women meditating

It is important to identify your purpose for meditating. It is something you will want to articulate and remind yourself of before you start each meditation. Many people meditate to achieve a sense of inner peace, calmness and gratitude. Meditation can help us de-stress and improve our sleep. It also promotes present moment awareness. Knowing why you are meditating will make it easier to create this new habit.

In my early years of exploring meditation, I had a yoga teacher who liked to say: “Meditation is about breathing and nothing more. When you are consciously breathing, you are mediating.” I appreciate his sentiment because it took the pressure off of “doing it right.” This is one of the most common mistakes of meditating. We tend to shift the focus away from our original intent and begin focusing on seated position, pillows or how we are holding our body. My yoga teacher was emphasizing one of the basic approaches to beginning mediation … focus on your breath.

Learning how to meditate can be challenging, but like any habit it takes time and commitment. Luckily, the initial phases of a meditation program can be as few as two minutes a day. I think it is safe to say we can all spare two minutes! Here are some steps to initiate the habit of mediation:

  1. Start small. It takes a lot of practice to sit for hours at a time and it will take years to achieve this. In fact, you may find that you achieve your goal without needing two hours of meditation! Start with two to three minutes a day. Do this for a week and then increase by two minutes the next week.
  2. Commit to the same time each day and set a timer as a reminder. You can do this in the morning, during your lunch break, before bed, or any other time that will be convenient for you.
  3. Find a peaceful place. Turn off the TV and put your phone on silent. Your environment doesn’t need to be silent (no earplugs necessary). It is part of your practice to observe noises and thoughts and let them pass through your awareness. You might hear a car alarm, your job is to acknowledge it without losing your focus and thinking only of the car alarm.
  4. You may sit or lie down. Find a chair, use your couch, lie in your bed. Keep your spine straight and relax your body. Go to the same place every time.
  5. Close your eyes. Eliminating some of your senses will help you concentrate. As you progress in your meditation, you can do open-eyed meditation and focus on the flame of a candle. This is a more advanced technique.
  6. Set a timer or chime to ring at the end of the designated length of time so that you are not checking your watch to see how much time is left.
  7. Be friendly toward the thoughts that arise. Don’t judge them. See them as friends and teachers. If you catch yourself being negative about your thoughts, repeat a positive mantra.

Now you are ready to begin! Here are a couple of tools to help you during your mediation:

  1. Count to 10 as you breathe. Repeat this for the duration of your meditation. If you get distracted and catch yourself thinking about something else start back at one.
  2. Silently repeat certain mantras in your head. As you breathe in say “love,” and as you breathe out say, “respect.” Select the words that resonate most with your intentions.
  3. Imagine breathing in a white cloud of cotton that sweeps all the way down to your toes. Imagine it removing unwanted feelings or impurities as you exhale it.
  4. Imagine you are lying on the beach in the warm sun. As you hear the waves coming toward the shore breathe in. As the wave recedes, breathe out.  You may also visualize a crackling fireplace or a snowy mountain.
  5. Use a guided mediation.

Resources for guided meditation:

  1. UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center offers free guided mediation!
  2. Fragrant Heart has free online meditations under various categories
  3. Tara Branch adds a new meditation weekly and grants free access to her library
  4. The Chopra Center
  5. Podcasts:
    1. Meditation Oasis
    2. The Meditation Podcast
    3. Audio Darma
  6. Smart phone apps:
    1. Calm: Mediation & Simple Guided Mindfulness to Sleep (Free)
    2. Mindfulness Daily (Free)
    3. Mediation Oasis ($2.99)
    4. Headspace (Free and Upgraded Version)

Remember to be gentle with yourself. The most important part of your practice is that you show up. That is the hardest part! Good luck and enjoy breathing!