The Basics of Meditation
Meditation is known for its life-changing benefits in reducing stress and promoting relaxation, but it supports so much more. Meditation helps de-clutter the mind and release thoughts and actions that no longer serve a purpose. It helps cultivate courage, humor, and stability in all aspects of life. Committing to a daily practice will help new meditators stay consistent and experience the many benefits meditation brings to everyday life. Try my 40 Day Meditation and experience it for yourself.
Set Up Your Meditation Space
- Choose a location that is private, quiet, and soothing. Adjust the temperature to your comfort level. If this isn’t possible, wear appropriate clothes so you can let go of temperature concerns. Take care of this space. Keep it tidy and welcoming for your return each day.
- Put objects around you that help you feel safe and comforted (such as photos, symbols of hope, stones, objects that make you smile).
- Use a natural fiber wool or cotton blanket or sheepskin if you have one. You might also want to have an additional blanket available to wrap around yourself. Comfort is essential. Bring in a meditation pillow that allows you to feel relaxed in your space.
Make Yourself Comfortable
- Sit on the ground in a position that allows your spine the ability to lengthen. Alternatively, sit in a chair that allows your feet to rest on the ground. Use whatever pillows or props you need to make this position as comfortable as possible.
- Sit tall and feel the crown of your head reaching toward the sky.
- Tip your chin just enough to lengthen the back of your neck so your breath can flow freely.
- Place your hands on your belly and breathe as you normally breathe. Notice: Is your belly pulling in when you take a breath, or is it pushing out? If your belly pulls in on the inhale, your breath will be shallow, only letting the air enter the upper part of your lungs. When your belly expands on the inhale, your lungs are flooded with fresh air, blowing up like a balloon.
- Keep your hands on your belly as you practice. Inhale. Feel your body expand, starting with your chest and stretching all the way to your belly. If your breath doesn’t make it to your belly at first, don’t worry. Allow it to go where it feels most natural, and work toward moving it deeper into your body.
- Exhale. Feel your body contract from your belly up to your chest. Let all the air from your lungs release.
- Start again.
Find a Hand Position (Mudra)
Just as there is no one way to sit, there is no one position for your hands. These are three that I recommend; each one works beautifully for an everyday practice.
- Place your hands in your lap with your left hand cradling your right hand. This is a receptive mudra that brings in the energy of acceptance, surrender, and compassion for yourself and others. Use this mudra when you are trying to control that which you cannot control.
- Place your hands on your knees with your palms down. This mudra will offer grounding support. Use this mudra when life feels overwhelming and out of control.
- Place your hands on your knees with your palms up. This is the mudra of strength, courage, and power. Use this mudra when you feel unworthy, insecure, or weakened by life events.
Frequently Asked Questions about Meditation
Why should I meditate?
The benefits of meditation are life-changing and well-documented. Here are some personal examples of how meditation has improved my life:
- It has helped me to become more compassionate with others and myself, and this has brought peace to my life.
- It has given me more understanding for others and has made it easier for me to feel joy in my relationships.
- It has helped me to open to my inner potential and be more creative.
- It has helped me to connect and develop my parasympathetic nervous system. In other words, it has helped me learn how to press the pause button and understand that life is not an emergency.
- It has allowed me to experience far more mental clarity and recall.
- Physically, it has helped balance my blood pressure, support restful sleeping, and bring awareness to my eating and exercising habits.
When should I meditate?
Meditating in the morning is best. As you set up your practice, the goal in the beginning is to be consistent. If you commit to meditating early, before the day gets too busy, then you have a better chance of being successful in your efforts. But if morning doesn’t work for you, then aim for a time that you feel you can realistically commit to.
How do I open my meditation practice?
It is always good to start your practice with an intention. It reminds us as practioners that we are participating in a ritual that has great potential for healing. In the Kundalini yoga tradition, we open our practices with the Adi Mantra. Even though you may not understand the Sanskrit meaning of the mantra, the sound current lays the ground for the work ahead. Listen to it here.
If this isn’t your thing, create your own intention, or chant three rounds of om to set the tone.
- Connecting to your breath is a natural way to open your practice.
- Get grounded. Notice how your body touches the earth and experience that connection. Plug yourself in to the unlimited potential of the earth.
- At the beginning of your meditation, dedicate your practice to a loved one or someone in need.
How long should I meditate?
Be realistic. In the beginning I recommend 3 to 6 minutes, and when you can, work up to 15 to 30 minutes. Consistency is key.
Am I trying to get rid of all thoughts while I meditate?
As long as you are a living, breathing, heart-pumping human, there is no such thing as ridding yourself of thought. Don’t fret, though; you can dramatically shift the way you interact with your thoughts through meditation.
The misunderstanding is that you think you are your thoughts, and this is where suffering comes into your life. The more you meditate, the more space you create between your thoughts and your life.
A mantra practice is a powerful way to steer your frantic mind to focus. It is through this directive that the mind is trained to support you rather than harm you.
Meditation teaches the mind how to be more confident, compassionate, and loving, and this empowerment will change everything in your life.
What if I feel strong emotions while I am meditating?
When we bring hidden emotions to the surface and sit with them without judgment, they very often release organically. With a consistent practice, your mind will release into your consciousness and the information that’s needed for you to take the next steps on your healing path will be clear. Always honor where you are in the moment. If it feels like too much, gently bring your practice to a close that day. This kind, compassionate way of interacting with yourself will encourage great trust in yourself and reconnect you with your spirit.
What happens if I fall asleep during meditation?
The mind gets weary and looks for any occasion to rest and rejuvenate. As a new meditator, your mind is still trying to figure out what you are doing and thinks meditation is sleep time (this is a good reason for you to meditate just after you wake up). Settling in to an upright posture and focusing your breath will indicate to the mind that you are not in resting mode but in meditation. Be patient. If you are just starting out, it could take some time, but with a dedicated practice, it will happen.
How do I end my meditation practice?
Seal your meditation with gratitude. Honor the gifts that this reflective time has brought to your life. Fill your heart with appreciation.