and blood pressure. Reclaim some peace of mind, and lower those levels, with age-old breathing techniques.
“When we deliberately lower the number of breaths we take per minute we experience great benefits,” says Martha Chester, who teaches Kundalini yoga at the Breath of Life Centre (breathoflifeclinic.co.uk). “If you actually slow down your breathing to 10 to 12 breaths every minute, your body will start to relax. At just eight cycles per minute, your parasympathetic nervous system will begin to be influenced, and the natural healing process will be activated. At a mere four breaths per minute, there is a positive shift in mental function, such as increased visual clarity and sensory awareness.”
“Practising gratitude helps you see the good that’s in your life, and through consistent practice, you’ll feel happier,” says Tracy Friend, co-founder of the Law of Attraction centre. “As a simple exercise, before you go to bed every night, write down 15 things that you’re grateful for.”
Where to Start
Don’t make the mistake of thinking of meditation as just sitting cross-legged and trying to quiet your thoughts. That’s virtually impossible. If you replace the word meditation with mindfulness, it gets a lot easier to comprehend. Step one, Graham Doke (a mindfulness practitioner) says, is starting to be aware of your breathing: “Guided meditation is the most efficient way for a busy person to learn meditation.
Historically, meditation has been learned simply by devoting hours and hours to simply sitting; in busy modern times, we look for something a little quicker. Start by just trying to be more aware of your breath; you will be surprised to see how often you hold your breath, which actually increases stress and anxiety.”
Quick Start Guide
- Find ten minutes in a quiet room. Sit comfortably, wherever feels natural to you.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
- Do some light exercise before meditation if you can.
- Practice deep breathing to calm the body.
- Keep an open mind.
- Don’t meditate on expectations.
- Practice replacing negative thoughts around yourself with daily positive affirmations.
- If you have children, teach them to meditate at a young age. It will help them to control their emotions and boost their confidence.
- Relax and enjoy!
- Start simple and build slowly. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take time to notice the natural flow of your breath.
- It’s impossible to clear your mind. Imagine you are watching a motorway and your favourite car drives by. Watch it but don’t follow it. Do the same with your thoughts, acknowledge them but don’t follow them.
- Have no expectations. Don’t expect fireworks, the Lottery numbers to appear or anything else out of the ordinary to happen during the meditation practice.
- Remember it’s not a magic formula. Meditation is one of many tools, like a healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep, all of which will improve your quality of life.
- Experiment with different types of meditation. I use guided meditation with music as I find it helps me to get a more profound meditation practice.
- Start to introduce mindful moments into your most mundane and everyday tasks such as driving, washing up and folding the washing.
- Don’t get caught up in doing it “right.” If you are doing it at all, then you are doing it right.
- Do it first thing in the morning as you start your day.
Guided meditation can mean attending a group session or using an app like Headspace or Calm. Both are free from the app store, and can really give a great start by teaching you the basics. But what if the so-called traditional method isn’t for you? Any task where your attention is wholly focused can be meditative.
Alison Canavan, author and model, explains, “Colouring, dancing, walking, journaling, reading, sewing, knitting, exercise, singing, even having a bubble bath are just a few simple things you can try to do more mindfully. So for example, when you take a walk, try and tune into your senses and notice the birds singing, the beautiful trees and tune into your body as you place your feet on the ground. In the bath, notice the bubbles on your skin and focus on each area of your body as you breathe into it and help your body to relax.”
The Spirit of Power, Love and Self-Discipline
When she mentioned colouring, we realised that we’ve seen a whole load of colouring books and pencils fly onto shelves in local supermarkets and newsagents. “When colouring it has been shown that the colours you use depict your current mood and it’s a wonderful way to be in the present moment.”
So, whichever method of mediation you choose, just be sure to ignore that voice of doubt and gather up all your self-discipline and have a go!
I hope you enjoyed my article on no excuses; the power of self-discipline, and as always, please consult your doctor before making any lifestyle changes or trying these techniques. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.