Starting Your Meditation Practice
At England’s Primal Health we are aware of life’s everyday challenges and understand a busy schedule of living, working, family and to-do’s can lead to stress on all levels. Our goal is to share practices, modalities and knowledge to help you fuel your life with positive energy and action to enhance your life experience.
Each month we will delve into topics so you can practice becoming more mindful of your own wellbeing as well as bringing increased mindfulness to those around you. For the first few months, we will journey into the basics of starting and deepening your meditation practice.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice with a lot of science, not a religion.
Meditation is a practice in becoming aware of yourself and your surroundings without judgment or attachment to either. In meditation, you are awake and aware but not focused on the world around you or your own list of tasks. You are going inward toward your own subconscious. And, the one thing it adamantly is NOT, is contemplation! Contemplation includes analyzing, doubting, questioning, replaying, blaming, racing and fleeting thoughts and most of us do plenty of this already. We meditate to contemplate less, really.
Starting your meditation practice is easy. You simply need to commit to it with patience and regular practice to enjoy the transformative benefits.
Are you ready to commit to your meditation practice?
Keep in mind it is meditation PRACTICE, not meditation PERFECT. It takes time, patience and a commitment to yourself.
Your meditation is a practice in stillness and observation without bias toward one thought or another. That means no judgment on yourself or whatever is coming up.
In practicing meditation we bring our awareness to our internal self, our thoughts and our surroundings without going down a rabbit hole of wonder related to any of them. As you sit in meditation you will likely have thoughts that cause your mind to wander away from your practice. This is okay. This is normal. This is expected. With your commitment, you will go longer and longer between thoughts and experience shorter and shorter intervals being attached to those thoughts.
Meditation is being aware of the thoughts and noises but not attaching to them. It is seeing them and letting them float by like a cloud in the sky, without questioning their purpose of existence. It is sitting and bringing your attention back to your breath or mantra. Back into your own subconscious and center.
You are ready now.
To help overcome any anxiety or intimidation about starting your meditation practice I will cover some of the common meditation concerns and questions below:
Why should I try meditation?
It is easier than you think to get started, it’s free and trust me, it just makes you smarter (we will explore this true fact later). The rewards will be tenfold! Increased focus and productivity, greater feelings of ease and tranquility, improvement with feelings of anxiety, depression, fear and overhealm are just a few general benefits experienced by those who keep a regular practice.
How does it work?
Meditation helps quiet your mind well beyond the time spent meditating. This means you will take this new found calmness into your life. Imagine removing the judgment of yourself and others from your life. This will resolve the challenges you face with fear, confidence, anxiety, depression and more.
Where should I meditate?
Especially as you begin your meditation practice, it is best to meditate in a cool, comfortable space. Ideally with limited or no artificial lighting or stimulus. Find a special spot just for you and you will likely find it more tempting to retreat there. Decorate, add some plush pillows to sit on and make it your place of zen.
That said, really, you can meditate absolutely anywhere especially as you become more seasoned. I meditate in my car quite frequently…parked, of course; )
When should I meditate?
In the morning. The mind is usually less distracted first thing in the morning. Start your day with your meditation practice and reap the benefits of it throughout the day. As you deepen your practice you may start a second meditation in the afternoon, evening or before bed for sleep.
It is often considered most effective to meditate in the morning and again in the afternoon. Doing this ensures your entire day reaps the benefits of meditation. Some people find that meditating before bed can keep them up so try different times for YOU. It is your practice and there are no rigid rules that apply to everyone.
How should I sit during meditation?
You can take many different positions for meditation but one key to continuing to deepen your practice is to sit with a vertically stacked spine.
You should find a comfortable position, with your spine in alignment, that allows your arms, shoulders, hips, knees and neck to relax.
It is okay to reposition yourself but, do so with slow motions being mindful of your movements and intentional with the adjustments you make.
Try sitting on props such as a block, pillow or chair in any of these seated variations. You can also try against a wall if it helps to stay in your meditation.
How should I start my meditation?
Come into your comfortable seated position. Take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes. If you are listening to a guided meditation and instructed to do something with your hands or fingers, follow that.
Otherwise, focus on breathing in stillness. Breathe on purpose. Keep your hands in whatever position is comfortable for YOU. Many people like the back of their hands on their thighs, palms toward the sky. I tend to not be so picky with finger placement but do prefer my palms up because, for me, it signifies that I am ready to receive. Some people bring their fingertips to touch leaving space between their palms, with their forearms resting on their thighs.
