Meditation is the skill of focusing 100% of your energy and attention in one specific area in the present moment. The consistent practice of meditation comes with a myriad of health benefits that include increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of well being and connection. Although a great number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually are consistent with their dedication for the long-term. The most difficult period of reprogramming personal habits or unconscious behaviors is the first 21 days. If commitment and dedication are disciplined with persistence for over the 21 day period, generally it is much easier for the person to continue to maintain their meditation practice. The benefits and rewards of a meditation lifestyle become exceedingly obvious, and the state of inner peace and balance are much easier to achieve in all life situations. Quieting the mind and becoming present to the now moment are the cornerstones of a balanced human being.
The purpose of this article is to provide practical recommendations to help beginners get past the initial resistance and integrate meditation into your lifestyle:
1) Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day, am and pm) to be still. We suggest the 12D shield practice as a daily meditation.
2) Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.
3) Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.
4) Meditate with Purpose. Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention on a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged with the process.
5) Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as intrusive or persistent thoughts interrupt our focus. When this happens, really re-direct focus onto your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.
6) Experiment. Beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, there is no wrong position or method if it works for you.
7) Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention on the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.
8) Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. Place candles and other spiritual or sacred objects in your room to help you feel at ease.
9) Read a book (or two) on meditation. Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states.
10) Commit for the longer term. Meditation is a life-long practice and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!
11) Listen to instructional audios, videos and CDs.
12) Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.
13) Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might whistle than you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.
14) Notice small adjustments. For beginning meditators the slightest physical movements can transform a meditative practice from one of frustration to one of renewal. These adjustments may be barely noticeable to an observer, but they can mean everything for your practice.
15) Use a candle. Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Lighting a candle and use it as your point of focus, to strengthen your attention using a visual cue. This can be very powerful to maintain focus.
16) Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time. Aim for not too tight and not too loose in your focus, so there is neither strain or slack in concentration.
17) Do it together. Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin!
18) Meditate early in the morning or late evening. It is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed.
19) Be Grateful at the end. Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.
20) Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane. Meditation is hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore. Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!
Meditation is an absolutely wonderful practice in developing yourself and quieting your mind. It can be very difficult in the beginning. Use the tips described in this article to get your practice to the next level!