Mindfulness. Self-care. Learning to love yourself. These are all phrases that you’ve probably heard a lot recently. But what do they mean, how are they helpful and how can the average person go about implementing them into their life? One way is through meditation, the deliberate, intentional practice of slowing down, focusing, processing your thoughts and emotions and gaining a feeling of well-being and control over your mind and body. With life as hectic as it is, practicing meditation could be the exercise that brings you back to a place of peace in the midst of chaos. Here’s how to start meditating if you’ve never done it before or want a reminder.
What Meditation Is About
First and foremost, meditation is not about clearing your mind or forcing it to comply with a certain standard or structure. Meditation is about self-awareness and learning how to be comfortable in your own mind and body. Many people find it difficult to begin a meditative practice because of how easy it is for the mind to wander and because they live a fast-paced life. That’s why it’s best to start small and work up, practicing every day for two to five minutes at a time and gradually adding time as you grow accustomed to it.
How To Begin
Take a seat. It can be in a chair, on the ground, on your bed or wherever is comfortable for you. You may want to find a cushion or pillow to sit on, too. Don’t worry about proper technique like in a yoga or Tai Chi pose right now. Just try to find a good place and a good posture to settle into. Special movement techniques can be added in later, if you desire.
Breathe. Just breathe. Focus on your breath. Don’t try to control it—simply be aware of it. Be aware of how it makes you feel and how it causes your body to move or relax. It’s a good idea to close your eyes during this time so you won’t worry about the distractions that are around you. An eye mask could also help.
Check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What emotions are you currently experiencing? What are you trying to suppress and what are you allowing to take over in your mind and heart? Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings rather than trying to push them away. This aspect of being present with yourself is one of the main parts of becoming mindful. Be kind to yourself, treat your thoughts and emotions as friends rather than enemies and then come back to focusing on your breath.
Count your breaths. This will help you to focus on the physical part of meditation and increase your awareness of your body.
Take some time to check in with your individual body parts, no matter how small, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. Are you aching, or hungry or feeling worn out? How do your legs, your rib cage, your chest, your arms and your hands feel? If your mind begins to wander again, gently bring it back to this focus point.
Allow yourself some time to stay with a particular emotion or thought while also continuing to breathe. Don’t overthink it, but acknowledge its place within your mind. As you start to practice meditation, you will be able to handle dwelling on more individual thoughts and feelings without letting them stress you out or overwhelm you. It’s important not to judge yourself, but rather to accept these mental activities for what they are. You may even find that slowing down and taking time to be with your mind for a little while brings up ideas, solutions or inspiration that you hadn’t thought of yet. This process will help you begin to learn about and understand yourself better over time. And once again, always bring the meditation back to the breath so you can remain focused and calm.
If you have the time, focus on what’s around you. Hopefully you’ve chosen a quiet place to meditate, but maybe take some time to notice the light in the room, the temperature of the air, how the surface you’re sitting on feels, what the view out the window looks like. This will bring you into a deeper state of knowledge of your surroundings.
Practice these steps until your time runs out. Then end with giving yourself some grace and kindness. Take time to appreciate yourself and be grateful that you took this time to meditate. It’s good to be in the habit of rewarding yourself with a smile, a good stretch and encouraging thoughts. It’s showing up to do this practice that is often the hardest part.
Some Final Tips
Meditation isn’t just a one-time activity. If you’re interested in developing it as a habit and taking time every day to let yourself slow down and breathe, set a goal of several weeks or a month or two of practicing. The best part is you can do it anywhere. Even if you’re in a noisy environment, you can put on headphones to block out distractions or turn on some soothing music as a guide. Finally, if you discover that you know other people who meditate, start conversations with them about what you’ve been doing and about what works for them. You may learn something new, and you can encourage each other to keep going!
For meditation, mental health and any other wellness questions you may have, contact Community Access Network today.