Do what feels right for YOU.
So what am I meditating about?
Whether you are sitting in complete silence or following a guided meditation you will eventually have thoughts about something else. This is OKAY.
As you become aware that your mind is wandering, simply acknowledge it and move on by gently returning your thoughts to your breath, your mantra or the words and sounds of your guided meditation. Random thoughts are completely expected and do not make your meditation any less effective.
How can I keep my attention on my breath?
As you breathe, bring your attention to how your breath feels throughout your body. How it feels coming in through your nose. How it feels traveling through your spine, into your back, into your belly, your hips, your thighs, your knees, shins, feet, fingers. Where does your breath travel? Can you guide your breath to certain parts of your body and feel it arrive? Can you feel its path as you exhale, clearing out stuck energy? Do what resonates with you as long as it is effective at bringing you gently back to your breath as your thoughts wander.
Take your breath on different paths and journeys through your body.
Each cell in your body will appreciate your attention to breath and your energy pathways will be thankful for the clearing as you exhale. It can also be useful to visualize inhaling love and exhaling anything that no longer serves you. I also like to visualize my breath as a combination of wind and different colors of brilliant light swirling around every single area of my body, part by part as it delivers oxygen and vitality to each cell, organ, muscle, joint and bone.
Why is my breath so important?
Your breath is your anchor! It simply attaches you to the present moment. It is the only thing always happening, at this moment. If you are focused on your breath, you are not focused on what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Only what is happening right here and now. It is the most simple form of being present in the current moment. You will never stop thinking of things you don’t want to focus on by thinking about not thinking about them! However, if you shift your thoughts to your breath and really focus on every aspect of what that looks like to you….surprise, you are no longer thinking what you didn’t want to think about. Of course, there is the obvious physical benefit of flooding your cells with oxygen which, often happens much less than it should because of many people’s tendency to breathe short and shallow too much of the time. Practice leads to being more present in the current moment outside of your meditation too. That is what we refer to as “mindfulness” which, we will certainly write more about soon.
How does meditation enhance my mood and life?
If you do not bring the lessons of meditation into your daily life then, there is no point in meditating. This, in part, is manifesting. It is the return on your investment and you should expect the dividends to multiply rapidly. The lesson is to be present at that moment and to process and let go of what you can not change. But, to also be a more effective problem solver with things you can change for the better. Embrace the lesson of respond vs. react. Adopt non-judgment to yourself and others.
Take time throughout the day while you are walking, driving or working to sit or stand with your spine aligned. Take a few deep breaths counting the seconds of your inhale (one… two… three… four… five…) or following your breath as it travels into your body. Then count or follow the clearing path as you exhale.
How can I create a consistent daily practice?
Make it non-negotiable because you know that you will be using a higher version of yourself as you live all those important moments in your day. Put it on your calendar or set a timer for it like any other essential activity you do each day. We all know that saying, “if it’s really important to you then, you’ll make time for it”….well, this is probably true! To make this practice consistent, I recommend doing it right after you wake up and have a glass of lemon water (more on this in the future). Do it at the same time each morning or at least first thing, whatever time you awake. Be sure to thank yourself and remind yourself why you are doing it.
Your reason for doing it may be to help with your reactions to adversity, to overcome anxiety in certain situations, to become more mindful of your environment, to be more successful at your business, to be a better parent, to perform better as an athlete and the list goes on. It is different for all of us and can even change from day to day within ourselves. It does not matter what you are looking to achieve but having gratitude for yourself and creating a more balanced you counts for everything.
Set a goal of a few times a week or daily practice. Maybe it starts with only 5 minutes per day and grows from there. Be patient with your practice. If you struggle to stay with your breath one day or multiple days or for weeks at a time, it is normal. Just stick with it. You will be amazed at how quickly you deepen your practice and how it helps transform your way of being.
Do you recommend a good program to get started with?
Yes. A great way to get started is by leveraging your cell phone and one of the following apps:
- Insight Timer
Both are great tools to begin your meditation practice. I prefer Insight timer because it allows you to choose from a ton of topics such as Clearing Your Chakras, Mindfulness, Sleeping Better, etc…
It also leverages a network of meditation leaders to build a library of content that is unmatched.
Questions? Leave a comment below. I look forward to encouraging you on your journey.
Love & Grit