The most common question I get asked as a yoga teacher is, “Any tips to help me do a handstand?” The second most common question, though, is, “How do I get started with meditation?”
This question is typically followed by a comment in the form of, “I’ve tried it before, and I’m really bad at it. My mind won’t stop racing.” Over the next eight weeks, I’ll be providing tips and practices to help you establish a meditation discipline in your life. The single most important thing to know about meditation is what I just said in the last sentence: it is a discipline. The more often you practice, the better you become at sitting still and quieting the mind.
Getting Started with Meditation
Before you try this week’s meditation, set yourself up to succeed with these tips:
- Meditate at the same time and place every day.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Consistency is more important than length. Choose a period of time that is reasonable to you, even if it’s only five minutes a day.
- Avoid overeating before you meditate. For thousands of years, Tibetan monks and Hindu swamis have recommended leaving the belly half empty to be conducive to meditation.
- Prepare your body. If you are tight, sore, or achy, sitting still is going to be rough. Try going for a long walk or practicing five to ten rounds of sun salutations before sitting down. This lengthens the body and prepares it for the seated posture.
- Elevate your hips higher than your knees. It doesn’t really matter which posture you choose for meditation, as long as you have a tall spine. Elevating your hips on a yoga block, meditation zafu, or even a low bench can help align your pelvis better. This way, your skeleton bears more of the weight than your muscles. If you experience aches along the back while you sit, it is a sign you are working to hold up your body. Small amounts of fatigue are normal, especially when sitting for long periods, but try to use proper posture to take pressure off your back.
- Turn off your phone’s ringer, hit airplane mode, or choose “Do Not Disturb.”
- Consider setting a timer. I like the Insight Timer App on my iPhone as it keeps a record of my sits and rings a Tibetan bowl sound when my time is up.
Week 1: Mantra Meditation
Once you are ready to sit down, you may wonder, “Okay, what next?” Having a plan for your meditation will help you sit quietly in body and mind. Anything that keeps you focused on your present meditation will work just fine. You do not have to do an official “type” of meditation to succeed.
But, if you’re looking for concrete instructions, you can try one of the forms of meditation I will offer over the next eight weeks. This week, we’ll start with a simple mantra meditation. Remember consistency is key. Try just one form of meditation for at least a week to see how it works for you. If it works, stay with it.
Mantra is the repetition of any sound or image in order to keep the mind focused. A mantra can be anything you choose. I recommend picking something you can repeat on each breath. You can repeat it aloud or mentally to yourself. For many people, saying the mantra aloud for at least a minute or two to begin will help bring the mind into focus. This week, I’ll suggest a mantra that has worked well for me: “Just sit.”
This is a great mantra when you are overwhelmed and meditation seems like a tall task. It reminds you that simply by sitting meditation you are doing something good for your mind. To use this mantra, repeat the word “just” on the inhale and “sit” on the exhale.
Pick a time and place to sit down every day this week. Say the mantra aloud or to yourself for five to twenty minutes. Record your sit in a journal and feel free to include any notes on how it went for you.
If you have comments or questions on this meditation and how it is working for your practice, please ask them in the comments below. I will be checking in and offering any advice I can.
Enjoy your personal, quiet time. Just sit.
In case you missed it:
Vipassana: 8-Week Meditation Challenge #5
Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo 2 courtesy of Bethany Eanes.