By this point, we have all heard about the countless benefits of meditation—peace of mind, increased focus, clarity, and relaxation, and even decreased blood pressure, just to name a few.
But many people still feel strange sitting down to close the eyes, drop the shoulders, and breathe for a bit. Plus, we’re all so busy, right? Who has the time? And on top of that, where do you even begin? And how do you know you’re doing it “right”? So many questions.
I like to keep everything as simple as possible. Much like an easily distracted puppy, as soon as you complicate things, I happily run after the shiniest ball and forget whatever you were saying. So here’s a very simplified, quick-start guide to easing into meditation. You’ll be really glad you did.
Step One: We all have time. Find it.
It’s easy to use our busy schedules as an excuse to avoid things—trust me, I do it all the time *wink*. But you really can start meditating and receive many of the benefits with just one minute a day. That’s sixty seconds. That’s less than one one-thousandth of your day.
I suggest beginning your meditation practice as soon as you wake up, turn off the alarm, and are still in bed.
Side note: meditation is relaxing, so don’t fall asleep again and miss work…you’ll be less inclined to ever try this again, and the point is to practice often. So set a backup alarm for 3-4 minutes after your wake up alarm, just in case.
Meditating in the morning, even before you get out of bed, is a wonderful way to set intention for the rest of the day to come. Because it can seem a little overwhelming to try to think about “nothing,” a very simple approach is to have a positive focus.
2 Simple Intentions To Start With
Try just 60 seconds of sitting quietly, and focusing on two power-packed intentions. With every deep, smooth inhale, say in your mind, “I am grateful for the goodness around me” and with every long, slow exhale, “I am ready for my day.” You can change this up as often as you need to, but these are two good ones to start.
Remember, you can return to these at any point. So on your lunch break, after a busy morning and perhaps a few stressful moments, come back to another 60 seconds in your office chair of inhaling “I am grateful for the goodness around me” and exhaling “I am ready for my day.”
In the evening, before bed, try it again and swap the intentions with something more appropriate for bedtime, such as “I am open to all love” on the inhale and “I am ready for deep rest” on the exhale.
So here’s the sneak attack—you actually just did three minutes of meditation: morning, noon, and night. And who said you didn’t have the time? Congratulations, little Buddha.
Step Two: Stop Attaching to What It LOOKS Like
Here’s the very cool thing about meditation: just like with your physical asana practice, there is no right or wrong, no way of screwing it up. There is no rule that applies to every person, every body, or every mind. This is your practice. It’s not ever about how it looks; it is always about how it feels.
You can sit down cross-legged to meditate in Sukhasana. This is the most traditional posture. But if this hurts and shifts your focus to the discomfort you’re experiencing rather than the breath or the intention, then try sitting on a blanket or in a chair.
My first meditation of every day is always done lying in Savasana either in my bed, or on my yoga mat. This would drive lots of traditional teachers crazy, but it works for me and my body and my mind. Plus, I don’t mind being a little rebel with a cause.
Step Three: Are You Breathing?
After you find the most comfortable position for your body (relaxed jaw, soft, dropped shoulders, long neck and spine, no discomfort), remember to begin the practice with the breath. Ease into slow, smooth, and deep breaths.
Try inhaling completely for 5 counts, holding for 2, exhaling completely for 5 counts, and staying empty for 2. Repeat this until it feels smooth and un-forced. You can even visualize the air flooding into the lungs, swirling around, oxygenating the body, and then leaving the lungs the same way. If you’re breathing mindfully, you’re on your way to a solid meditation practice.
Step Four: Practice. Then Practice Some More.
With enough practice, 60 seconds of quiet, self-care will begin to feel pretty manageable. The fidgets will fade along with the tendency to peek at the clock. You’ll begin to grow more comfortable with adding in your own affirmations and whittling down the verbiage to fewer, more meaningful and pertinent words.
Try adding another minute to your practice until two minutes feels like cake. Add time in 30 or 60-second increments until you reach five minutes or more of mindful breathing and meditation. It could take a week, or it could take a year.
Remember: you’re not attached to how it looks.
You are doing this for the way it makes you feel. So check yourself. Try keeping a journal and a log. Record duration, your intentions or affirmations, the imagery you experienced, and the way your practice is making you feel.
It could be anything from more patience with your kids or your boss, to more restful sleep at night. Definitely take the time to notice the benefits making their way into your life, in even the slightest degree.
And there you have it—a simple way to begin. Keep in mind that there are countless variations and styles of meditation. Once you have the basics down, try reading about the styles that interest you, attending a class, or reaching out to a teacher.
Seek your practice with the passion it deserves and maintain that passion with diligence and excitement. Meditation is a way of exploring the mind and that is a beautiful, limitless journey. Enjoy. Shine on.