The month of May is Meditation Month (and May 31 is International Meditation Day)! In the spirit of celebrating the power and gift of meditation, this post is an easy, step-by-step guide to start experiencing the beauty and peace that meditation can bring.
When you’re new to meditation, it can be a little intimidating. Just like anything new. There are so many different ways to meditate, and there’s so much information out there about it now.
You’ve probably heard about the benefits – a more calm, relaxed mind; a sense of peace and calmness – but will that actually happen for you? You might be skeptical.
Plus, how are you going to find time to add one more “wellness” thing to you life? I know you’re thinking about that, too. We all hear about how important self-care is, but in addition to getting exercise and all the other things on your self-care to-do list, how are you going to make time for daily meditation?
You have two minutes. Really, that’s all the time you need for meditation to begin to change your mind and life. Later, if you like how meditation is working for you, you could always add more time. But it’s not necessary. I’ve been meditating for about 8 years (and I only do 5-10 minutes a day), and even that short amount of time is a huge foundational part of my daily life.
It needs to feel easy, too. Starting something new and adding something to your daily routine needs to feel easy if you have any hope of keeping it up.
It can be super simple and still make a massive change in your life.
So, here it is… a simple, easy, step-by-step way to start with meditation. If you try this, and do it every day for at least a few weeks, I promise you will see a change in your mind and life.
I’ve experienced it myself, and for me there’s no going back. I love what meditation gives me so much, I’ve made it part of my daily wake-up routine.
1. Make a Plan
It can be simple and as short as 2 minutes, but for meditation to work it needs to be regular and consistent. Ideally every day. So these are the key parts to your simple meditation plan:
- Commit to at least one month. How long will you try meditating to see if it works for you? It will take a month to become accustomed to meditating and start to see some of the benefits in your daily life. This could be a calendar month (“I’ll meditate every day in June.”), a number of weeks (“Starting tomorrow, I’ll meditate every day for four weeks.”) or a number of days (“I’m going to meditate every day for 30 days.”). Think about how long you can commit, and set that commitment in your mind.
- Set a start date. Put it on your calendar.
- Decide to do your meditation first thing every morning. It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Set your mind on doing it every morning when you wake up. Think through your morning routine and decide exactly when you will meditate: Right after you get out of bed? After your shower? After a drink of water but before your shower? Picture in your mind how you will interrupt your current routine to take a few minutes to meditate.
- Schedule it. Put a reminder in your phone, add it to your calendar (online, paper, whiteboard, etc.), or put a post-it note in a visible place. Every day. However you schedule other activities in your life, add your daily meditation to that schedule.
Consistency makes all the difference. You can do this for one month. It will be worth it, truly. In one month, you will acquire the basic skills and a comfort with how meditation works for you, and you will begin to see the real benefits it can bring.
2. Where to Meditate?
You don’t need a perfect space to meditate. Just a good one. It doesn’t need to be an oasis of calm with a meditation cushion and an alter. You don’t need to go shopping first to buy a whole bunch of “meditation space” products.
What makes a space good for meditating?
Really, that’s all you need. And it doesn’t even need to be that quiet – I know plenty of people who meditate on the bus on their way to work.
Think about where you live and the spaces that might work. The best place to start is probably:
Leo Babatua at Zen Habits has some wonderful perspective on where to meditate:
“Don’t get caught up in the how — just do. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is all nice, but it’s not that important to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or on your couch. Or on your bed. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for two minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimizing it so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, just sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.”
3. Prepare a Timer
We’re starting with two minutes of meditation. You might feel like that is too easy, but easy is a great place to start to build a new habit! If it’s not easy, it’s more likely that you’ll give up on it once life gets busy or you have a few nights of poor sleep. You can certainly do longer if you choose, but two minutes is plenty to begin to see how meditation can make a positive difference in your daily life.
Before your first meditation session, set up a simple timer on your mobile phone or watch (you don’t need a fancy meditation timer app). With a timer, you won’t be wondering when your meditation will be over. You won’t need to think about it, and can keep your focus on your meditation.
