THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO MEDITATION
Is meditation on your ‘to do’ list, but you never seem to get around to it?
Or maybe you've tried it a couple of times, only to decide you suck at it?
Or maybe you secretly associate meditation with dirty hippies and obsessed yogis...and can’t stand the thought of becoming one of ‘them’?
Over the years, I’ve discovered that many of the reasons people have for not meditating, typically fall into one of three categories:
1. Not enough time (too busy with work, family, and other time consuming obligations).
2. Not physically able (body/health ailments that make sitting uncomfortable and even painful - including migraines).
3. Not mindfully able (too distracted, too active a lifestyle, the timing is never good).
I totally get where you're coming from. Seriously, there are times I’ll do anything to avoid pulling out my meditation bench - and that includes running errands, doing yoga, or pulling weeds - which, I’ll have you know, are my least fave activities.
(It’s so weird how we’ll do our best to avoid the very things we know are good for us).
My point is, meditation is by far the easiest way to make vast improvements in your life. In fact, even if you start with just one minute per day of stillness, every single aspect of your life will benefit from it.
So if you have the desire to get started, but you also have resistance to it - I invite you to say to yourself (either out load or in your mind):
I am able and willing to meditate.
I am able and willing to meditate.
I am able and willing to meditate.
These words, when said with heart, will help you to let go of any reason or excuse that’s been holding you back - because no matter what your life looks like, you do have the time and the ability to incorporate meditation into your day…and in a variety of ways. I promise.
Now Let’s Get Started!
Meditation: What’s All The Fuss?
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is a form of mind training.
WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?
Its purpose is to dissolve the mental blocks that prevent you from fully enjoying your life.
WHO IS IT FOR? AM I QUALIFIED?
Meditation is a non-denominational practice, meaning it’s for anyone and everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion etc. etc.
Am I too old/young?
You can begin at any age.
I like to drink and party occasionally. Do I have to be substance free before I can meditate?
No, you don’t have to be substance free before you start meditating. However, once you are on the journey of meditation and your mind is becoming more and more purified, you may no longer desire these substances.
Will I turn into a weirdo?
Only if you want to! I know, I know, there are plenty of woo-woo characters out there who are associated with meditation, and you can be like that for sure - but only if you want to. You can also lead a perfectly normal and grounded life because it's still up to you to choose how you want to live your life - it’ll just be a much better one!
I’ve tried to meditate, but I can’t get rid of my thoughts…
Meditation is often highly misunderstood in the sense that it’s not actually about getting rid of your thoughts or denying their presence! Instead, the idea is to be a silent observer, like when you watch a movie. Sure, you may get emotional at a pivotal scene, but you let the moment (and emotion) pass without taking it home with you.
I don’t understand all this talk about the ego, and what’s the difference between self and Self? Is God and Spirit the same thing?
Continue reading, as this is all explained below…
HOW WILL MEDITATION BENEFIT ME?
- Wanna lose weight? Meditate
- Wanna fulfill your life purpose but have no idea what is? Meditate
- Want to have the best relationships you’ve ever known? Meditate
- Want to attract the man/woman of your dreams? Meditate
- Want to look and feel healthy and vibrant? Meditate
- Want more time in your day? Meditate
- Want to make bold, life-changing decisions with ease (or any decision for that matter)? Yep, you guessed it. Meditate!
No matter how burdensome your life may feel right now, through meditation you can create a life you love. It’s really that effective.
WHAT KINDS OF MEDITATION ARE THERE?
There are many different forms of meditation, just like there are many forms of; yoga (ashtanga vs. hatha), dance (salsa vs. hiphop), and music (country vs. rock).
Below are a few popular forms of meditation:
Transcendental Meditation: (TM for short), is a technique that uses meditation, repetition of a mantra (a word or sound that you repeat throughout a meditation to help focus the mind), and other yogic practices.
Kundalini meditation is a technique that uses mantras, breath work, mudras (hand positions), and sometimes physical movements.
I practice a form of meditation called Vipassana meditation, which means 'to see things as they really are’. It is referred to as the process of liberation through self-observation.
WHAT IS THE EGO?
The ego is your individuality, commonly referred to as the ‘self’, ‘I’ or ‘me’. It encompasses all of the attributes pertaining to the image you have of yourself.
HOW DOES MEDITATION WORK?
Meditation trains your mind to dissolve the ego, allowing you to tune into the truth about who you really are.
WHAT AM I, IF I’M NOT ‘ME’?
You are the embodiment of Pure Love (a.k.a. God, Spirit, The Universe, Self). You were made in the likeness of God, who represents eternal Love and Joy.
God, Spirit, The Universe, Self, Angels and Fairies - are all terms used to represent your higher consciousness. They are not separate from each other and you are not separate from them...you are them, and they are you.
Together, we are One.
SOUND ODD? READ ON:
In the beginning, meditation is like getting a personal tour of your ego.
