How to Start Meditating
We know meditation is good for us, but if so many people ask me "where do I start?!" Before I get into specific instructions, here are the basics you need to know to get started (more detailed info in my Meditation 101 blogpost):
When I meditate, I don't want my comfortability to be a distraction. I often prop myself up with pillows and settle in to my position. Then, when I know I feel comfortable, I begin. I often will sit cross-legged with my spine aligned (this is more important if you're doing any sort of chakra-aligning meditation, or kundalini meditation), sitting straight with good posture, and with my hands resting on my legs palms open and facing upwards. Everyone is different, so this position may not work best for you. However, try to make sure you aren't making a fist with your hands. If you make a fist with your hands, your body will automatically shift your breath to your chest versus your belly. Belly breathing is preferred for meditation.
Laying down is often the most comfortable position for people. The only thing to look out for with this is falling asleep. If you fall asleep, that's fine because that is what your body needed. However, to get the most benefits from meditation, you do want to try to stay awake.
Also, while you are meditating, if you feel uncomfortable, change positions! You don't have to stay in the same position. The longer you resist changing positions to get comfortable, the more disrupted your meditation will be. However, make sure you are observing where and when you are getting uncomfortable. This could be your body telling you something.
When you're beginning, any amount of time is great! However, most studies show that between 15-20 minutes or more daily proves to be most beneficial. I would say carve out 15 minutes of time (not necessarily to meditate for 15 minutes straight). Start with 3 minutes with one technique. If it feels like you can do more, go for it! Or if you think you may benefit from another technique (I'll touch on techniques in a sec), try 3 minutes of that too! Even if you have trouble meditating for 3 minutes, keep at it. We're so used to "doing" that sometimes it takes a little bit to be able to shift into "being." Also, when I first started, it took me a good 3 minutes just to get into a meditative state, so if I was only meditating for 3 minutes, I wouldn't get much benefit.
Meditation is about observing and going within. So, if for the entire 3 minutes, your mind was racing, you still meditated! You were AWARE your mind was racing, and awareness is half the battle!
I find the best time to meditate is in the morning when I first wake up. It sets the tone for the day, and my relaxed mood hasn't been effected by the happenings and stresses of the day to come. Really any time of day is fine. Before bed can help you get to sleep, but it may also cut your meditation time short if you do so. Again, that's fine because that means sleep is what your body needs. Sometimes if a day is especially stressful, I'll go somewhere quiet for just 2 minutes (hard to do with 3 children!) and close my eyes and take some breaths.
Taking 15 minutes in the morning when I first wake up usually helps me stay in a relaxed and positive mood for the rest of the day.
There are countless ways to meditate. But here are a few that I found helpful as a beginner.
This is basically things like yoga, walking, etc. Yoga requires you to move with your breath and to be mindful of your body.
Walking meditation is easy to do. Just take a walk without any headphones. Tune into your 5 senses. What do are you hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, feeling? Try to sync your breath with every few steps.
I use candlelight or fire for this. Fire is an excellent meditation tool. I usually will sit in a dark room with the lights off and light a single candle. I'll get into a comfortable position, notice my breath, and focus all of my senses on the flame in front of me. Having the room dark prevents me from getting distracted by things around me. Again, notice what you're sensing. You can even place your hands closer to the flame and sense the heat you're feeling.
You can do focused meditation with other things, like beads. Many people will sit with their eyes closed and hold a string of beads, a bracelet, etc. and just observe what they are feeling.
You can also do this with a body of water. This is why so many people find the beach relaxing. Your mind naturally starts to meditate on the waves coming in and going back out.
When I asked a lot of you what type of meditation you've done before, most of you said guided. There are a million different options when it comes to guided meditations. You can find meditations of all types on YouTube and there are podcasts that offer guided meditations.
Guided meditations are great if you're going through something difficult and you need to be guided in your thoughts. There are guided meditations for anxiety, stress, sleep, focus, and so many other things. However, if you are trying to build up your meditation practice, I suggest trying other types as well to build your "meditation muscles" and not rely on the guidance provided.
Binaural Beats Meditation:
I often use binaural beats for meditation. If you just go to YouTube and search "binaural beats meditation," you'll find a ton. The simplified explanation of binaural beats is, a sound of one frequency is played in one ear (headphones are required), and a different frequency is played in the other ear. The difference between these two frequencies is what your brainwaves sync to. Different frequencies are known to support different things like relaxation, sleep, spiritual connection, etc.
If you're looking for more information on binaural beats, you can also look up hemi-sync (shortened for hemisphere-sync, because it helps the hemispheres of your brain sync). This was studied by Robert Monroe of The Monroe Institute, so you could also find more information about this by researching him.
Here's a link to my favorite free meditation from The Monroe Institute on YouTube. It's a bit longer for beginners though.
There's no "failing" at meditation. It doesn't have to be difficult. What makes it difficult is our expectations. Be gentle with yourself, be open-minded, and try not to have any expectations. Even if you feel like you didn't listen to a word of what your guided meditation said, you still meditated. Even if you had to change position 10 times throughout the duration, you still meditated. Even if you were interrupted halfway through, you still meditated. Whatever you experience when you're meditating is meant to be part of your journey.