The goal of meditation is to focus and quiet your mind, eventually reaching a higher level of awareness and inner calm. It may come as a surprise to learn that you can meditate anywhere and at any time, allowing yourself to access a sense of tranquility and peace no matter what’s going on around you. This article will introduce you to the basics of meditation, enabling you to begin your journey on the path of enlightenment and bliss.
1 Choose a peaceful environment. Meditation should be practiced somewhere calming and peaceful. This will enable you to focus exclusively on the task at hand and avoid bombarding your mind with outside stimuli. Try to find a place where you will not be interrupted for the duration of your meditation – whether it lasts five minutes or half an hour. The space does not need to be very large – a walk-in closet or even your office can be used for meditation, as long as it’s somewhere private.
For those new to meditation, it’s especially important to avoid any external distractions. Turn off TV sets, the phone or other noisy appliances. If you play music, choose calm, repetitive and gentle tunes, so as not to break your concentration. Another option is to turn on a small water fountain – the sound of running water can be extremely calming.
Understand that the meditation space does not need to be completely silent, so there should be no need to reach for the earplugs. The sound of a lawnmower running or the dog barking next door shouldn’t prevent effective meditation. In fact, being aware of these noises but not letting them dominate your thoughts is an important component of successful meditation.
Meditating outside works for many meditators. As long as you don’t sit near a busy roadway or another source of loud noise, you can find peace under a tree or sitting upon some lush grass in a favorite corner of the garden.
2 Wear comfortable clothes. One of the major goals of meditation is to calm the mind and block out external factors. This can be difficult if you feel physically uncomfortable due to tight or restrictive clothing. Try to wear loose clothing during meditation practice and make sure to remove your shoes.
Wear a sweater or cardigan if you plan on meditating someplace cool. If you don’t, the sensation of being cold will consume your thoughts and you will be tempted to cut your practice short.
If you are in the office, or somewhere that you can’t easily change your clothes, do your best to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Take off your shoes and jacket, open the collar of your shirt or blouse and remove your belt.
3 Decide how long you want to meditate. Before you begin, you should decide how long you are going to meditate. While many seasoned meditators recommend twenty minute sessions twice a day, beginners can start out doing as little as five minutes, once a day.
You should also try to meditate at the same time each day – whether it’s 15 minutes first thing in the morning, or five minutes on your lunch hour. Whatever time you choose, try to make meditation an unshakable part of your daily routine.
Once you have decided on a time frame, try to stick to it. Don’t just give up because you feel like it isn’t working – it will take time and practice to achieve successful meditation – right now, the most important thing is to keep trying.
Although you will want to keep track of your meditation time, it is not beneficial to be constantly checking your watch. Think about setting a gentle alarm to alert you when your practice is up, or time your practice to end with a certain event – such as your partner getting out of bed, or the sun hitting a certain spot on the wall.
4 Stretch out. Meditation involves sitting in one spot for a certain period of time, so it is important to minimize any tension or tightness before you begin. Doing a couple of minutes of light stretching can really help to loosen you up and prepare both your body and mind for meditation. It will also prevent you from focusing on any sore spots instead of relaxing your mind.
Remember to stretch your neck and shoulders, especially if you’ve been sitting in front of a computer, and don’t forget your lower back. Stretching out your legs, particularly those on the inner thigh, can be helpful when meditating in the lotus position.
More information on specific stretching techniques can be found here.
5 Sit in a comfortable position. As stated above, it is very important that you are comfortable while you meditate, which is why finding the best position for you is essential. Traditionally, meditation is practiced by sitting on a cushion on the ground, in a lotus, or half-lotus position. Unless your legs, hips, and low back are very flexible, lotus postures tend to bow your low back and prevent you from balancing your torso around your spine. Choose a posture that allows you to be balanced tall and straight.
However, you can also sit without crossing your legs, on a cushion, chair, or meditation bench. Your pelvis needs to be tilted forwards enough for your spine to be centered over the two bony bits in your butt, the spots that bear your weight. To tilt your pelvis into the right position, sit on the forward edge of a thick cushion, or place something about 3 or 4 inches (7.6 or 10.2 cm) thick under the back legs of a chair. Meditation benches are usually built with a tilted seat. If not, put something under it to tilt it forward between a half inch and an inch.
The most important thing is that you are comfortable, relaxed, and your torso is balanced so that your spine supports all of your weight from the waist up.
Tilt your pelvis forward. Then, starting from your bottom, stack up the vertebrae in your spine, so that they are balanced one on top of another and support the whole weight of your torso, neck, and head. It requires practice to find the position that allows you to relax your whole torso almost completely, only slight effort being used to maintain your balance. Whenever you feel tension, relax the area. If you can’t relax it without slumping, check the alignment of your posture and seek to re-balance your torso so that area can relax.
The traditional hand placement involves resting your hands in your lap, palms facing upward, with your right hand on top of your left. However, your can also just rest your hands on your knees or leave them hanging down by your side – whichever you prefer.
6 Close your eyes.Meditation can be performed with the eyes open or closed, however as a beginner it may be best to first try meditating with your eyes closed. This will block out any external visual stimulation and prevent you from becoming distracted as you focus on calming your mind.
Once you have grown accustomed to meditation, you can try practicing with your eyes open. This can be helpful if you find you are either falling asleep or concentrating too hard with your eyes closed, or if you are experiencing disturbing mental images (which happens to a small proportion of people).
When you keep your eyes open, you will need to keep them “soft” – that is, not focused on anything in particular. However, you don’t want to go into a trance-like state either – the goal is to feel relaxed but alert.