STARTING A DAILY MEDITATION PRACTICE
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." - Mother Teresa
A regular meditation practice has a profound impact on our overall state of happiness and wellbeing. It is no wonder that this is a primary practice of so many spiritual traditions. In the past this important practice has been cloaked in mystery or guised as an impossible task reserved for only the most practiced monks. Fortunately more and more people are realizing it's profound positive impact and are open to exploring the practice. If you're someone who could benefit from any of the following then please keep reading.
Deeper sense of self
Compassion for yourself and others
Sense of community
Beginning the Process
Sensing your breath: Either sitting or lying down comfortably begin to bring your awareness more attentively to your breath. Sensing the inhales and exhales. Become aware of how the body subtly moves with each breath. The key is to observe and acknowledge the breath without gripping it with the mind and body. There is no need to control the breath at this stage but to simply observe. Over time you may refine the attention to smaller and smaller spaces. For example you may bring the focus to the rims of the inner surfaces of the nostrils, then the rims of the apertures of the nose, then maybe to specific space along the aperture.
Counting breaths: If during any practice you come to realize that it is difficult to focus your mind on the breath alone you can engage the mind in counting the breaths. Every time you take an inhale and exhale you would count up one number. If during your practice you lose count, you simply start back again at one.
Malas can create a more precise system of tracking your breath or repetition of your preferred mantra. Malas are traditionally a necklace of 108 beads thread together. To use a mala, hold it in one hand, starting from the largest bead (guru bead) and slide one bead through your first finger and thumb every time you take a breath or repeat your mantra. The number 108 is significant in Vedic culture as the wholeness of existence. The sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth.
Sitting comfortably: Finding a comfortable position is important. It is already difficult enough to focus your mind on your breath. You do not want to put the body in a position that creates discomfort because it will become a distraction to your practice. If the goal of yoga is to eliminate suffering then it does not make sense to place ourselves in a position for practice that creates it.
Dealing with distraction: Distractions are completely normal and natural responses of an untrained mind. You should begin your practice with this understanding. In the beginning it is not the goal to have no distractions, it is to be able to handle those distractions more skillfully. This is a simple practice, but takes time. When you become aware that your mind has become distracted, compassionately return it back to focusing on the breath. Know that having the awareness that the mind has become distracted is a sign that you are improving, and every time you bring the mind back you are getting stronger in your practice.
Working with discomfort: Sitting for meditation for long periods of time can get uncomfortable. When you notice discomfort in your body, practice not reacting immediately. Try to determine if you are feeling tension and pain, or restlessness and boredom. Do your best to resist the temptation to immediately make a change. Instead, pause, notice and understand the discomfort. It may be something that goes away on its own or you may ultimately need to make a physical adjustment to alleviate.
Bridging to daily life: A regular meditation practice would not hold nearly as much value if we only ever experienced its benefits in the short times we sat down to focus on our breath. It’s important to use the tools of meditation to help one become more conscious and present in our daily activities and relationships. With a regular practice you will begin to notice that your levels of stress are reduced. You will pause in difficult moments to take a deep breath first and center yourself before moving on. You will feel a greater connection to others and the world around you. When you have these moments acknowledge and honor them. They are also signs that your work is good and is starting to take hold not just in your mind but in your being.
For a step-by-step guide along with prerecorded mediations check out The 8-Week Meditation Training. This training is like having a personal meditation guide to get you started.