(Remember, the ego identifies with the world of; things, possessions, achievements, beliefs, fears, desires, and all the other ‘stuff’ that makes up the image of who you think you are).
In other words, you are likely to spend much of your time ‘lost in thought’ when you first begin the practice of meditation.
You’ll find yourself jumping around from one thought to another as you obsess over something from the past and/or plan ahead for the future.
In fact, your mind will be so busy organizing all of those thoughts (and also wrapped up in the emotions that go with them), that you won’t even recognize it’s happening!
This is the epitome of an untrained mind, and sadly, most of us will live our entire lives this way simply because we don’t know any better!
But don’t worry, meditation teaches you to have awareness of your thoughts, and with awareness comes the ability to release your attachments to these thoughts rather than obsess over them.
In other words, you can change the habit pattern of your mind!
I STILL DON’T GET IT. HOW DOES MEDITATION TAKE ME BEYOND THE EGO AND INTO THE TRUTH?
Meditation helps us to go beyond (transcend) the ego and into a naturally consistent state of calm and peace - a.k.a our truth, by teaching us to observe our thoughts objectively.
For example, I recently became upset when I found out that my vacation trip was during the exact same time a bunch of old friends (whom I hadn’t seen in years) were coming to town - which meant I wouldn't be able to see them. I was super bummed, to say the least, and while my heart wanted to accept the news gracefully (I was about to go on vacation for goodness sake), my mind just didn't want to let it go!
As one might expect, I was so agitated during my meditation that day! My thoughts had me trying to sort out why this was happening, my emotions had me upset and frustrated, and I couldn’t stop trying to ‘fix’ the issue.
Why is this happening? Could we change our dates? Could they change their dates?
I was so attached to resolving this supposed 'problem' that it became my new drama, and one that I played out over and over again in my head to the point that I was completely unaware of my breath.
After about 10 minutes of feeding more and more negative energy to the drama - I was even more agitated than before!
In other words, instead of being present in the moment (I was sitting still. Nothing else was happening. They hadn't arrived and I hadn't gone anywhere) - I was actually compounding my frustration by obsessing over something that didn't even exist.
Eventually, I recognized the need to come back to my breath. And with a steady focus, the drama began to dissipate. Not right away, mind you, because I continued to go back and forth between the drama and my breath, but eventually it became more breath and less drama, until I was fully able to observe the frustration objectively.
So instead of:
‘OMG I’m so frustrated, this sucks, I’m so pissed off...and could shoulda woulda...’
It goes like:
‘Oh, hey there frustration. I recognize a sense of agitation. Hmm, I will just observe this sensation until it passes, because I know it will, because that's what happens when I focus on my breath...'
Can you feel the difference?
Another way that helped me to let go of the drama was to accept the reality of the situation as it was. Why fight it and feel crappy when I could choose to accept it and feel good instead?’
Does this make sense?
And then, when I did go on my vacation and those friends were in my hometown, I trusted that everything was working out exactly as it should. I wished them well and I wished myself well, because we all deserve to feel good, no matter what.
Through objective observation you'll learn just how fleeting your thoughts are as they come and go without rhyme or reason. You'll find that some bring up more emotions than others, some that feel good and some that don’t, some that you will want to keep thinking about and some that you won’t be able to get rid of fast enough.
But as you practice letting these thoughts come and go without attaching to them, along with any emotion and/or physical pain you experience in the process (no matter how dark and twisted they may be), you’ll notice that, eventually, they all disappear.
This is the process of dissolving the ego while simultaneously tuning into your true Self, and it’s through this process that you’ll begin to feel better. That is, less fear, worry, and doubt - and more peace, calm, and joy.
The way to the truth is by having presence in the moment, and this is what meditation trains your mind to do as you sit in stillness.
SO WHEN DO I GET TO THE GOOD STUFF?
Meditation means sitting in stillness, which also means that aside from your breath - there’s absolutely nothing else going on. Yes, your mind will wander, but with practice the gap between those thoughts will widen.
These gaps are the gateway to the truth, and that’s where all the good stuff is. And even though you may not realize it at the time you are being rewarded greatly for your efforts.
Even if it's just a split second of presence between thoughts, that moment will make a difference - you will feel better, calmer, and more at ease.
This is why meditation is so powerful!
One breathe here, one breathe there…each breath you are aware of (instead of lost in thought) all add up. And the more time you give yourself to do this, the more beneficial it will feel.
No matter how old, unhealthy, or depressed you are, meditation has the ability to pull you out of any funk and back into the feelgood, because feeling good is your natural state.
That’s right. It’s unnatural to feel unease or disease.
In other words, you have the power to change your life with the power of your breath, and this is how meditation will help you to re-discover the truth about your self.
BUT WHAT IF I LIKE WHO I AM?
- You are a beautifully unique individual, and this can never be taken away from you.
- You have a purpose and a calling that is yours (and only yours) to fulfill.
- You have likes, dislikes, and preferences - and you can continue to live your life however you see fit.
