Imagine an orange-robed monk sitting lotus-style on the floor for hours on end, his mind absolutely peaceful and at peace. It’s a beautiful image, and it’s a worthy ideal. Who wouldn’t benefit from a little more inner peace?
However, when we sit down and attempt it for ourselves, we have a quite different experience. It makes me feel awkward and uneasy. Your back begins to pain, your joints ache, and your muscles get sore and tense after only a few minutes (if you can stay that long).
And what about a calm mind? Put it out of your mind. Like a pack of greyhounds, your thoughts are racing. You’re obsessively reading over your list of things to do tomorrow and studying a conversation from earlier today, pausing every now and then to ask yourself, “Am I doing this right?” I certainly don’t feel at ease…
That’s exactly how I felt the first time I tried meditation, over a decade ago. I had no idea how to meditate correctly and was embarrassed to try. But I persisted. And, gradually, I overcame my apprehensions and devised a practice that worked for me.
I even formed a meditation group to teach people how to meditate and receive the advantages for themselves.
Many people new to meditation have said the same thing to me throughout the years. They are unsure of how to proceed. They’re annoyed because they can’t seem to stop thinking. Because of how readily they are sidetracked, they become disheartened and give up.
Our present information overload is to blame for a lot of the frustration and misunderstanding. If you Google “how do you meditate,” you’ll find dozens of workshops and books on the subject, all teaching different techniques and approaches. It’s difficult to know where to begin with so many different — and sometimes contradictory — guidelines.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to meditation. However, some approaches are unquestionably easier than others. And it’s always best to keep things simple when learning a new skill, right?
So, here’s a simple 5-step meditation approach for beginners:
1. Set Up Your Workspace
Find a quiet spot where you can relax and unwind. With practice, you will be able to meditate anyplace, even in a noisy and bustling environment. However, when learning, it is preferable to be alone and free of interruptions.
I enjoy doing my meditation outside, where I can hear the wind and hear the birds sing. However, if you live in a busy city or if the weather is twenty degrees below zero, this may not be feasible.
Take a moment to prepare the room if you choose an indoor setting.
If the place is clean and orderly, rather than chaotic and disorganised, it will be easier to rest. Some people enjoy doing things like turning off the lights, burning incense, lighting a candle, and so forth. Do whatever it takes to get you “in the mood.”
2. Take a Seat
Take a seat in a position that is comfortable for you. It’s not required to fold your legs in a specific way, pinch your middle and index fingers together, or take any other strange or abnormal position. What counts is that you sit up straight and calm with your spine straight. Maintain a relaxed, not strict, attitude.
If you choose to sit on the floor, you may find that using a cushion (or two) to lift your back and ease the strain on your legs is beneficial. A meditation bench is used by certain people. It’s fine to sit in a chair as long as you keep your back straight and don’t slouch.
It’s time to close your eyes and relax once you’ve found your happy place…
3. Take Some Deep Breaths And Calm.
Pay attention to your inhalation and exhalation. Feel the air as it enters and exits the room. Feel your chest and belly expand and contract as you breathe in and out. Allow yourself to relax deeper and deeper with each exhalation.
Release whatever tension you’re experiencing in your body one step at a time.
When we sit with our eyes closed with nothing to occupy or divert us, we frequently notice stiff and tense muscles in our shoulders, thighs, and lower back, as well as the muscles around our eyes, neck, and jaw. Relax and release anywhere you find yourself tensed up.
Feel yourself relaxing more and more with each out-breath, sinking deeper and deeper into a serene state of repose.
4. Establish a Schedule
This is quite important. The desire to give up and pursue something different can be strong at first. If you don’t commit to meditating for a defined amount of time, you’re more likely to give up before giving it a fair shot.
So purchase a timer or a stopwatch, or simply set your phone’s alarm (be sure to choose a soft and soothing tone, rather than a harsh, screeching one). Decide how long you want to practise; it can be as little as 5–10 minutes, but if you give yourself more time, you will achieve a much deeper state of relaxation. I would recommend starting with 20 minutes.
Then, no matter what, make a commitment to yourself to practise until the timer goes off. There will be distractions. Your phone may ring, your cat may demand for attention, and so on. Most importantly, your restless mind will generate an unending list of possibilities for what you could be doing instead.
Don’t be fooled! You’re a better person than that. You’ve got this.
5. Keep An Open Mind And Don’t Pass Judgement.
It won’t take long for your mind to drift off in a different direction. You’ll notice after a minute or two that you’re not paying attention to your breath at all. Instead, you’re thinking about an email you need to respond to, or what you’re going to make for dinner, or a memory or a movie scene that keeps replaying in your head, or… you get the idea.
That’s OK. It does not imply that you are meditating incorrectly or that you are unable to meditate. This is how you meditate!
Thoughts will come and go while you sit and breathe and relax. Don’t make judgments about people based on whether they’re nice or terrible. Don’t berate yourself if you consider them. Whenever you discover that your attention has drifted, gently bring it back to your breath, body, and senses.
It’s as simple as that.
Meditation is basically just a way of learning to pay attention. Instead of getting lost in your head, swept away by thoughts, memories, daydreams, or anything, pay attention to what you see and hear, as well as how you feel. It’s the art of being fully present, aware, and in command.
And, like with any skill, the more you practise it, the easier — and more fun — it becomes. You don’t expect to be able to play an instrument flawlessly the first time you pick it up. You can’t expect to be able to quickly quiet your mind, experience inner peace, or achieve “enlightenment” when you sit down to meditate for the first time.
However, if you follow the methods above once or twice a day, I guarantee it will improve your life!
Being more relaxed has several health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and stress cortisol levels, which can be obtained through meditation. It helps you become more self-aware, which is essential for personal development.
It alters the way you react to people and situations in your life. It can help you have better relationships, be more focused and effective at work, and be a more patient, calm, and serene person in general.
But most importantly, it allows you to be more present in the present moment.
Instead of going through life on autopilot, stressed out and preoccupied, it allows you to genuinely feel and appreciate each moment. And that is the true secret to happiness: savouring each precious moment and being content with what we have rather than continuously seeking something new, different, or more.