- Choose a timer device
- Choose a gentle alarm sound that won’t shock you out of your meditation
- Pre-set a timer for 2 minutes
Now your timer is ready for your first meditation.
4. Day One: Get into Position
You’re ready to begin! Here’s what to do:
1. Go to the space you have chosen to meditate.
2. Get into a comfortable position (but not TOO comfortable).
You should feel both physically comfortable and alert. But it doesn’t matter what your position is. There is no “right” position for meditating (even though you’ve seen all those images of people sitting on yoga mats looking oh-so “zen”.) You can sit, stand, kneel, or lie down. Use a chair, bench, cushion, or couch. You can sit cross-legged on the floor, or you can meditate just as well on whatever type of furniture you have available.
The important thing is to be in a position that you can comfortably hold for 2 minutes or more that won’t lull you to sleep. If laying down leads you to take a nap, you should be more upright.
3. Keep your back straight.
Since we’re starting out with just two short minutes, your back should feel fine in almost any position you choose. But if you choose to increase your meditation time in the future, a straight back will help you feel more comfortable for longer.
4. Don’t worry about your hands.
It doesn’t matter where you place your hands. Rest them on your knees or legs, or wherever they feel natural. Some people like to form circles with their thumb and another finger, but that isn’t necessary.
5. Begin Your Meditation
Before starting your timer:
- Stretch your body a bit. Lift your arms over your head, feel your muscles in your arms and back stretch and move. Rotate your head a little and feel your neck muscles loosen.
- Settle your body.
- Take a few deep breaths to feel the air expand your lungs.
Then start your meditation timer, and close your eyes gently. Begin your meditation.
Notice your breath moving in and out of your body. Pay attention to the air coming in, and going out. Feel the rise and fall of your belly. There’s no need to try to adjust or change your breath. Just feel it, and focus your attention on it.
Allow Your Thoughts to Happen
You don’t need to clear your mind. You will have thoughts, and that’s normal. We all do. Leo Babatua at Zen Habits describes our brains as “thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down.”
Allow your thoughts to happen. Your mind may go into its common narratives, like: “I don’t have time to sit still, I’ve got stuff to do.”
It’s okay. Notice your thoughts. Don’t judge them, or yourself. All thoughts are fine.
Bring Your Attention Back to Your Breath. Again and again.
When you notice your thoughts, simply shift your attention back to your breath.
You may lose yourself in thought for a few seconds, a minute, or longer. It’s okay. When you notice that you are focused on thoughts, gently and firmly bring your focus back to your breathing.
That’s it! That’s the practice: You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
6. End Your Meditation Session
When your timer alarm goes off, you are finished meditating.
Open your eyes.
Notice your thoughts and emotions in this moment.
Think about something small that you’re thankful for: this time to meditate for yourself, something in your life that makes you feel good, or something that you’re looking forward to in your day.
Become aware of any sounds in the environment.
Notice how your body feels right now.
Give your body another little stretch.
Take one last deep, cleansing breath.
Rise and continue with your day.
Know This: You Cannot Fail at Meditation
I love this post from Bustle that talks about how you can’t do meditation wrong:
“You can’t fail at meditating. Many people worry that they’ll be bad at meditation because they have a hard time focusing—but increasing focus and self-control over thoughts is the goal, not the starting point. Give it time, and don’t feel bad if you catch your thoughts drifting frequently (even after a while). The point of meditation is not necessarily to get to a point where thoughts don’t drift — it’s to be able to catch yourself when your mind does wander and quickly bring your attention back to your focus.”
It’s so true!
There is no perfect way to meditate. It is a process. A practice.
The doing of it is all that matters. That’s all you need to get something positive from those two short minutes a day.
Just keep trying. Keep coming back. Keep doing.
Guided meditation can be another easy starting point. Guided meditations like Circle+Bloom’s Happy Mind + Healthy Body are recorded audios that you listen to, and they guide you through a series of meditations. If you feel awkward or uncertain about trying to meditate on your own, listening to a guided meditation can be a more comfortable introduction.
With love & gratitude,