When I was younger (and probably even up until around 8 years ago) I believed that in order to meditate, I had to imagine myself on a sandy beach and think of absolutely nothing else for at least half an hour. Obviously if you can do this – great! But meditation is far less idealistic and far more about taking time out of your day to sit with yourself and your thoughts. A way to manage our busy minds in an overly active world.
I have created this very easy meditation guide, a Meditation 101 if you will, so you can see how simple it is to give mediation a go. So, if you are considering an attempt at meditation but still feel unclear as to what you should be doing, read on! In this blog, I have broken down ‘how to meditate’ into 5 simple steps. You don’t need to be an accomplished yogi or someone who is deeply spiritual, all you need is a quiet spot, a place you feel relaxed, and a willingness to improve your own mental wellbeing.
Step 1 – Getting Settled
Find yourself a lovely quiet spot where you feel comfortable and relaxed. This can be in a chair, in bed, sat on the floor or, if you really fancy it, lying down. Try to keep your spine nice and straight, prop yourself up with cushions and blankets if you like but just ensure you are as comfy as you can possibly be, so you have no distractions once you begin.
Step 2 – Set a Timer
Most people feel they need to meditate for at least half an hour but just 3 minutes will do! One of the easiest things to distract you during meditation is when you have no concept of the time, especially if you are aware that you need to be somewhere soon! That is easily remedied however, just set yourself an alarm for whatever time works for you that day – 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour! Then shut those eyes and relax, knowing you will be alerted as soon as it is time for you to crack on again.
N.B. If you are using your phone, make sure it is turned on silent so you don’t have any unwanted text alerts or calls!
Step 3 – Breathe
The breath is one of our most calming tools and it is constantly at our disposal. The breath is therefore a great focus for our mind during meditation. Start by taking some deep sighs, in through the nose and out through the mouth, allowing the body to soften with each exhale. Then bring the breath back to the nose and just observe – feel free to count your inhales and exhales up to 10 and then repeat, if your mind is feeling particularly busy. Just keep bringing that awareness back to the breath throughout your meditation practice, noticing the belly and chest rise and fall softly as you do.
Step 4 – Don’t worry if you think!
Thinking is not banned when meditating!! This is definitely the most common misconception of meditation; that your mind has to remain completely blank throughout the practice. This is not the case! Some days you will feel like meditation is a complete breeze, other days your head will feel like a manic, overcrowded and noisy building. Both are normal! Accepting that thoughts will come is part of the process, the main challenge is then letting them go. My meditation teacher likens our thoughts to house guests. You welcome them graciously but never let them overstay their invite!
Step 5 – Start small!
Even f you sit down for only a minute, that is great! Ease yourself in and gradually progress. That way, you don’t set your expectations too high and feel disappointed when you haven’t managed to remain focussed for an entire hour. And don’t force it! Some days, mediation just doesn’t happen! If you feel yourself getting frustrated, try firstly to breathe through it but if it just feels like too much, give it a pass! Majority of the time you will move through it and, much like after a rigorous bout of exercise, you will feel better for having it done it. But, also like exercise, it is more than ok to take a day off too!
And thats it!
Meditation doesn’t have to be intimidating. It really is as simple as sitting quietly with your thoughts for a few moments. Having said that, there is nothing simple about quietening our mind but you don’t start something if you are amazing at it already! You start in order to improve. Gradually, over time, you will notice that your head becomes quieter and quieter and you will find it easier to slip into the present and just be.
Meditation has so many proven benefits. It reduces stress, anxiety and depression, it can help lower blood pressure and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease. It can benefit your life in numerous ways both mentally and physically. Just keep going, keep plugging, and notice how amazing it feels, when you take a few moments each day to find some quiet calm.