I talk a lot about meditation in my posts because it has transformed my life in numerous ways. I’m not particularly good at meditation – I often get bored or distracted – but that’s not the point. I do stick at it, and one thing I know for sure is that the more I meditate, the better my life gets. It’s not that bad things don’t happen, but I navigate them so much better.
When I meditate, I feel happier and find more joy in my daily activities. I walk around smiling for no particular reason. I connect better with other people and find myself starting conversations with strangers instead of being in my own world. I’m less irritable and more compassionate. And more good things happen!
Meditation can be really simple. Anyone can do it. You don’t any special equipment or a guru (although a teacher can really help). You just need a bit of quiet.
So, here is my simple guide to getting started:
1. Find somewhere quiet to sit and turn off your phone. Ask people not to disturb you. You can sit in a straight back chair or on a cushion, but be comfortable.
2. If you are in a chair sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. If you are on a cushion, sit cross legged or kneel. Sit up nice and straight, so you feel alert rather than slouchy.
3. Start by focusing on your breath. Just notice it to begin with, and see if it is deep or shallow, fast or slow, even or irregular. Then start to lengthen your breath by counting slowly to 3,4 or 6 on the in breath and the same number on the out breath. Just keep going like this, staying focused on your breath.
4. Your mind will inevitably wonder because this is what minds do. They are very busy! When you mind does wonder, just notice what has happened, and take your focus back to the breath. Don’t criticise yourself, you are not doing anything wrong.
5. After a while you can let go of the counting and just notice your breath. Notice how it feels as it comes in and out, around your nostrils, chest, rib cage and stomach
6. Carry on for five, ten or fifteen minutes. It is helpful to set a timer, so you don’t have to keep looking at a clock. Or, if you don’t want to use a timer you could try this: the first time you a have a strong urge to stop, notice the impulse and come back to your breath, the second time you have an urge to stop, come back to the breath again, and the third time you have the urge to stop, then finish for the day.
7. Try to meditate every day to see the real benefits.
When you are are getting started, it can be really helpful to use a sound file to guide you through. My favourites are the Danny Penman Frantic World files and they are freely available on his website.
Even better, try an eight week mindfulness course. You will need to commit to meditating every day, and you will get lots of support from the teacher and your group. It helps to keep you motivated and deal with any difficulties that arise. I did mine with Sue Weston but there are courses all over the place.
Above all, just keep practicing every day, even if it is boring and uncomfortable, and you feel too busy! It will start to make a difference.