Guest blog by Zoe Culbertson, a licensed acupuncturist at Seaside Family Acupuncture in Salem, MA.
Most of us have heard about the many benefits regular meditation and mindfulness practices will bring, but how do you actually build a daily practice? Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, anxiety, brain chatter, reactivity and emotional volatility. It can also improve focus and memory, connections & relationship, your health and sleep, helping you cultivate compassion, perspective, equanimity and resiliency. Maybe you’ve set a new goal for yourself to try to develop a daily practice, following new year’s resolutions, a birthday or the shift to a new season, or maybe you’re trying to reinvigorate your practice and deepen this part of your day and life? Regardless of the impetus, any time is a good time to start, and it’s never too late to build a meditation practice. It can be quite challenging to integrate into your daily life however, so I’m sharing a few tips below.
Tips for Building a Mindfulness Practice:
- Start simple & short: design a schedule or strategy that will be easy for you to maintain, gradually expand on your practice, start with a short time and build a habit. If your goal is to build a daily practice of sitting for 20 or 30 minutes, then start with just 5 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation.
- Practice letting go: don’t be overwhelmed by the many thoughts and judgements that arise in the unruly mind, see each moment as an opportunity to practice letting go and return to the breath and the present without judgement.
- Rest into it: don’t worry about if you’re doing it correctly or chastise yourself for the difficult times, cut yourself some slack, cultivating self-compassion, remember the benefits and trust the process. Consider your primary motivation for developing a practice, what shifts are you seeking in your life? You can revisit these intentions when obstacles present and view obstacles as opportunities renew your commitment to your practice.
- Find what works best for you: Vary the length of time, try out different positions, practice in the morning or evening, with eyes open or closed, adjust your posture and hand positioning, try practicing in different locations. Consider when is it easiest to incorporate into your daily routine (e.g. lunch break, after working out or certain tasks) and when would benefit you most (calm in the busy morning or slowing down before bed)? Keep a balance between flexibility and curiosity and ritual and consistency.
- Get dedicated and make it special once you find what works best for you. Dedicate a time, a space, a cushion or any props or altar. Make an inviting space that is both comfortable and meaningful for you. You may want to make the space used only for meditation and make it visible so that you often walk by and feel the practice calling out to you.
- Sangha: find a community to support your journey with meditation, other groups, classes, centers, online communities, or keep reflections in a journal as this will help you integrate this into your life.
- Just show up: patience and perseverance will see you through, your practice will shift and grow as your needs shift and you grow. The best way to evolve with it is to simply show up, practice when life is smooth, and also practice when things are tough or uncertain. Over time your practice will provide you with perspective and equanimity, becoming an indispensable part of self-care.
Zoe Culberston is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and shiatsu practitioner who also teaches workshops on meditation, mindfulness, qi gong and AcuYoga. She runs a private practice, Seaside Family Acupuncture, in Salem, MA that specializes in fertility, prenatal and postpartum care, pediatrics, as well as chronic illness, pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Zoe also works for some non-profit hospitals providing acupuncture, bodywork and meditation for low-income high-needs elderly and patients in hospice programs. She is passionate about providing holistic health care to all ages and her unique treatments help restore balance and resiliency, releasing your body’s innate capacity for healing. She is also a mother, artist and linguist, who has a love of nature, swimming, walking, cooking and travel.