You probably now that meditation is a powerful way to support your health. Meditation has been shown to help people heal from a variety of diseases, and improve concentration, memory, focus, creativity, and problem-solving skills. But knowing that meditation is good for us, and knowing how to do it well, are too very different things. We are so used to doing, that the instruction to just be can be meaningless or even frustrating to our minds. So here are some tips to help you get the most out of your meditation practice.
1. Move First
As our lives tend to be quite sedentary but our minds very busy, sometimes just sitting to meditate can be asking too much of ourselves. In yoga, movement precedes meditation. We practice the poses first to relax and open the body, then sit still in our meditation. If you feel bound or stiff in your body when you sit to meditate, move a bit first. This could be going for a short brisk walk, practicing yoga, even doing some jumping jacks and simple stretches. Movement may make it easier for you to sit with comfort and presence.
2. Be Comfortable
Set yourself up for success in your practice by setting up your body to be comfortable. Have a cushion or blanket to place under your hips. This will enable you sit upright with less slouching or strain. You may need small cushions under your knees, or to lean against a wall. Eventually the idea is to be able to sit through minor discomfort without getting distracted, but as you first start out, do everything you can to make the practice easy and graceful for yourself.
3. Have a Point of Focus
Many meditators are supported by having something upon which to concentrate during their meditations. Sometimes this is an external point of focus, such as a candle, a beautiful image, or a bit of nature like a leaf or brook. Sometimes this is an internal point of focus, like a mantra, affirmation, or visualization.
4. It All Comes Back to Breath
The primary point of focus in most types of meditation is the breath. Deep breathing offers innumerable benefits for body and mind. Concentrating on the breath helps center and refine the mind. If you do nothing else in your meditation, focus on your breathing, and breathe as deeply as possible.
5. Count It Out
One particular technique that many people new to meditation find helpful is to count the breath. This helps you naturally elongate the breath and focus the mind. As you inhale, count up from one to the highest number you can easily reach, at a steady pace. When you exhale, count down from the number you reached on the inhale to one.
6. Dedicate Your Practice
Some meditators have a richer experience when they set an intention or offer a dedication for their practice. This could be asking that the benefits of your practice be sent to a particular person, to your family or community, to a natural element, or to the whole world.
7. Consistency Is Key
Like with eating and sleeping, our bodies and minds benefit when we meditate at the same time everyday. Even just five minutes of meditation in the morning, when practiced every day, can have profound effects over time. A little bit every day is far better than long stretches only every once in a while.
8. Breathing Together
Meditating alone is sweet in its way, and will probably make up the bulk of your practice. But there is magic that happens in a group field when we meditate together. Meditating with other people can make it easier to stay focused. You do not have to worry about keeping time, and if there is a teacher you may be given prompts and insights to help you.
9. Make A Space
Our meditation practice thrives when we create a special space for it, in our homes and in our lives. If all you have is a throw pillow and five minutes, then by all means go ahead and meditate any practice is better than not at all. But if possible, set up a dedicated space in your home with a cushion and perhaps a small altar. Make the physical space and the time that you meditate sacred, and you will see it reveal even more of its beauty to you.
10. Always Successful
The last tip is to count any time you meditate as a success. Even if it was just for a few minutes. Even if you spent the entire time trying to meditate but were completely distracted by your thoughts. Just the act of sitting down and intending to meditate is a victory, because it is an invitation to your mind into the present moment. Eventually your mind will accept.
Meditating can support the health of our bodies and minds. But if you are new to the practice, it can be challenging to know what to do to get the most benefit. But meditation is not about doing. It is a process of being. Being and becoming more of yourself. Explore these tips to make your meditation practice more beneficial, and know that it is enough to just sit still and breathe deeply.