Every religion and spiritual tradition has meditation in some form. Breathing exercises, quiet reflection, singing, chanting, mantras, prayer and so on. I come from an Islamic background that required prayer 5x a day. I wasn’t a very devoted Muslim but my grandmother was. She had an uncanny 6th sense with a strong intuition that I knew one can only attain through a patient and persistent practice. Whether or not you consider yourself religious or spiritual, it’s worth learning how to be quiet and sit silently. It’s extremely beneficial for your brain and your life. Just do a quick google search and you’ll get the picture. I don’t need to list a bunch bullet points to try and convince you that meditation can help. I’m here to help you get started because true wisdom is only achieved through direct experience. You see there are three types of wisdom. You can gain wisdom simply by reading this or listening to someone talk and share about the experience of meditation. You can gain intellectual wisdom by reading books on the data and gain a deeper understanding of the scientific benefits of meditation. But the real difference and habit change occurs when you acquire the wisdom of meditation through direct personal experience. It’s like the old saying goes - knowing something and not practising it is the same as not knowing it at all. When you're done reading don't forget to download, print and post the Free 30 Day Meditation Challenge in my newsletter to help you build this habit for life!
Where do you begin if you've never done this before?
With an abundance of knowledge, apps and styles of meditation available to us through the internet it can be overwhelming to figure out how and where to start. It’s easy to get lost in the plethora of information. What I have learned and what I’m sharing with you is a simple introduction that can have majorly powerful effects. It doesn’t require much. It’s simple. It’s uncomplicated. And anyone can do it.
Meditation is an extremely accessible and practical way to invite some peace and quiet into your life. It doesn’t require you to go anywhere or pay for anything. It doesn’t involve any specific rituals before, during or after each session. You don’t have to sit like Buddha or the meditation 'gurus' you follow on Instagram. You can stop, drop and meditate right now and it’s completely free.
Amongst all the benefits of meditation I have learned that, at the deepest level, meditation can help you be less reactive. The ebbs and flows of life are a guarantee that we cannot change. Good and bad things will happen. Happy and sad times will exist. A dedicated meditation student will be able to handle these with a greater sense of balance and calmness than someone who is unaware and living on the surface of their emotional wellbeing. So let’s get to it. How do you start? I’ve got 3 easy steps to help you get set up for your journey!
How to Meditate - 3 Simple Steps
Step 1 - Find your seat
This is so important and a common roadblock for people who want to meditate. Whether you have achy knees, tight hips or a lousy low back, physical ailments don’t have to stop you from reaping the benefits of meditation. Sitting is sitting. It doesn’t have to be any certain way other than the way that suits your body.
Find something that is comfortable for you. You can sit in a chair, against a wall, on the ground, cross legged, on your shins or with one leg or two extended. To help you find your seat use as many blankets, cushions and blocks you need for support. There is no right or wrong way to sit.
When I worked retail I used to get to the mall, park my car and sit with my eyes closed for 3 minutes in the driver's seat. I can’t even begin to tell you how beneficial this small amount of time was but it made all the difference going into a busy, hectic environment. Break the barriers and roadblocks you have around sitting the perfect way, in the perfect spot, in the perfectly quiet place. Life isn’t perfect and neither is your meditation practice. Find the time and make it work.
Step 2 - Observe
Now that we have that out of the way, close your eyes, take a breath, and watch your thoughts. Free yourself of judgement and let go of the need to control them. Simply let your thoughts come and go, as you watch and observe. That’s it. Nothing else. Watch. Observe. Breathe.
Naturally, your mind will wander. It’s normal. The goal is to observe the wandering and without judgement return your attention back to your breath. It can be that simple and when it comes to focusing your mind simple is often the most effective. Try not to get simple confused with easy. We have a natural tendency to overcomplicate, overthink and overreact. This practice will help you gain a sharper, clearer, more focused mind. All it takes is careful observation.
When you notice your mind wandering add in an enthusiastic smile are you return back to your breath. Understand that there isn’t any rhyme or reason to where and when your mind drifts. No pattern. No meaning. It will jump aimlessly from one random thought to the other. Simply notice it, be aware of it, and come back to breath each and every time. Choice-less observation is the key. You’re not trying to think about that thing at work or the argument you had earlier, your mind wanders there on its own. It's your job to recognize it and return back to your breath free of judgement, disappointment and frustration. Simple, right?
Step 3 - Resist
Practice resistance. You may notice the urge to move constantly or change your position. Try to notice this and sit with whatever discomfort comes up in your posture. This is not meant to be painful or feel like physical torture. If you have some physical disability or feel like you are doing harm to your body then please take the time to make the appropriate adjustments. What happens in many cases is that sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, will come up and pass if you let them. Remain still as best you can and keep your eyes closed.
