6 Tips to Get Started with Meditation
Getting started can be the hardest part. Here are strategies to get you over the hump and start feeling calmer
Soon after beginning my meditation practice, I remember walking outside onto the streets of New York City and noticing how often people looked rushed and stressed. I felt I had a secret that I wished I could share with them.
Meditation can be thought of as exercise for the mind; it is a practice that focuses on the breath and trains the mind to redirect thoughts. “Meditation teaches you to unplug from distraction and experience the present moment,” Suze Yalof Schwartz, Founder and CEO of Unplug Meditation Studio in Los Angeles writes in her book, Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers.
In recent years, meditation has become increasingly popular. There has been much buzz about the benefits of meditation — reducing stress, increasing focus and productivity, reducing panic attacks, reducing blood pressure, and helping with sleep. A 2012 study even found that regular meditation may increase the brain’s ability to process information.
People who meditate regularly will tell you they feel calmer, generally happier, and have a greater sense of well-being than before. They will likely say they feel better equipped to take on challenges or handle stressful situations. All of this holds true for me, since I started meditating four years ago.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a home meditation practice but feel stuck or simply don’t know where to begin, read on. For many, taking the initial step can feel overwhelming. For some, the concept of just sitting still, seemingly doing nothing, seems hard to imagine, especially when so many thoughts are on our minds. Meditation will teach you what to do with those wandering thoughts.
Here are six simple steps to take for those who would like to begin meditating at home but are having trouble getting started.
1. Read a book about meditation.
Before you embark on your journey, educate yourself further about meditation and what it means. Since you are learning a new skill, it will help to have a deeper understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. There is no “right” or “wrong” book; pick the one that resonates with you. Take a look at the beginning pages of a few, then pick one that grabs you, and read it thoroughly. For me, that book was Yalof Schwartz’s Unplug, because when reading it, I felt like I was chatting with a friend. But there are many options to choose from. World renowned meditation guru Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program, The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day, by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by news anchor Dan Harris are just a sampling of books that have received rave reviews.
2. Invest in a comfortable meditation cushion in a color that you love.
Make sure the cushion has both a seat and a back to support you. Pick a favorite spot in your home that will become your personal meditation space and put the cushion there. I love purple and also love sunlight. My cushion is a beautiful lavender and sits next to an east-facing window. I meditate in the morning and can feel sunlight coming in even while my eyes are closed. Designate the cushion as a seat for meditation only. Do not sit on it while reading your emails, talking on the phone, or scrolling through social media. Think of the cushion as a place of luxury and calm that you look forward to sitting on.
3. Pick one meditation app and subscribe to it.
There are so many to choose from, and like the book, there is no right or wrong. The right one is the one you will stay with. Many apps offer a free trial period. If you are already a Peloton member, Peloton has their own guided meditations. Other popular meditation apps include Unplug, 10% Happier, Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer. I suggest starting with an app that has guided meditations for under ten minutes. When getting started, knowing that you are only going to sit for a maximum of ten minutes will help it feel less intimidating and more doable. I also recommend picking an app that has meditations led by a variety of teachers. Inevitably, you will soon develop your favorites, and having options will keep it interesting.
4. Commit to a 30-day challenge.
Look at your calendar and decide that you will meditate every day for 30 days without skipping a day. Start by committing to five minutes a day for the first week. Then increase it to ten minutes. When the idea that you “don’t have time” crosses your mind, tell yourself you can do anything for just 5 minutes.
5. Choose a time to meditate when you will not be disturbed.
While meditation can happen at any time of the day, many experts recommend meditating first thing in the morning. I enjoy getting my meditation over with in the morning, so it isn’t a chore to be done later in the day. I also find meditating in the morning sets the tone for a calmer, more productive day. Most important though is to choose a time when you will not be interrupted. Silence your phone and email. If it helps, jot down items from your “to-do” list on a piece of paper, then put that piece of paper aside, knowing you can return to it later. If possible, pick a time when you are home alone. If this is not possible, no problem, just close the door and let whoever is home know that you are going to meditate. Ask them not to disturb you.
6. Do not put pressure on yourself to meditate “correctly.”
Release yourself from any judgment about how well you are doing. Give yourself credit for following through. There will be days where you will have great meditation sessions and days when it does not feel immediately rewarding. Don’t ever fault yourself for having a less than ideal session. Pat yourself on the back for having meditated at all. Hold on to the feeling of accomplishment, relaxation, and the smile on your face that meditation will surely bring. And continue tomorrow.