Meditation is much more simple than you think!
As shown in the graphic below, it is about focusing attention on the breath (or the point of focus you choose). Yes, it’s that simple! Your ability to concentrate may at first be difficult, but will get easier over time as you make meditation a daily habit.
Thoughts will arise, but this does not mean you are doing it wrong – this means you are human! The point of meditation is to be aware of your thoughts, not to get rid of them. Acknowledge a thought, or a feeling, or whatever comes to mind, recognize it with non-judgement and experience it for what it is, and then go back to your point of focus.
The descriptions that I provide below show you how to meditate anytime, anywhere. You can be sitting on a crowded, noisy, angry bus, and you can meditate. However, I realize that as a beginner, that’s probably not the best environment to test out your skills.
So to start off, find a quiet space, sit on the floor or on a chair, and sit for 15 minutes and follow the directions on the graphic above. You can use the Headspace app or some other free, online guided meditation if you wish (resources section is below). A guided meditation will be helpful to you especially if you’re new to meditation, since we always think we’re doing it wrong (but you’re doing it right!).
When/How to: sitting, standing, walking, lying down, eating, listening, feeling, living/being
Posture: comfortable but not too comfortable (falling asleep does not count as meditating, although sleep is important too!), upright, extended but not rigid, knees below your hips if in a lotus position, feet on the ground if sitting on a chair
Focus on: the breath, or pauses between breaths, your body, the environment, your belly, chest, heart center, third eye, counting, a mantra/phrase, movements, steps, a space, sounds, music, or a feeling (Get creative! You could focus on a candle, or a grape, or a sunset, or…?)
When thoughts arise (as they do for all of us): Be aware of them, maybe even say to yourself, “I’m thinking.” Do not judge your thoughts or yourself – the point is not to be thoughtless, but to notice your thoughts. Be kind to yourself. Gently bring your attention back to the breath, your body, and your surroundings.
How long: 15-45 minutes per day (or longer!). You could do one 15-minute session in the morning and another at night, or maybe 15 minutes each day and then 45 minutes on the weekend, or 30 minutes every other day. Or maybe you just start out at five minutes each day and see what happens! You may even get to a point where you crave meditation – it’s a very healthy addiction! Do what you can – meditation should be the opposite of stressful!
Where: Anywhere! On the train/bus/airplane, in the library, outside, in your bedroom, living room, or office. Even just a 5-10 minute session on a bus can do wonders! No need to get fancy and pull out the Persian rug, unless you want to!
Tricks: To maintain your awareness on the present moment, you can try any of the following:
- Count your inhales and exhales from 1-10, repeat
- Say to yourself, “in, out” for each inhale and exhale
- Imagine your breath traveling from your belly to your sides to your chest and to your nose on the inhale, and back down, taking the same path from the nose to the belly on the exhale
- Breath in white light, breath out black smoke
- Focus your attention on the sensations in your feet for a few minutes, then your hands for a few minutes, then your belly, then your chest, then your head, then your nose/breath, then your whole body (This one is my favorite, and the meditation I typically do in the sessions I lead. It does require time, but you will be very relaxed by the end of it! )
Everybody has their own style of meditation, so overtime, you’ll find out what’s right for you! Just enjoy the process, don’t take it too seriously, and relax. Meditation is your time to let go and to live – to be fully aware of the present moment.