I have a love-hate relationship with meditation. Well, perhaps hate is a strong word. Maybe it’s more of a love/can’t be arsed attitude with it. Even though I know I feel so much better when I’m regular with my practice, sometimes I convince myself I don’t have time. But as the old Zen proverb goes: ‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour’
Although more often than not I crave my quiet time and find myself feeling a little off-kilter when I don’t do it, occasionally I just can’t be bothered. And being a bit of a bookworm, when the day is drawing to a close, all I want to do is curl up with my cat and get lost in whatever I’m currently reading.
‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour’
But a few times a year Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey team up to hold 21-day meditation experiences, and their latest offering started on Monday. I look forward to these challenges because I feel like I’m being held accountable. There are journal prompts each day to help you set intentions, so it really makes you think about what you would like to gain from the experience. If you’re new to meditating, you might find something like this a good place to start.
Whatever your reason is for meditating, it can feel a little intimidating and confusing, to begin with – but it doesn’t need to be that way. Check out the following tips for getting started on your meditation journey:
Get rid of all distractions
Find a room that’s quiet, away from any distractions and outside noise. Even if you’re home alone you might want to shut the door, especially if you have pets. The last thing you want is to be startled by the cat as she jumps up on you part way through your meditation.
Also, switch your phone to silent mode. Text messages, social media alerts, and phone calls from your mum – they can all wait. This is your time and the last thing you want is your phone going off every few minutes.
Tell people you don’t want to be disturbed
You need to be able to relax without the worry that someone may walk in on you. Whether it’s your husband/wife/partner or kids (please delete as appropriate), let them know you don’t want to be disturbed for the next 10 minutes, or however long your meditation lasts. If you’re home alone, but there’s a chance someone might return part-way through your practice, drop them a text to let them know. You might even want to stick a sign on the door too: perhaps a simple post-it note saying meditation in progress.
Find somewhere comfortable, and make sure you’re warm enough
It could be the living room, the bedroom or the dining room – wherever you like. As long as you can shut yourself off from the rest of the world and get comfortable, it doesn’t matter. Make sure you’re warm enough too – you don’t want to get cold part-way through your practice. Either throw a jumper on or give the heating a quick boost about 10 minutes before you’re about to start.
Wear comfortable clothing
Wear something loose. Trying to sit cross-legged in skin tight jeans won’t be very comfortable, so depending what time of day it is, you might try wearing pyjama bottoms, leggings or jogging pants. How you like to sit might also affect your choice of clothing. Just make sure it’s comfortable and doesn’t need readjusting every few minutes.
Find yourself a comfortable position
Sitting up in a chair, cross-legged or lying down, the choice is yours. Although, you do run the risk of falling asleep if you lie down – which isn’t the aim of meditation. Sitting on a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor, or sitting yourself up onto a cushion cross-legged are probably the two best positions if you can manage it. If you choose to sit on a chair, don’t lean back into it. Keep yourself upright and your spine straight, with your knees at right angles. If you choose to sit cross-legged, again, keep your spine nice and straight.
Start with a few minutes and build up
You don’t have to sit for hours when meditating. Even 5 minutes a day can help with the stresses and strains of everyday life, and if you’re just starting out, a few minutes is probably about right. You can set a timer on your phone so you know when to finish.
Experiment: Silence, music or guided meditation
There are a few different ways you can meditate. You can sit in silence and follow your breath, you can listen to some music or you can even follow a guided meditation. It all comes down to personal preference, so you’ll find it useful to experiment to see which you prefer. Personally, I listen to either music or a guided meditation. Occasionally, at the end of a session, I’ll spend a few moments in silence if it feels right.
When you’re first starting out it can feel like a bit of a minefield, but one of the simplest ways to meditate is to concentrate on your breath. In your mind, you might even want to say in, as you breathe in, and out as you breathe out. Or if you prefer, you could count your inhale and exhale: breathe in for a count of 3 and then out for a count of 3. Some people even like to choose a word or phrase to repeat. On every inhale you might breathe in positivity, and on every exhale you breathe out negativity.
You can find lots of meditation music on YouTube. It might take a little while to find something you like, but there’s something there to suit everyone. The other thing you can do is choose a section of one of your favourite songs. If you have some music that doesn’t contain words, you could use that.
Spotify also has a massive range of specific playlists, including some for yoga and meditation. The good thing about Spotify and YouTube is they’re available in a variety of different lengths to suit whatever you’re looking for.
Again, type guided meditation into YouTube and you will find a whole host of things to look at. A guided meditation is basically someone talking you through your practice and they come in many forms. It could be as simple as someone telling you when to breathe in and out, or it could be someone taking you through a visualisation where you’re given prompts about certain things. A very good meditation album I’ve found is by Kris Carr. It’s simple with clear instructions and she also has a soothing voice.
There’s also a variety of apps you can download to your phone or tablet as well. Some are free, others you need to pay for. The most popular one is probably Headspace.
As mentioned above, a few times a year Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey team up to host meditation experiences. 22 days of meditation (including a bonus day) and setting intentions with daily journal prompts is a good way to stay accountable. Although, you may find you resonate with some experiences more than others.
If thoughts come, it’s not the end of the world
When thoughts come, acknowledge them and let them go. To-do lists, work, the rude shop assistant: all these things will be fighting for attention once you shut your eyes. Just try not to engage them. Accept they’re there, and let them go until later. Even the most seasoned meditator will have practices where their mind is a jumble of thoughts pushing their way in. You might find it useful to keep a journal nearby to write things down once you’re done. If you do feel like you have a bad session, don’t berate yourself – be kind – you’re only human after all.
Meditate at the same time every day
To help get you into a routine, you might find it useful to meditate at the same time each day. You’ll probably have more chance of sticking with it too. Just like you make time in your schedule to go to the gym, doing the same with meditation can also be beneficial. Some people find it useful to do it first thing in a morning, and others prefer it last thing at night – just before going to bed. You could even do both if you wanted to.
Meditation isn’t as scary as it might sound, it’s just a matter of finding something that suits you. And like with anything new, you need to have patience and stick with it. Also, if you’re listening to music or a guided meditation, I would recommend wearing earphones to get the best experience.
If you can think of any other tips or advice, please leave a comment below.
*Please note I haven’t been compensated for any products mentioned in this post. These are just the resources that I’ve found helpful.