This is not about winning. As a die hard sports fan and wannabe athlete I naturally fell into this trap. I wanted to be the best at meditation and that only made it harder and more annoying. What I realized is that there is no such thing as a good and bad sit. There is no such thing as 'getting better' at meditation. The only thing that exists is whether you did it or not. One minute or one hour. The only person judging you is you.
Be a student of the breath and remember that you can’t control life but you CAN control how you react to it. That’s what we are working on here. By taking this on you are working to change the habit patterns of your reactions to increase mental focus, sharpen your mind and build mental endurance.
Now that you understand how to set yourself up you may need some support in your practice to help you stay persistent and remain consistent. It’s easy to get off track, miss one day and have it snowball into a week or a month of no meditation. Just like in sports try to end the losing streak as quickly as possible. Losing 2-3 days in a row happens. But the good ones don't let it snowball into a 7-10 days or more. That's when things can start tp spiral and it only gets harder to pull the train back in the right direction.
3 Ways to Support Your Meditation Practice
1. Led-Group Practice
Try to find a class at your local studio or somewhere close to home. Starting your meditation journey with others is a healthy way to start and keep you motivated so you don't feel alone on this journey. Prioritizing a meditation practice may mean missing some Netflix or tv time. It doesn’t always make for the best social topic and you may feel left out when your friends or co-workers are talking about the latest episodes. This is where finding a community is extremely helpful. It’s also nice to be led by someone who is committed to holding space for your meditation practice to grow. Remember to be patient as you explore different classes. Similar to yoga, the meditation world is filled with an abundance of variety. There are several different lineages, styles, mantras and chants to help students find a meditation that’s right for them. So, just like yoga, there’s a bit of a feeling out process. I encourage you to try various styles, classes, teachers and be open to what each experience is teaching you. See what resonates, see what doesn’t. Even the ones that don’t work for you can teach you something about how you respond or react. Find a class and get to it. Try to do this at least once a month alongside your home practice.
2. Try an App
If you can’t find a group setting near you or one that works with your schedule try one of many apps available. Apps like Headspace or Insight Timer are great tools to help you through this journey. There are several others out there to try and I’m not affiliated or sponsored by any. I can only give you my own experience and encourage you to try them out. What I love about using an app is that they usually have a tracking tool to help you keep a streak and visually see how often you're practicing, or not. This can help keep you motivated especially if you're slightly (only slightly) competitive. My recommendation is to try a few different ones and give them a fair, honest trial. It’s impossible to try anything once and make a final decision. It's the same concept as above when trying different classes. Give each of these methods a fair shot by practicing several times. There is no one size fits all method. Be realistic with your expectations. It’s going to take hard work and dedication. Consistent, patient and persistent work will lead you to success.
3. A Brain Sensing Headband
This one requires some investment. I share this with you because it was powerful for me and elevated my meditation practice to new heights. I went through the first two methods above for about 2 years and I was ready for something more consistent. I was ready for a daily meditation practice and stumbling upon the Choose Muse headband was quite helpful for me. Again I am not affiliated or sponsored by them but am simply proud of the fact that they’re Canadian and that it works!
How it Works
The company developed a technology that gives you real-time feedback on your meditation progress using the weather. For example, if you’re calm and zen the weather sounds blissful - think beach waves and chirping birds. If you’re thinking about your next instagram post the headband recognizes it and the weather turns windy, stormy and the chirping birds disappear. It’s pretty remarkable and it is a great way to break the barrier of starting a meditation practice. I absolutely would recommend this for beginners who are struggling to maintain a consistent practice or just want to get started.
For the competitive A types there are challenges built into the app to motivate you similar to the challenges in my Free 30 Day Meditation Challenge for Beginners. The challenges are strategically designed to help you sit longer and more often. If I had to point to ONE experience that helped me through my recent Vipassana 10 Day Course it was the 2 years I spent using Muse each and every day.
The good thing about the Muse headband is it works for the entire family. One headband can be used by multiple people as long you have the app downloaded on your phone. All of your personal data gets collected in the app itself.
All in all, if you are curious about meditating and want to experience the benefits of reducing stress and tension, being calmer and more present in your life, just start somewhere. My 30 Day Challenge will help you build consistency over time. It's free. Just download, print and post. You are your own master. You must hold yourself accountable. Remember that nothing worthwhile in life is easy. There’s no cheat code to success or corners to cut. It will be hard. It will be difficult. It will take effort. But it will be worth it beyond what you can ever imagine. Even if you only sit for 3 minutes a day in your car it can have an enormous impact on your life if you remain consistent and dedicated. So just do it and start somewhere. You can only go up from here.
Sending you all the good vibes and wishing you the best on your journey. Be happy. Be compassionate. Be loving. Be peaceful.
Reach out if you have any questions or concerns. I’m here to help you be successful.