Meditation is easier than you think. Here’s everything you need to know about how to start a meditation practice.
The practice of meditation dates back to antiquity. So how did something so fundamental become so overwhelming? Here is everything you need to know about how to start a meditation practice. Hint: It’s much easier than you may think it is!
Meditation: A Brief History
Although archeologists and scholars do not know exactly when meditation started, researchers agree that people have been practicing meditation for approximately 5,000 years. In fact, some believe it was central to the last phase of human biological evolution.
The earliest documented records of meditation date back to Ancient Buddhist India. Since then, meditation has been intertwined with hundreds of different religions, as well as yoga and other spiritual practices.
It wasn’t until the 18th century when translations of the ancient teachings made their way to the West. Fast-forward to the ‘50s, when Jack Kerouac popularized it through his book The Dharma Bums, a personal account of his experience with Buddhism. Throughout the ‘60s, yoga continued to gain popularity throughout the U.S.
Today, the number of books, resources, classes and websites devoted to meditation can be overwhelming. Lack of time, energy and ability to focus are often among the reasons many of us either give up or don’t try establish a meditation practice in the first place.
But for those of us that do, the benefits are countless.
What is meditation?
The word “meditation” stems from its Latin root, “meditatum,” or “to ponder,” which comes from the Sanskrit root “dhyai” which means “to contemplate.”
Although we may not be able to control what happens in life, we are able to control our own states of mind and change how they react to whatever life brings us. This is essentially the premise of meditation and, according to Buddhism, the single most important thing we can learn how to do.
Most integrated science and meditation experts would agree that finding one precise definition for what “meditation” means would prove to be challenging. Although the many approaches to meditation make it hard to describe, here are a few ways experts over the years have explained it:
- A means of transforming the mind,
- Series of self-regulation practices that foster our capacity for calm, clarity and concentration,
- Ability to create a blissful state,
- Balancing techniques that lead to multi-dimensional actualization.
- The ability to go beyond the “thinking” mind
- Resting the mind in silence, giving it a chance to rejuvenate
Benefits of meditation
It doesn’t have to be perfect, long, or even every day. Meditating for however long you feel comfortable doing so can offer the following benefits:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Decreased heart rate
- Increased blood flow
- State of relaxation
Benefits over time:
- Restructuring of the mind that allows you to detach from thoughts and savor life
- Blissful mood and well-being
- Enhanced ability to live slowly and manage life’s twists and turns
- Better ability to be present at work, at home and with loved ones
- Improved immunity and relief of chronic pain
- Deeper level of self-awareness and deeper understanding of yourself
- Better concentration
How to Start a Meditation Practice in 3 Simple Steps
Make a commitment
As with any practice, the first step to establishing a consistent meditation practice is to make a commitment to it. Studies show that when we verbalize our commitment to a new habit it is more likely to stick.
If you’re brand new to meditation, start with a commitment of just two minutes of meditation a day.
Schedule a time
It may sound crazy, but schedule those two minutes on your calendar, or find another way to make yourself accountable. You could set an alarm for a specific time of day, block out time on your Google calendar or enlist the help of a friend who can serve as a meditation partner with you. By scheduling a time for your new practice, you will be more likely to stick to it.
Focus on your breath
Hooray! You’ve made it to your scheduled two-minute meditation session. Here is a step-by-step guide to what to do to make the most of your session:
- Find a comfortable place to sit. Some people like to use a pillow or meditation cushion.
- Set a timer for 2 minutes.
- Sit with your back straight and close your eyes.
- Practice the 4-7-8 deep breathing technique: Breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, and release your breath for 8 counts.
- Try your best to focus your attention on your breath. If you can’t seem to still your mind, picture your thoughts going up into the sky and being carried away by a cloud as they enter your mind. Watch them drift away.
- Continue until your timer sounds.
- Meditating for 2 minutes a day, five days a week is better than meditating for 15 minutes one day a week.
- Can’t find 2 minutes? If you missed your session, try to practice deep breathing during a meeting, or be more present with your child when you get home at night.
- Be easy on yourself. If you lose yourself in thought, try to bring your attention back to your breath.
- Enhance your session by using essential oils, or by placing a warm, damp towel over your eyes.
- When you feel stress coming on, tap into your meditation practice to create space between an event and your reaction.
- Leverage resources and tools to help you establish a practice that is a perfect fit for you and your life.
Want to enhance your meditation practice even further?
After your session is finished, treat yourself to a soothing cup of herbal tea, or warm water with lemon.
Have you started a meditation practice?
What other tips do you have regarding how to start a meditation practice? Let us know in the comments below.