To get the most out of your meditation practice there are some basic “best practices” to try to stick to. These include set and setting, posture, timing and clothing.
Set and setting – ideally find a spot that you can go to each day and make it your own. Create a space that’s just for you – your special place. Dress it up with whatever you need to represent that special place where you go to do your special work. Remind yourself why you are practicing meditation – your intention. Is it to improve your mental and emotional health? Enhance healing? Train your autonomic nervous system? Set your intention before your session.
Posture – you don’t need to be curled up in the pretzel position. You could be seated in your comfiest chair, using a meditation stool or cushion, cross legged on the floor or even lying down. Make sure your posture makes you comfortable and relaxed, yet alert and awake. If seated, feet flat on the floor, upright back, open chest, shoulders over your knees, ears over your shoulder and your chin tucked in slightly to lengthen the back of the neck. No slouching!!
Timing – experiment and find what works for you and your life. I personally enjoy morning meditations. Sometimes you can get too tired at night and begin to fall asleep. Experiment and find your time.
Clothing – you don’t need to be wearing Thai fisherman’s pants and have your clothes aligned to your chakras… But if you want to, that’s awesome. Loose fitting comfy clothes will do.
“But I can’t meditate, I’ve tried” I hear you say. “My mind just won’t switch off”
A common misconception that sets people new to meditation up for frustration is the idea that their thoughts will magically disappear. This will not happen. Sorry! The thoughts will always be there, we can’t stop the thoughts, but what we can do is slow down the amount of thoughts, decrease their volume and dominance in the mind, and choose not to jump on board with the thoughts.
This is how we get freedom from our thoughts and calm down the “Monkey Mind” – that internal chatter. As with any skill, whether it be learning to play tennis, drawing or learning to meditate, at the beginning you tend not to be very good at it. It will take a little while to “get it”.
Meditation is a skill, not a gift, and with any skill it needs to be cultivated. Daily practice, or cultivation, is recommended. Aim for 15-30 minutes once, or even better, twice a day. The learning curve is steep, but it is also a short one.
Remind yourself regularly that beginners have beginner experiences – this is a very important point. Frustration, boredom, a racing, loud internal chatter… be patient, apply the techniques and soon this will pass. It takes a while for the body and mind to feel safe enough to drop its dominant brain wave frequency, balance the nervous system and allow the mind and body to calm. Gentle perseverance and patience is all that’s needed.
Here’s a simple Anchoring meditation that can be practiced each day as part of your daily self-care routine:
- Start each and every meditation with 5 minutes of deep diaphragmatic breathing (breathing deep into your belly like mentioned in this blog) to calm the nervous system, lower your brain waves and get your body and mind into a conducive state for meditation.
- Once there, bring your awareness to the dark space before your closed eyes. With a soft gaze gently observe this space. You may see muted shapes or colours, that’s fine. Just watch. Each time a thought tries to take you away from this space simply bring your awareness back to the dark space
- After 5 minutes or so shift your awareness to the sounds you can hear inside and outside of the room. Try not to go into “story mode” trying to figure out what the sound is, simply let the sounds to be sounds. Nothing more than that. Just listen. Allow yourself to be bathed in the sounds (it’s nice to do this practice outside in the early morning).
- Again, if your mind gets distracted, simply take the next opportunity to come back to the sounds. No judgment or criticism of yourself. Simply come back to the sounds. Be gentle on yourself.
- After another 5 minutes or so, bring your attention back to the breath. Feel your breath. Tune into it. Get intimate with it. The sound of the breath, the sensations, feel the movement it creates, rising with the in breath, sinking with the outbreath. Notice the pause in between the breath. Simply follow each breath whilst breathing deeply and slowly.
- To finish, strengthen the breath, bring movement to the body and slowly, when you are ready, open your eyes.