The big difference is that you’ll be happier as you go about your daily life. You’ll find it easier to say ‘yes’ to things that feel good and ‘no’ to things that don’t, and this is how you may begin to see a change in the outcome of your life.
The best part is, there’s nothing to fear because it’s ALL good!
You’ll dissolve anger, resentment, frustration, regret, guilt, and any other fear based emotion that's been preventing you from fully enjoying your life because you are now accepting your divine right to feel good.
Imagine living a drama free life!
On a side note, if this whole concept seems crazy right now - please don’t let it stop you from moving forward because it will become easier and easier to change your mind about who you think you are. I promise. Just give it some time and you will gently awaken to the truth.
Tiff's Simple Meditation Strategy:
1. When To Meditate
It's much easier to meditate first thing in the morning when your mind is rested. Before bed is also a good time, because it’ll calm your mind and therefore help you sleep better. But honestly, there's no better time than any time you can fit it into your day.
2. Find A Quiet Space
Where in your home can you relax without interruption? Where can you create a space that is away from the computer and other distractions?
Some people like to create a shrine in a corner of their room with pictures of hindu gods and goddesses, crystals, candles, and other stuff...but none of that is necessary.
For a traveler like me, simplicity is key. All I need to meditate is me, some alone time, and if possible, my trusty ol’ meditation bench. Otherwise I settle for the floor, a couch, or even sitting up in my bed right after I wake up.
It doesn't have to be a ’special’ place. What’s more important is enjoying a few moments to snuggle up with your 'self'.
3. Body Position
Sitting up nice and tall, and maintaining a straight spine (good posture is part of the process as it helps you to stay alert) is preferable.
A couple of ways to do this is by sitting on a pillow on the floor cross-legged, or by sitting upright on a chair (not leaning back on it). For either position, your palms can rest face up or face down on each knee, or cupped together in your lap.
Personally, I prefer to sit on a meditation bench with my hands resting face down on each thigh, as this is most comfortable for me.
Yes you can meditate while leaning back on a chair or while lying down, and if this is your only option…go for it! Just keep in mind it's much easier to fall asleep in this position so that’s why it’s not the most favorable choice.
Either way, don’t let any physical ailments stop you! Sit however you can and do your best.
4. Meditate By Focusing On Your Breath
In Vipassana Meditation we don't work with any mantras or visualizations because they are considered external distractions. So unless you have found one or both of these things extremely helpful, please don't worry about adding them into your practice.
Instead, simply pay attention to your breath.
As you are sitting in silence, concentrate on your upper lip as you inhale - feeling the sensation of the air as it moves from your upper lip into your nostril.
This is your only focus.
That's right, all you have to do is focus on your breath.
When your thoughts about the past or the future chime in to distract you (and they will), just come back to focusing on your breath as soon as you realize this has happened.
*Note: don’t let it deter you when it does happen! I think a lot of people stop meditating because they decide they suck at it or that it’s stupid - but that’s just fear getting in the way. So do me a solid and don’t pay attention to that nagging voice, okay? It doesn't have your back, but I do!
I've gone over 30 minutes (and even longer) before realizing how distracted I am by my thoughts, only to come back to my breath for a split second before I'm off again...
It just goes to show how are untrained our minds are - and that's exactly why meditation is a form of mind training.
So it's all good!
There's no right or wrong, good or bad…the main thing is to start again. In an unforced, natural rhythm, allow your breath to flow in an out, easily and effortlessly.
5. Dealing With Repetitive Thoughts
Your thoughts are like mosquitos - very distracting. And just when you think one's gone there's another to replace it. It's sucky, but it's also normal.
As Deepak Chopra says;
Do your best to let them be. Let them come and go without attaching to any one thought, and eventually you will slip into the space between those thoughts.
You could start with a minute one day and then two the next, and work your way up to 20 minutes/day, but I would say that 10 minutes is a good minimum starting length. Eventually, go for 1 hour, and then go for 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening.
Most importantly, pick a realistic time frame that you can stick to, because making meditation a new habit will change your life for the better - so it’s totally worth the effort.
You can also focus on your breath while you're:
- waiting in line
- sitting in traffic
- doing the dishes
- relaxing on the sofa
- watching a boring movie
- listening to a friend gossip
- painting, singing, dancing - and anything that fuels your positivity - is a fantastic time to focus on your breath, as your mind will be more open to receiving messages of love without letting fear get in the way.
You’re already breathing unconsciously, so breathe with consciousness at any point throughout the day and you’ll be able to rise out of any funk and back into the feelgood.
Meditation has the ability to help you create a life you love - no matter what you're going through.
Plus, the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the better you will feel. It's that simple.
So the next time you’ve exhausted all those excuses and have Netflix up for play…put those Gossip Girl episodes away and sit still for at least a few minutes a day ;)
P.S. There is no perfect -- there is only practice -- so go easy on yourself, okay? :)