in: mindful living

5 Easy Ways to Start (& Keep) a Meditation Practice

Here are all the excuses you need so you’ll never have to meditate. They’re time tested, believe me, because I wrote the book on avoiding meditation:

  1. I don’t have time to meditate
  2. My mind never shuts up. Never.
  3. Sitting still is kinda weird, huh?
  4. It doesn’t work.
  5. I’m afraid it will work and my personality will change and I won’t be fun anymore.

 

There. Get it all out of your system.

Now let’s do a smack-down on all that whining because meditation has been around for thousands of years and it works. You know that low-level anxiety you feel most days? That jittery feeling inside, like your guts are made of jello? That’s called being human.

Guess what? Meditation helps you calm down and be a better human. Might be worth a try after all?

If you have time to stand in line for coffee for five or ten minutes, then you have a pocket of time to sit still. You just don’t want to because it feels “so crazy.” Meditation is the opposite of everything we’ve ever learned. Don’t do something—just sit there.

Now neuroscientists are jumping on the Buddha bandwagon by showing how science supports what monks and nuns have known for millennia: meditation changes your brain—it actually gets into your neural pathways and calms you down. It changes the way you react. It’s like a good drug without the bad side effects. Read Buddha’s Brain if you want more explanation. Doctors and rocket scientists are on board with this, but it’s not rocket science. It’s actually pretty easy.

First, let’s talk about your crazy mind. The ancient folks call that non-stop chattering in your head your “monkey mind” because it’s a bit like the aimless shrieking of monkeys swinging around from branch to branch. Sound familiar?

I prefer to think of my mind as a puppy—adorable and out of control, peeing on the furniture and eating shoes inside my head. You love and want the puppy, but you better train it or it will run your life.

So forget the excuses. Here are five easy ways to start—and keep—a meditation practice:

1. Be kind to yourself. Stop beating yourself up for not being able to meditate. Be gentle, the way you would be with a beloved friend. You’re fine, you’re great, and you’re amazing just for reading this.

2. Commit to Sit. You go to the gym? You work late hours? You likely know how to commit to something; so, with love in your heart for your fabulous, brave self, commit to the sit.

3. Make a Space. It’s important to have a place to meditate. You’ll want to be close to the ground—on a cushion or pillow if your knees can handle it (a chair is fine too). Where you sit becomes part of the habit of meditating. So make a small sacred space. No big deal.

4. Just Breathe. You’ve been doing this since the day you were born. Now be aware of it. Focus on inhaling… and exhaling. Count your breaths. Sense the air coming gently in and out of your nose. That’s all it is. You don’t need a fancy mantra or spiritual secrets. Just breathe.

5. Start Small. Even though five minutes can seem like a long freaking time if your mind is babbling about what assignments are due and how angry you are at your brother-in-law, you can do this. Every time a thought comes into your mind, let it float away like a leaf on a river or a cloud in the sky. Easy come, easy go. Rather than focusing on that thought, come back to your breathing. What is it like? Can you exhale for longer? Was your inhale slow, steady, and deep? Practice that for five minutes, then maybe ten.

 

Just five simple steps. Want to be peaceful and happy? Don’t do something, just sit there.

[photo: via spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com]

 

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