I like to think of meditation as similar to creating art. And like all art, mastering meditation takes time, consistency of focus, the ongoing desire to improve – and lots and lots of practice.
Also like art, meditation can be a skill you develop throughout your whole life; challenging and enriching in equal measure.
And, boy, the benefits are so worth it! With that in mind, here are my five simple steps to setting off on a lifelong love affair with meditation.
Begin to understand the benefits of meditation
For me, meditation is pressing pause and taking a breather for your mind (and body).
It’s about taking a few moments to sit* ( although you can also meditate while walking or lying down) and gently observe the working of our automatic mental processing units: our minds.
After meditation, we return to our everyday lives, having given ourselves some headspace. It usually helps us to realise that our thinking minds are so often thought tornados rather than calm still water.
2. Accept that meditation isn’t easy
Who wouldn’t want to:
- feel less negative stress
- have less anxiety
- reduce addictive habits
- be more emotionally resilient?
And swap them for:
- Being more creative
- Achieving more
- Feeling more confident
- Having increased focus
- Showing more compassion
Oh – and the last one ….. feeling happier?
Given that list, let’s face it, if it was easy, we’d all be doing it, right? And that’s the challenge more about this in number 5!
3. Look into the science behind the practice
Zoran Josipovic, from New York University, is among the scientists leading the way in exploring the reasons meditation has endured for so long, in so many cultures. His fascinating series of studies into how contemplative practices affect the brain include carrying out MRI scans on Buddhist monks.
Science still has much to understand about exactly how meditation works but scans show there’s a decrease in beta waves and a lasting drop in anxiety and rise in creativity, compassion and memory function.
It’s a great area of exploration for academics – and understanding the facts might help you convince yourself that meditation is a genuine lifelong contribution to your wellbeing.
4. Make a start
Once you’ve made a conscious decision to commit to your mental and emotional well-being, your next steps could be to find an online guide and do it yourself, or perhaps go to a mediation class or group and sign up for a course.
It doesn’t take a huge commitment to say yes to your mental well-being and take time for you:
- SET your timer ( I suggest starting with three minutes daily for a week, ideally at the same every day)
- SIT, feet flat on the floor, with your eyes closed, until the alarm sounds
- SEE how you feel
You don’t have to sit cross legged, sniffing incense and chanting (although to be honest I do like a good whiff of a joss stick).
If you need support, I offer one to one tuition combining ancient yogic philosophy and modern mindfulness skills (lots of overlap!), a monthly meditation session close to the new moon dates, as well as mini and residential retreats.
5. Find your commitment
It’s the consistency of focus that prompts many of us to make excuses not to meditate. Dare I use the ‘c’ word?
Ok here I go.
Commitment. Yes, that’s the one. Meditation takes regularity, scheduling it in as you would would a daily shower or cleaning your teeth.
It’s a great analogy actually – think about your mediation practice as a way of sieving your mental state. Like giving your brain a rinse out.
Keep up the good mental hygiene and you’re left with the real gems: a clearer mind, calmness and more productivity.
The big picture
Like all art, meditation can’t be mastered in a day. But it will reap immediate benefits and you’ll see positive improvements every step of the way.
With each practice, we slowly begin to change the way our brains work. Wherever you begin to meditate: at home, the office, in the car, alone, with the family or in a group, this little slice of kindness to yourself will help to paint a life picture that’s more harmonious.
Now is that worth three minutes every day? Be warned – it is addictive and you might find yourself sitting a little longer. Enjoy your explorations!
You’ve got my details. Drop me a line and let me know how you get on introducing yourself to meditation in 2018.
You can find me here; firstname.lastname@example.org