Oohummmmmm Did you know the word Om has a different meaning to every person and culture? To some, it means the breath of the universe. Others believe the word and its sound are the cosmos itself. Whatever you think, you know it by meditation. Which you've always meant to settle down and get into, right? Well, now you can, by using our meditation tips below. Grab a velvet floor cushion and keep reading.
1. Set Small and Low Goals
You may have heard of meditating monks walking across hot coals and not feeling a thing. That's probably never going to be you! And why should it be? You do not need to commit yourself so profoundly to meditation that you're silent for the rest of your life. Plus - it would take the rest of your life to get to that meditation level. Instead of setting that as your goal, why not set small timed intentions for your meditation practice. Like, I want to go a full minute meditating without getting distracted by my thoughts. When you can do one minute, aim for one and a half. While that doesn't sound that much, time spent meditating is different than time spent on anything else. If you try, 15 minutes can feel like three or three minutes can feel like 15. It's usually whatever your body needs the most - a long or a short rest. You don't even have to start with a full minute. Meditation can be as short as taking one breath with intention. Don't think one breath counts? The fact that you had the self-discipline and self-awareness to take a break and breathe says otherwise.
2. Use Meditation to Alert Yourself to Habits
Do you bite your nails? Or jitter your leg? Or do something all the time you wish you wouldn't do? Meditation can help you fix that. And not by putting pressure on yourself and getting critical when you find yourself biting again. How? You can use meditation to phase out habitual behaviours. Next time you catch yourself doing whatever you're trying to stop, stop and take a deep breath. Take three if you can. You'll start noticing when you engage in your bad habit more and be able to cease it more efficiently. After you've finished with your three breaths, think about which one made you feel better. The breaths washing through and nourishing your body or your bad habit? Then, if you have a second, think about what led you to engage in that bad habit this time. Was it a stressful meeting or an unhelpful conversation? A loud sound? Noticing is the first step to everything when it comes to meditation and self-awareness. As time goes on, you'll notice your habit faster and be able to replace it with breaths. The goal of this practice is to quit your habit altogether and reward your body with breath when you'd usually habitually engage.
3. Understand the Main Goal
Too many people try meditation and give up because they think they're not good at it. They can't stop thinking and are distracted by random thoughts. They think the goal of meditation is to have an undistracted, silent mind for however long they plan. But it's not, at least not for a very long time. The goal of meditation, in the first year or first few years, is to notice your distractions quicker. You're training your mind to concentrate on one thing. Just because another thought entered your mind, doesn't mean you've failed or you have to start over. It means you need to acknowledge that your mind has drifted and moved back towards meditation. In the beginning, you may spend 2/3 of the meditation distracted by a random thought. That's fine! What matters is how quickly and gently you return to your concentration. Don't get mad at yourself if you see thoughts scrolling through your mind; notice that they're there and re-focus. It's going to take time and work - but you'll find a blank mind.
4. Do it Daily
There are some things that if you do a couple of times, you're way more likely to do again. Like drugs. But unlike drugs, meditation is something you should do again and again. And as you do it more, you're more likely to continue. That's right. You can increase your likelihood of an extended meditation streak by not skipping the practice in the first three days. After the initial three days, you're already on a roll. That doesn't mean you should forget about it on day four-but you know what we mean.
5. Relax Your Body
Meditation isn't just a treat for your mind; it's a treat for your body as well. Did you know that meditating is a proven tool to lower your blood pressure? To get the full bodily effects of meditation, you need to make sure your body is as relaxed as your mind. You can start this process by relaxing your jaw. If that's new to you, clench and unclench it right now, paying attention to how relaxing it feels. You want to feel your chin move down and a little out- away from your neck. These should be small muscle movements-someone would only see them if they were staring at you intently. Once your jaw is unclenched, find a half smile. You don't need to cheese like you're getting your grade two photos done, slightly turn up the sides of your mouth. It may feel like your mouth didn't change position at all - but practice it in the mirror a few times. You'll see a subtle smile turns your face happier by about 10%. Finally, roll your shoulders back and move your neck around, if neck movement feels good. Most people hold a lot of stress on their shoulders and work all day with them hunched over. Imagine sliding your shoulder blades down your body and a little bit together. This motion will straighten your spine too, into an almost neutral posture. The trick is not to lose it while you're doing your meditation.
6. Find a Breathing Pattern You Like
There is a school of thought that believes in holding your breath between exhaling and inhaling. There is truth to some of what they think. But truth or not, don't force yourself into a breathing pattern you don't like. Some people feel the breath holding or gap between breaths sequence feels hard unnatural. That's fine-they should find another model that they enjoy. In general, you want your exhale to be longer than your inhale. Try the five-seven pattern at the start. Inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts. You can use your heartbeat if it's obvious to you in your space. Want to give your body a break between breaths? Try the five, seven, three methods. Where you take a three-second count before inhaling again after your exhale. Another thing to know about meditative breathing-it's almost always breathing through your nose and out through your mouth. But there's no wrong answer. If you have a cold and breathing through your nose isn't an option-don't skip your meditation!
7. Use Guided Meditations
Some people never leave the comfort of guided meditations. Even if they've been meditating for ten plus years. Guided meditations give people structure and gentle guidance throughout the meditation process. A calm voice usually speaks over some white noise-like nature sounds. They remind you to breathe and give you suggestions on what to concentrate. Some may even suggest mantras for you to repeat. The downside of guided meditations is that it's hard to find any that are less than ten minutes long online. If you're starting, ten minutes is a long time. Try listening to a ten minute guided meditation for sleep, before bed. That way if you don't finish your meditation, it's because you fell into a peaceful slumber.
8. Cool Down
Think of meditation as a little workout for your brain. You don't want to jump right back into what you were doing before you let your mind recover. Just like you wouldn't run three miles and then immediately sit back down at your desk and start typing. You'd slow to a walk and then do some stretches-cooling your body down. Do the same thing when you've finished your meditation. Stretch a little and give yourself thirty more seconds to let your brain return to its non-meditative state. And yes-that counts as making your meditation 30 seconds longer!
Wherever you meditate, be it on a lounge bean bag chair or a Buddhist prayer cushion - you should follow the meditation tips above. Even if it takes you way longer than you thought to have a clear brain for just ten seconds. Consider creating a zen meditation room. There's a reason they call meditation practice because that's what it takes — the commitment to learning and willingness to take the time out of your day.