Starting a Meditation practice

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Meditation is a technique used to rest the mind and bring about a state of consciousness and sense of oneness with all. It is an inward focus which brings our mind beyond the daily mind experience and mental chatter to a higher state of awareness and awakening. This awakening invites us to step into the capacity we have to live fully and to connect to universal wisdom.  Meditation happens when we focus our minds in a chosen direction and we are able to maintain that connection for some period of time. It’s about cultivating the ability to be continuously connected to wherever you put your attention. It is the absorption of the observer and the observed. When this union happens and all else falls away, you are in a meditative state. It doesn’t matter how long this state lasts. It can be a few seconds to minutes at a time. The practice of meditation is about continuously bringing your attention back to your object of focus, i.e. breath, mantra, object, prayer.

Starting a meditation practice can seem intimidating, but let’s take the mystery out of meditation by following these simple steps. Let go of any expectations you might have about what it’s “supposed” to be or look like. Every person is different. Each time you meditate, it will be different. There is no right way to do things. You’re doing just fine.

▪ Set a realistic expectation of yourself for how long and how often you will practice. When creating a new habit, it is important to start small and build up. If you’ve never mediated before, even 5 minutes might seem like a lot. You can try beginning with 1 to 5 minutes of meditation. Do it as many days as you realistically think you can. Do this until it feels like a new habit. Then you can begin to either add time or add a day, but don’t do both at once.  When you are pressed for time, instead of skipping your practice, just shorten it. If you fall off the wagon, try not to judge yourself or beat yourself up. Just recognize it and begin again. Daily practice is the goal and for maximum benefits, work your way up to 20 minutes a day.

▪ Find a space in your home that is quiet and away from distractions. You will need a place to sit comfortably. It’s up to you if you want to make your space pretty. If you like, you can add candles, an altar or  fresh flowers. If you are using your phone as a timer or for guided meditation, make sure it is on “Do Not Disturb.”

▪ Sit upright with a long spine, as this helps keep us alert and aware. If you can’t sit comfortably on the floor with the legs crossed, then see if you can raise your hips by sitting on a pillow or sit in a chair with your spine supported and have your feet flat on the floor.

▪ For beginners, using your breath as your object of focus is easiest. To begin, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath. Just follow the inhale and exhale and notice the qualities of the breath as you breathe. For example, you can notice the coolness of the air as you inhale and the warmth of the air as you exhale or the rise and fall of the belly as you breathe.

▪ When your focus gets interrupted (as it most definitely will) with thoughts, then acknowledge the thought and let it float by like a cloud in the sky, bringing your attention back to the breath. This may happen many times in the beginning of starting a meditation practice, but it will lessen over time as the mind becomes accustomed to stillness.  

Important Questions to Ask Yourself:

·        Why do you want to meditate?

·        What do you think is in it for you?

·        Where will you meditate?

·        When and how long will you meditate? Day(s), time of day, how long?

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Non-judgement is probably the most important thing you can remember when beginning a meditation practice. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge your practice. If you fall off the wagon, hop back on. Remember that the point of meditation is not to have a particular experience or outcome, but to become aware of the present moment and Be in that moment, whatever it is. Bring an open heart and open mind to your meditation practice. Fill the spaces within yourself with compassion and love and in return you will find more peace, a greater connection to all and awaken to divine wisdom.

By Elizabeth Finnan of YogE Wisdom