Meditation benefits people who practice it regularly.Credit: bowie15 / 123RF Stock PhotoHave you ever tried to meditate? A lot of people think it’s a good idea, but the actual number of people who incorporate this practice daily into their lives is smaller than it could be. Perhaps you’re among those who would like to meditate, but you just don’t know how to get started. This article will help point you in the right direction.

Why Meditate?

Meditation has many benefits, a growing number of which are being verified by scientific research.

  • It’s a great stress reducer. In fact, some recent studies show that practicing over time helps relieve stress even when you’re not actively meditating.
  • Meditation can help you sleep better, by getting you into a more relaxed state.
  • Meditation help combat high blood pressure and other chronic symptoms.
  • Meditation can lead to a happier state and greatly increase your peace of mind.

But I Don't Know How to Meditate

That’s okay--it’s not difficult to grasp the fundamentals, although putting them into practice can be more challenging. Here are some strategies that will help you begin your practice:

  1. Sit somewhere comfortable. Buddhism gives many specific instructions about body position, but for beginners it’s suitable to find a comfortable seated position. The primary thing is to make sure your back is straight, so you may need to sit in a chair or against a wall. Cross your legs if you can, but if you can’t, that’s okay.
  2. Try to keep your eyes open. This will help you calm down the parade of thoughts that will try to distract you. Eyes open, but only just. Keep a soft focus as you gaze at a spot somewhere in front of you, maybe on the floor. If you find that it’s more comfortable to have your eyes closed, that’s okay too.
  3. Be aware of your thoughts. Try to think of them as parading by you. You’re not actually thinking these thoughts, you’re observing them. If you can recognize this truth, then you can become aware of yourself as the observer, which is exactly the place you want to be when you meditate.
  4. Now, begin to focus in on your breathing. Feel the physical sensations of your breath, how your belly expands when you breathe in, what your body feels as you breathe out. Now imagine that when you breathe in, you’re bringing light and life into your body. When you breathe out, you’re expelling any negativity or darkness from within.
  5. Count your breaths like this: inhale, one; exhale, two; inhale, three; exhale, four. Make them slow and steady breaths, and try to count to 10. Don’t worry if you can’t make it. If you notice your attention wandering, simply start over again without getting angry at yourself. When you can make it to 10, then count backwards again down to one. You may never make it all the way to 10, but that’s okay. It’s the process that’s important here. You’re training yourself to pay attention to what’s going on inside of you.

Make Meditation a Regular Part of Your Life

That’s all there is to it! I recommend that you try to do this for two to three minutes daily. When you can do this for a week straight, then maybe bump up your time to five minutes daily. Start gently and give yourself some time to make this a habit that you’re comfortable with.

If you’re having trouble, here are some strategies to help:

  1. Make a commitment that you can live with. Deciding that you’re going to do this for the rest of your life is a bit much. How about committing to meditating for three minutes a day for one month? Then you can re-evaluate and take it from there. Committing to the practice will help you, but make sure it’s a commitment you can keep with integrity.
  2. Make meditation a regular part of your routine. Perhaps you’ll find it fits best in your morning ritual. Or maybe the evenings are better for you. Or even during your lunch break. Three minutes is easy to fit in somewhere--just make sure it’s the same time of day. If you have to think about how to work it into your schedule every day, I guarantee it will fall by the wayside at some point. If you always know meditation comes after brushing your teeth, you’re much more likely to incorporate it into your day.
  3. Go somewhere with few distractions. Some people like to have meditation music playing while they meditate, while others find that a distraction. Personally, I like to go somewhere quiet that’s not too warm and not too cool. Again, find what works for you and then stick with it. And here’s a little extra tip: meditating on your bed may not be the best idea. You do want to be relaxed, but you don’t want to fall asleep!

 Meditation is a practice that will benefit you greatly if you make it a regular part of your routine. I hope these tips will be a helpful start. If you’re ready to learn more, here are some resources that can help you deepen your practice:

Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness
Amazon Price: $16.99 $6.93 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 11, 2013)
Mindfulness in Plain English: Revised and Expanded Edition
Amazon Price: $28.48 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 11, 2013)