In the past few years, meditation has become wildly popular, transitioning from a religious technique rarely used in Western cultures to a widely-practiced method for self-improvement, stress management, productivity, and more. These days, it isn’t uncommon to see anyone and everyone meditating—from business professionals to celebrities to athletes. But is meditation for you? And how do you start meditating?
I know that getting started with meditating can seem a little overwhelming, but meditation is meant to be as simple as it is transformative. It’s free, always accessible, and has a wide variety of applications. If you think you might be ready to start meditating so you can see what all the hype is about, then this post is for you.
A brief history of meditation
Meditation is a well-established practice among religious traditions. The earliest record of meditation is from ancient Hindu texts, and meditation still plays an important role in modern Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Sikhism. Meditation is even important in religions like Judaism and Christianity (though Christians tend to think of it more as pondering or contemplation).
Among these traditions, meditation differs in the way that it is used and what it is used for, which makes it hard to clearly and objectively define the purpose or methods of meditation.
As a Christian American, I’ll be approaching meditation from a modern, Western perspective. But know that your own meditation practices can be easily adapted to fit your needs and goals.
My experience with meditation
I’ve always been what I would consider “open-minded,” especially when it comes to self improvement. I’ll try just about anything. Even so, until a few years ago, I was skeptical of meditation—largely because I was confused about how it would actually work.
“You just…sit there?”
“What am I supposed to think about?”
“What if I fall asleep? (I’m definitely going to fall asleep).”
But then, as more and more people started talking about meditation and its benefits, I got curious. I mean, just look at this list of things meditation can supposedly help with:
- Stress management
- Creativity and imagination
- Attention and focus
- Pain control
A list like that is pretty hard to ignore.
So I tried it. I sat down, closed my eyes, and tried meditating.
I would be lying if I said my first experience was life-changing…or even close to it. At first, meditating for me felt pretty awkward.
But practicing meditation takes…well, practice. So I stuck with it and gave it a few more tries.
It’s hard to say when exactly I started noticing a difference. But I know that at some point, I started to look forward to my meditation time. Then I started meditating for longer periods of time. Before long, it was a can’t-miss part of my morning routine. Meditation makes me feel grounded, centered, and ready to face the day ahead.
All of that to say: I know it can be hard to start meditating. But I am living proof that it is more than worth it.
How to start meditating
If you’re interested in meditating, but aren’t sure how to start, you’ve come to the right place. These tips will help you start a regular meditation routine that you can actually stick with, so you can get the benefits of meditation in your own life.
Schedule it in.
When you’re trying to start a new routine, it’s best to designate time for it. Choose a specific time for your meditation practice. I highly recommend either right when you wake up, right before you go to bed, or right before a regularly stressful time of day. Put it on your calendar. Set alarms on your phone. Do whatever you can to make sure you don’t forget.
There is no “right” amount of time to meditate. Each individual person will have an amount of time that they feel most comfortable with. That said, it is very difficult for most people who are just starting out to meditate for much longer than five minutes. That isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s something to be honest about. If you try to push yourself too hard right at the beginning, you’ll start to dread meditation time, rather than look forward to it.
Setting a realistic expectation will make it easier to start meditating and to stick with it.
Pick a place.
Just as you should set aside a specific time for meditation, you should also designate a specific place. Choose a place you can go regularly, and make sure it’s somewhere where you can be comfortable and undisturbed. When you’re creating an environment, use all of your applicable senses. If you want this to be a calming, meditative space, how do you want it to look, feel, sound, and smell? A comfortable place to sit, a scented candle, artwork or photographs you love, and so on can all help create the perfect meditation space that is personalized to your tastes.
Part of creating that perfect space is making sure you can be comfortable in it. That means a comfortable chair or couch, a floor mat, and/or pillows that will help you get in a comfortable position that you can stay in for five minutes (and eventually more). Some people prefer to sit up while meditating, while others lie down. Some choose to sit cross legged on the floor, while others like being in a chair with their feet flat on the ground. Whatever you choose is fine. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments as you go.
Use a guide.
Meditation is really quite simple. It’s all about learning to become mindful and present, observing our thoughts without judging them or even entertaining them. But how exactly do you do that? It can seem like a mystery if you try to go it alone. I strongly suggest that when you are just getting started with meditation, you use a guided meditation. These are easily found on YouTube or on apps such as Headspace or Calm.
During a guided meditation session, a guide will talk you through the entire process, helping you to stay present and on track.
Even some experienced meditators prefer to meditate with a guide. You may find that eventually, you no longer need a guide to meditate effectively, but I highly recommend starting out this way to help you learn the ropes.
Meditation has been a huge blessing in my life, and in the lives of many people I’ve recommended it to. I hope that, if you’ve never tried meditating, you’ll use this guide to help you figure out how to start meditating in a sustainable, enjoyable way that benefits your life and makes you feel more peaceful, creative, and happy.
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