How to start meditating | something for everyone
It’s a new year, and time for setting goals and resolutions. Is 2019 the year you meditate? Or be more mindful? If it is, know you don’t have to sit in stillness and silence for hours on end. You can move, and you can start small and still experience the benefits of improved calm and focus. Why not start today?
Here’s 3 ways to meditate, in as little as 10 seconds, to try. Remember you need to do it, not just read about it. Set aside time to practice a few of the spot meditations below.
When I teach meditation to beginners, we practice a variety of different ways to meditate, some of which are included below. The reason for this is so you can experience and find a meditation practice which you enjoy. If you enjoy it and find it easy you’re more likely to practice and therefore experience the benefits of a settled heart rate, the ability to pause and so be less reactive, to maintain focus and improve performance and staying present. We also explore ways to incorporate this into your life, so it becomes part of your daily routine.
A few ways you can meditate
1. Using the BREATH as a point of focus: an anchor to the present moment
There are countless ways to use the breath as a focus in meditation. Many people use the breath as their meditation focus as a lifetime practice. The breath is said to be the closest thing we have to the present moment, and so can act as an anchor for us in our practice, meaning we come back to the breath time and time again, to stay in the present moment.
Here’s a few breath meditations you can explore for yourself:
Sensing the breath.
How to do it: as you breathe in, notice where you feel the sensation of the breath in your body; as you breathe out, notice the sensation changing. Continue to consciously breathe, aware of what you sense as the breath flows in and out of your body. Tip – you might take your awareness to where you feel the breath most easily… it could be at the nostrils, chest, belly or somewhere else. It might be the movement in your body, the temperature of the breath as it enters and leaves the body, or another way the breath feels to you.
Counting your breaths
How to do it: as you breathe in, count ‘1’ to silently to yourself, and as you breathe out ‘2’. Continue, count ‘3’ as you breathe in and ‘4’ as you breathe out, up to 10, and then start again. If you lose count, start back at ‘1’ on the next in breath.
Regulating the breath
There are many ways to manipulate the breath for meditation. One example is ‘square’ or ‘box’ breathing’ which is used as a yoga practice, and also by US Navy SEALS, to stay calm and focussed in stressful situations.
How to do it:
i. Breathe slowly and deeply (filling your belly) in through your nose for a count of 4
ii. Gently hold the breath in for a count of 4
iii. Release the breath slowly, through your mouth, for a count of 4, contracting your belly to release all the breath from your lungs
iv. Hold the breath out, and the lungs empty, for 4 counts
v. Repeat for 5 – 10 breaths, or longer if you wish.
2. BODY scanning: Get out of your head and into your body
In our modern day lives we often spend much time in our heads, thinking, and reacting to the demands of the external world we live in. A body scan is a good way to start to get ‘out of your head’ and in touch with your body.
How to do it:
Brief Body Scan: Starting at your feet – take your awareness down to the tips of your toes. If this is a little challenging, you can wriggle your toes to help. From your toes, move your awareness to the soles of your feet, feeling the texture of socks, shoes, the floor, or earth under your feet. Continue to move your awareness from your feet to your legs, then torso, arms, up to your head. There are countless variations of a body scan – from head to toe, scanning the left side, then the right side, front and back.
Body Part Scan: place your attention on one part of the body and explore sensations that appear as you rest your awareness there. For example, take your awareness to your left arm and become aware of what you notice in the left arm. You can then compare the sensations in your left arm with your right arm. Note if one arm feels different than the other – longer, heavier, warmer, cooler. Just notice, with curiosity, rather than judgement.
3. SENSES: Sensing inhibits thinking
Our senses provide a readily available tool to be mindful. Tuning in to your senses can also offer a way to release the pressure valve throughout the day. To use the senses, as a spot meditation, simply take a minute to notice ‘what can I see, hear, smell, taste or touch’. This may be enough for you to ‘circuit break’ the stress cycle. For example, what 5 green things can I see? What 5 different sounds can I hear. Why is it so effective? Because sensing inhibits thinking. Habitual thinking, and over thinking, can cause much of our modern-day stress. There are many many ways to use your senses as a mindfulness meditation. Experiment with this and I’ll share some of my favourites in a blog to follow.
These Spot Meditationsare a good place to start. You can practice each of these for 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Stay with one or combine them if there’s a couple that resonate with you.
More approaches to meditation will be included in an upcoming blog - Open Awareness where you allow the mind to wander wherever it wishes and ‘sit back’ as a witness to what draws your attention, with an attitude of curiosity and interest, rather than judging or labelling what’s going on, to Mantra, Movement, Contemplation, and more.