Almost two years ago, I downloaded a fitness tracking app to my smartphone. One of the features of this app was that it tracked my sleep patterns. What I learned wasn’t good. On average, I slept less than 6 hours a night total, and I was waking up at least twice. This combined with the fact that I was moody, stressed out, and could never relax influenced me to try meditation. Today, meditation is a very important part of my life, and I do what I can to get others to experience the benefits of meditation as well.
One thing that I think is very important to state is that I struggled quite a bit when I first started to meditate. I made mistakes, and I had to learn what worked for me. Because of this, I love to help others get their start as well. If you are interested in meditation, keep reading. I present to you the beginner’s guide to meditating.
When I first began meditating, I struggled with become distracted. One of the issues that I discovered was that once I was relaxed and focusing on self, I became much more aware of minor aches and pains. Some of that discomfort, I’m sure came from sitting in one position for a period of time as well. It wasn’t horrible, but it did prevent me from getting the most out of meditating.
What I do now is incorporate maybe three to five minutes of stretching before I start meditating. It’s nothing strenuous, just some light stretches that anybody can do regardless of their fitness level.
I live in a tiny, shared apartment, so it’s pretty difficult for me to find a quiet place at home to meditate. Fortunately, the weather is nice where I live almost all of the time, and I am able to meditate in a designated green space in my apartment complex. It’s largely unused, so I am able to meditate for as long as I need without being interrupted with noise and activity.
Most days, I meditate for around and hour. Sometimes I add a second session to get even more time. When I first started, I would blow meditating off if I didn’t have at least ten minutes to dedicate to it. I figured it was just a waste of time. Then, a few months ago I did this 40 day wellness challenge. The purpose of that was to spend 40 days eating right, exercising, and focusing on healthy living. I decided that I would meditate every day as well. What I learned was that I felt better even when I could only get in ten minutes or so.
There are many different types of meditation. Some of these require special tools. Even if you don’t pursue a form of meditation that requires any extra items, you might find these tools useful anyway. Obviously, incense is a fairly popular item. I don’t personally use it, because it agitates my asthma. I do make my own essential oils though, and I spritz my clothing with some before I meditate. There are also special mats and cushions to make meditating even more comfortable. If you decide you need help focusing, you could try using an online, guided, meditation system. I’ve tried QuietKit a few times and found it to be very good. Finally, there are white noise machines, candles, and objects that can help you to focus on a single thing as you attempt to go deeper.
Don’t assume that you must meditate using the traditional lotus position. If that is uncomfortable for you, feel free to try something else. Otherwise, you won’t get as much out of meditating as you can. However, this doesn’t mean that the way you position your body doesn’t matter at all. It does. You’ll want to sit in a comfortable position that allows you to sit with your back straight yet relaxed. If you need a bit of support, you put something behind you or sit on something with back support.
If it hasn’t been made clear enough by now, your comfort really does matter. It you are going to meditate on a regular basis, it will be worth your time experimenting with different types of clothing to see what is most comfortable. I tried yoga pants, sweat pants, shorts, and a few other things. Unfortunately, things just kind of bunched up and pinched. It wasn’t noticeable at first, but it did become a problem after about 20 minutes. What I’ve finally found to be the best solution for me is a pair of those loose, lounge, pajama pants that I cut off just above the knee. It’s loose fitting, comfortable, and they are cheap enough that I have four or five pairs.
My personal experience and that of others have taught me that it is easier to stay focused and to find center if the room, or in my case the outdoors, tends to be just a bit on the warm side. I do know people who use saunas or steam rooms for meditating. It is supposedly a bit like doing hot yoga. Personally, I’ve tried it a few times and it just wasn’t for me. You might consider trying a few different temperatures when you meditate, but the consensus among the people I have talked with is that just hotter than average is pretty nice.
If my day goes perfectly (ha!), I meditate about 15 minutes after a light breakfast. By light I mean a glass of iced, green tea; some berries; and a bowl of chia pudding. I’m able to stay in a fixed position for a long period of time without feeling uncomfortable. Any time that I have trade to meditate after a heavy meal, I end up cutting things short because digestion and meditation just don’t get along with one another. Of course, you can also have problems if you try to mediate when you are still hungry. It is all about finding balance.
I was ready to give up meditating after the first week. I was frustrated and convinced that it was never going to work for me. The reason that I felt this way was because I was constantly plagued with disruptive thoughts. I thought I would never be able to truly ‘clear my mind’. I would try to focus on my breathing, on counting backwards in my head, and even on walking myself through a challenging scenario as a way of visualizing success. No matter what I tried, random thoughts would pop into my head. These ranged from mundane (I should really use up that bag of spinach in the fridge) to complex (I should really think about buying a house). I also had a lot of disruptive thoughts about the meditation process itself (I think this is working. I feel relaxed. Is this really working? No, it isn’t working).
Here’s the thing. This is okay. It’s totally okay. Forget about the image of the person meditating themselves into a state of pure bliss and transcendence. Even if you don’t feel as if you are as focused as you need to be, even if you don’t feel any sense of transformation during or after meditating, you can still benefit from it. If you need proof, just keep track of your overall mood, energy levels, focus, and ability to sleep at night. The other stuff will come later.
When it comes to religion, I am definitely a skeptic. When it comes to spirituality, I consider myself to be open minded and exploring. For me, meditation is a combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Having said that, I am a member of a local Unitarian church that hosts a weekly meditation session and meeting. I can say that the group demographic ranges from staunch atheist to Buddhist to Christian to Pagan to people like me who take a bit of a cafeteria approach.
If you do decide to try meditating, you do need to be aware that a lot of the information you will find on the subject is written by eastern authors who base a good portion of their teachings in Eastern Religious practices. If that is uncomfortable for you for any reason, feel free to take what works for you and to leave the rest.
I truly believe that everybody can benefit from regular meditation. For me, it has improved my sleep patterns, my ability to focus, and my overall physical and mental health. Take the tips in this guide into consideration, and I am confident that you will realize some important benefits as well.