Lately meditation has become the trendiest new thing. Everyone’s talking about it, practicing it, and praising its benefits.
If you thought about it too, but getting started seems complicated to you, let me show you how simple it is.
Let’s Begin with Some of the Advantages of Practicing Meditation:
- The ability to maintain inner peace even during times of turmoil and crisis
- The ability to see reality clearly, rather than through the pain of the past and the fear of getting hurt again
- The ability to not automatically react to emotional stimuli
- The ability to break free from troubling thoughts and burdening emotions
- The ability to truly enjoy the little moments in life
- A healthy and effective substitute for substances such as narcotic and psychiatric drugs, alcohol, etc.
- Reduces stress and improves overall health
- Enhances feelings of self-acceptance and wholeness
- Increases focus
- And more…
Okay, So How Do I Start?
The simplest way is to focus your full attention, for a second or a few seconds at a time, on your breathing, the sights, or the sounds around you, as many times as possible throughout the day. This simple exercise can be done anytime and anywhere.
Once a day I recommend a longer practice, for about 5-10 minutes. It’s important to do it in a quiet and pleasant place, but it’s less important in what position you sit (it’s not recommended to lie down as you might doze off), or if your eyes are open or closed. Don’t try to avoid thinking during practice of such length, it would create needless inner struggle. Focus your attention on the sights and sounds around you, on your bodily sensations, and on your breathing, and if thoughts pop into your mind, simply bring your attention back to the practice.
You can start with 2-3 minutes a day, and then, after a few days, go up to 5. And if that satisfies you then stay there. On a regular basis, 5-10 minutes a day are enough, otherwise the practice might turn into a burden.
From time to time, especially at moment of emotional turmoil, you may find it helpful to meditate for longer periods of time, more than once a day, to go out into nature to meditate, or to join a meditation group.
Meditation in Everyday Life
In addition to the exercises mentioned so far, you can use whatever action you do anyway as a ground for practice. For example, if you have to complete a task at work, rather than complaining in your head or out loud that it’s not interesting enough, give it your full attention and do it in the best possible way.
When walking down the street, once in a while focus your full attention on what’s around you – a flower on the side of the road, the view of the sky, a nice breeze, or the sensation of the soles of your feet on the pavement.
When you’re spending time with your kids, try to be really present with them – look at them, touch them, talk to them, and get off your phone for a while.
Yet it’s not only meditation but also the activities with which we choose to fill our free time that impact our inner state. Some activities create restlessness and agitation, and others increase inner peace.
Activities that create restlessness and agitation are the majority of screen activities: Social media, dating apps, going through online news portals, watching TV, and especially news broadcasts and reality shows.
(A good documentary or a nice TV show, in moderation, is not that bad.)
Activities that increase inner peace are reading books (also through electronic devices), sports, cooking, baking, gardening, sewing, and any other kind of creative activity. You should obviously choose something that you love doing.
A Few More Guiding Points…
The more rules you add to your meditation practice and the more firmly you stick to them, the quicker you’ll find yourself giving up on it. To ease things up, let’s clarify a few things.
How to sit?
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s less important whether you’re sitting on a chair or on the floor. While practicing, try to keep your back relatively straight, but relaxed. Place your hands in a comfortable position, and if needed, change your position during the practice.
If you’re sitting on the floor with your legs crossed, it might be easier to sit on a pillow or a yoga block.
Open or closed eyes?
Whatever you prefer. I used to meditate in the past only with my eyes open, whereas now I often meditate with closed eyes. Observation may surely be part of the exercise, as when we look around with curiosity, we begin to see the beauty in every little thing.
When and where?
It doesn’t really matter, as long as it works for you. It doesn’t have to be every day at the same time and place.
What Exactly Should I Do During the Practice?
Focus on your breathing, on you bodily sensations, pay attention to the sounds around you, and look around intently (when meditating with open eyes, or if you open your eyes during or at the end of the practice).
You can scan your body and examine whether it’s relaxed or tense, whether there’s any physical pain or emotional discomfort. And if you notice that any part of your body is tense, try to relax it.
You can also count your breaths, or follow each breathing cycle from the beginning to the end.
If you prefer a guided meditation, I highly recommend the Headspace app. You can check out their introductory series for free, as well as their Youtube channel.
Remember that it’s likely that thoughts will come to mind during the practice, perhaps even many of them. If that happens, simply notice it and gently turn your attention back to the practice.
And most important! Don’t be hard on yourself when you’re not steady in your meditation routine. Your “punishment” will be the unpleasant feelings of fear, anger, sadness, frustration, and discomfort, which will likely increase after some time without practice.