Posted by Jay Suthers on Aug 26th, 2015
Starting a meditation practice is like exploring uncharted territory. We try to prepare for the adventure, but we never really know exactly where we are heading or how best to proceed. Thankfully, there is no right or wrong way to begin a meditation practice. As long as your intention is to learn meditation, you are on the right track.
Here are seven tips that might be helpful in psychologically preparing you for meditation practice.
Be Patient with Yourself
Meditation is a process not unlike learning to play piano, to dance, or to speak a foreign language. You will not master it in one session, one weekend, or maybe even a lifetime. Even choosing a meditation cushion is a process. You need to understand what will work best to help you maintain physical comfort during meditation. Once you have a set of meditation cushions, you will have to work with them to get them comfortable. As I always say, “You and your cushions need to get acquainted with each other.” Be patient with the process and be especially forgiving. You may not feel as though you are having any success, but over a period of time, you will realize the benefits of meditating.
Have a Routine
I’ve always wanted to play piano. I’ve taken lessons and worked with lesson books, but I’m not very good at it - just managing to plunk out some familiar tunes. If you talk to any piano teacher they will always tell you, “Practice, practice, practice.” Meditation needs to have a routine or habit, as it were. You have certain routines for your day and you need to set a routine schedule for meditation as well. Get out some paper and write out your daily schedule. Then write in your meditation practice. Give it an appointment each day. Soon, it will become a habit to sit for meditation as much as any other routine in your day.
Let Go and Relax
I don’t want to criticize anyone for trying to help others, but there is a lot of advice about meditation that may simply be misguided. You will be told that you have to breath in a certain way or that you must sit perfectly still for at least 3 hours a day (I exaggerate, maybe). These practices have their merit, but more often do not enhance your meditation experience and are more likely to lead you to want to stop practicing. You must let go of rigid methodology along with all the other thoughts that distract you from the natural relaxation that is meditation. Any process that leads to thoughts of, “Am I doing it right?” will surely lead to anxiety about meditation. You are always doing it right if you feel better (more clear, more relaxed) after a meditation session.
Be Flexible and Flow
This tip may not seem very different from the previous one, but I mention this only because learning to relax and flow is vital to success in meditation. Things may not always feel as thought they are going well. Despite our newfound practice, we still have to live and operate in the real world where we hold jobs, pay bills, do child or pet care, manage interpersonal relationships, and so on. One of the supreme goals of meditation is to integrate your calm demeanor with the rest of your life. In time, you will find that you can maintain calm in more situations. This is flow. If your routine is interrupted and you have to meditate at a different time than usual or you just can’t get a session in on a given day, be flexible. As soon as you can, get your meditation session in for the day. Then reestablish your flow of calm.
Whatever the outcome of a meditation session, always be grateful to yourself for your effort. Even if a session doesn’t go well - your legs go numb, your mind wanders, something interrupts your session - be grateful for what you learned from the session and for the time you were able to meditate. You are always making progress.
Join a Meditation Group
Meditation groups can be found in nearly any major city. Being a part of a group will help you to stay motivated and focused with your meditation practice. Before joining a group, find out what their style is - Buddhist, Vipassana, Siddha Yoga, Christian, or non-denominational. Meditation is generally not a religion, but you will want to be sure that any belief system does not go against your grain. Also, as I mention earlier, be careful of advice that is too rigid or otherwise creates more anxiety than comfort. You can always visit a group and then walk away if it’s not right for you. But, typically, being with like-minded people who share your intention of learning meditation is a positive experience.
Seek Out More Information
Meditation was once an obscure practice taught by a half-naked, white-haired man from India to a commune of free-spirited people in the 1960s. Fortunately, meditation has become quite mainstream. Christianity is even embracing meditation through Centering Prayer. There is a lot of information available in the form of books and online articles. Simply Google your questions - you don’t have to know the words, Google is very good at handling your long string questions and sorting them out into relevant information. In any case, make it a regular practice to read material on meditation. You will gain insights along the way that will help you to grow your practice.
I hope these tips have been helpful and I hope you will have a lot of fun starting and growing your meditation practice.
Thank you for reading,
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