People have been using meditation for thousands of years to rise above the chattering of the mind and emotional turmoil, and to bring clarity, peace and awareness into their lives. Scientific studies have shown the numerous positive benefits that meditating has on our health and well-being on the physical, mental and spiritual levels. With regular practice, meditation can provide means of coping with stress, can reduce anxiety and can bring a deeper understanding of our inner self.
Below you will find 10 of our top tips to set yourself up successfully for practising meditation:
(1) Quiet comfortable location
Choose a place to meditate where you will not be disturbed. Little or no noise is preferred. Also keep in mind the temperature, especially if you are practicing outside. You don’t want to feel too cold or too hot. Switch your mobile phone off, or onto silent.
(2) Quiet time of the day
It is best to meditate in the early morning around sunrise or in the evening after sunset, when the world is a bit quieter. However, if these times don’t suit your schedule don’t worry, any time when you can find some quiet space will do fine.
(3) Wear comfortable clothes
Make sure that you wear comfortable clothes. Take off tight accessories, like your watch or glasses.
(4) Sit comfortably
If you choose to sit on a meditation cushion in a cross-legged position make sure that your knees are not higher than your hips and you are able to lengthen your spine. No rounding or slouching! If you don’t find this position comfortable, sitting on a chair works just as well – make sure both feet reach the floor. If you can, try not leaning against anything, use your back muscles to keep yourself straight. Try not to practice laying down – this will help you to avoid falling asleep.
(5) Set up your posture well
Pull the flesh of the buttocks back so you can ground down through your sitting bones. This will make it easier to lengthen your spine and keep a straight back while still being relaxed. Rest your arms gently on your thighs and tuck your chin in slightly, so you can also lengthen the back of the neck. Keep your shoulders and face relaxed.
(6) Close your eyes
You can close your eyes to avoid any distractions that might take your mind away from the focus of your meditation or you can keep them open with a soft gaze to one point.
(7) Choose a technique
Start with checking in how you are feeling at the present moment. Scan your body from head to toes and notice the different sensations, feelings emotions that you come across. Without judging them or trying to change them, just simply observe what you find as you move through your body. Following the scan you have different techniques that you can use:
Watching the natural breath as it rises and falls is the simplest technique – although it is simple, it can also be challenging to practice. You always have your breath with you, you can never forgot it at home! Your breath is a constant flow that can provide an anchor for your meditation. When observing the natural breath you can notice how your chest rises and falls, notice how the muscles in your belly expand and contract in tune, in harmony with your breath. You can also feel the sensation of the breath at the nostrils and on the upper lip. You can notice the temperature of the air and notice whether you are breathing through the left, right or through both nostrils. Do not try to change the breath, just simply observe. Read more about mindfulness meditation on the breath here
Another technique that can be very helpful in getting you more connected in your body is to continue the body scan and observe the different sensations in the body. Start with your attention in your feet and then move your awareness up through each part of the body, finishing at the top of your head. As you move your awareness through your body, you might find areas of pain, discomfort or uncomfortable sensations. If you notice pain, take a moment to feel – is it hot, burning, throbbing, or pulling? Just notice. Notice where the pain starts and where it finishes. Then let it go and continue to scan your body. When you return back to that area on your next scan, notice if the sensations are the same or different. Spend maybe 10 seconds on that area, and then move on. Just simply observe without judgement and keep your awareness moving. Sometimes we might come across areas where there are no sensations, blank areas. Just notice these areas. Again, notice where this blank area starts and where it finishes and then move on. Read more about mindfulness meditation of sensations here.
c. Mantras and affirmations
We all have different reason for meditating from health benefits to deepening spiritual connection. A mantra, chant or short affirmation that resonates with you at that particular time can be a powerful method to achieve whatever goal you set for your practice. Start with setting an intention and chose the affirmation or mantra that is relevant to you. When choosing an affirmation use a short, positive statement that points towards what you want, like “I am happy”, “I am healthy” or “I am in peace”. Try to feel the affirmation in your whole being as it is true and you have already achieved it.
If you would like to use a mantra, there are many different ones that you can choose from. Om or “aum” is the most basic and powerful mantra you can chant. Om is said to be the sound of the universe and it will create powerful, positive vibrations in your being. When chanting Om we “recognise our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves”. The key is to repeat the mantra or affirmation over and over again; this helps you to disconnect from any thoughts that arise during meditation and also assists you to stay focused on your intention.
(8) Let go of thoughts and emotions
If a thought arises, do not fight it, it will only get stronger. Just simply recognise that your mind has generated a thought and once you notice that your mind has wandered gently bring your mind back onto the focus of your meditation. If you become aware of any strong emotions try to stay with whatever arises with an accepting, compassionate attitude. A great way of dealing with overpowering emotions during meditation is to focus on the sensations in the physical body that accompany the emotion and let go of the story behind it.
(9) Start with 10 minutes
When you first start meditating, begin with 10 minutes and build your practice up gradually. If you can, meditate daily, but even if you can only meditate a few times each week, make it into a routine. Regularity is the key to developing a practice and to really get the benefits.
(10) Try guided meditations first
If you are a beginner, a great way to get into it is to start with guided meditations. Once you have tried different techniques and found the one that works for you the best, practicing with friends or finding a community can help you to keep a regular practice.
PLUS ONE: Make it fun!
Don’t get caught up in the how, just sit down and do it. Keep an inner smile, and practice with a compassionate and loving attitude towards yourself no matter how well you can focus or find your mind wondering.
Once you start practising you will probably find that meditation is not always easy or even peaceful, but with dedication and practice it can really bring some great benefits into your life, so why wait? Start today!
If you would like to read more about mindfulness check our blog article “a beginners guide to mindfulness“. We offer silent meditation sessions most days of the week – read more on our meditation page.