A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

RESTORE_000014185704ResizedAlthough my wife has meditated regularly, I have only dabbled with meditation a few times.  But considering my heart issues lately, I have become more aware of mind/body connections and how important meditation can be as I get older (sigh).  I am convinced that the key to my heart staying healthy has as much to do with my mental health as it does my physical well-being.

Amazingly, meditation is also one of the most simple habits to do — you can do it anywhere, any time, and it will always have immediate benefits.

Meditation can be as simple as paying attention to your breath while sitting in your car or on the train, or while sitting at the coffee shop or in your office, or while walking or showering.  It can take just one or two minutes if you’re busy. There’s no excuse for not doing it; I’m actually doing it while I’m typing this.

Why Meditate?

Here are some great reasons to start meditating:

  • It relieves stress and helps you to relax.
  • The mindfulness you practice will carry out to everyday life.
  • Mindfulness helps you to savor life, change habits, live simply and slowly, be present in everything you do.
  • Meditation has been shown to have mental benefits, such as improved focus, happiness, memory, self-control, and academic performance.
  • Some research on meditation has indicated that it may have other health benefits, including improved metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and more.

Most importantly, sitting for just a few minutes of meditation is an oasis of calm and relaxation that we rarely find in our lives these days. And that, in itself, is enough.

How to Do It Daily

I am in the process of forming the daily habit slowly but surely, so my process here is simple:

1. Commit to just 2 minutes a day. Start simply if you want the habit to stick. You can do it for 5 minutes if you feel good about it, but all you’re committing to is 2 minutes each day.

2. Pick a time and trigger. Not an exact time of day, but a general time, like morning when you wake up, or during your lunch hour. The trigger should be something you already do regularly, like drink your first cup of coffee, brush your teeth, have lunch, or arrive home from work.

3. Find a quiet spot. My wife thinks early morning is best, before others in the house are awake and making lots of noise. Others might find a spot in a park or on the beach or some other soothing setting. It really doesn’t matter where — as long as you can sit without being bothered for a few minutes.

4. Sit comfortably. You can sit wherever and however you like.  I put my hands up slightly, as if I am holding a basketball; it is actually less stress on my shoulders than putting my hands on my lap.

5. Start with just 2 minutes. In order to form a long-lasting habit, just start small.  If you can go for longer than 2 minutes, fine.  Expand to 5-7 minutes if you can do it for 7 straight days, then 10 minutes if you can do it for 14 straight days, then 15 minutes if you can stick to it for 21 straight days, and 20 if you can do a full month.

6. Focus on your breath. As you breathe in, follow your breath in through your nostrils, then into your throat, then into your lungs and belly. I like to sit straight and close my eyes.  If you want to keep them open, fine.  As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world. Think of breathing in the “energy from the universe” and blowing out all the stress.  Count your breath: in for 4, out for 4; in for 8, out for 8, etc. If you lose track, start over. If you find your mind wandering (and you will), just pay attention to your mind wandering, then bring it gently back to your breath. Repeat this process for the few minutes you meditate. You won’t be very good at it at first, most likely, but you’ll get better with practice.

And that’s it. It’s a very simple practice, but you want to do it for 2 minutes, every day, after the same trigger each day. Do this for a month and you’ll have a daily meditation habit!

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