3 Easy Steps to Start a Meditation Practice

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you’ve most likely seen at least one person who is uncomfortable during meditation practice. If your answer is yes, you caught me! About 4 years ago I was that person struggling to sit still with their eyes closed. The only time I would devote my time to meditation was 5 min in a 90 min yoga class. Yet, I wasn’t able to close my eyes during that short time. As soon as a thought appeared in my head, I would run away from it and wouldn’t close my eyes until the trigger went away.

Fast forward after four years, I can safely say that now I meditate without being guided by a teacher. In fact, I teach meditation. But I’m not telling you this story to prove to you that I’m all zen and have no triggering thoughts inside my head now.

 

The same thoughts that appeared before still visit me from time to time. Because we can’t erase memory and meditation isn’t about forgetting the past. But I learned to not be afraid of my disturbing thoughts. I learned to not allow them to interrupt my calmness and control my life. And most importantly, I am more compassionate to myself when my mind re-visits my past or future.

 

How did I manage to befriend meditation?

 

Have a new understanding of meditation practice

 

The biggest barrier we set between ourselves and meditation is how we expect it to happen. We believe that being able to meditate is to have no thoughts in our minds. We think that we’re only allowed to meditate if we live a very positive life. But unlike our high standards, meditation doesn’t ask us to be fully zen. It only requires us to be mindful of what is going on in our internal worlds and let go of anything that doesn’t serve us anymore.

As the founder of the Headspace app said,

 

“Meditation means letting go of our baggage, letting go of all the pre-rehearsed stories and inner-dialogue that we’ve grown so attached to.”

 

Just like that, when I changed my mindset to see meditation as a mindfulness practice rather than trying to not think of anything, my meditation experience evolved. There was no battle anymore. I wasn’t running away from the thoughts that my mind created. There was only stillness.

 

If this idea still sounds challenging, use visualization as a tool to make your experience easier. Imagine every thought that appears as a trailer from TV shows. Separate yourself from the stories you see. You’re only an observer. Acknowledge that a thought showed up and switch the channel to calmness. And continue with your meditation.

 

Another way to meditate easier is to find focus. Your focus can be anything as long as it keeps you centred.

 

But the easiest of all tools is to use our breath. When you notice you’re distracted, bring your awareness back to your breath. How do you breathe? Short, quick, shallow? Try to make it longer and slower as you breathe through your diaphragm. Science shows that when we breathe deeper through our diaphragm, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which automatically calms our minds and bodies. And we’re able to sit comfortably in discomfort of our triggering thoughts.

 

 

Aim small wins

You’ve changed your mindset and feel ready to meditate. What’s next? How long should you meditate? What is the duration that you may consider yourself meditated successfully?

 

Although these questions are valid, they’re also so much focused on following a school book rather than our personalized needs. We all have different struggles and experiences in life. That’s why we shouldn’t expect one way to fit everyone’s lifestyle.

 

I’ve started meditating for 5 min a few times a week. In time, I increased it to 10 min, then 15 min every day. Yesterday I meditated for only 2 min. Did I fail at meditation because I went back to my starting point? No, I’m just a human with different moods and conditions every single day. So are you.

 

So, start with small goals. Don’t limit your experience with reaching high numbers. Instead, be flexible and make your meditation practice part of your lifestyle.

 

Eckhart Tolle describes meditation as “one breath in and out”. No strict schedules. The only thing that matters is the prize of mindfulness that comes with that one slow breath. Even if you had one mindful breath while waiting for a bus, well done! Celebrate that small win.

 

 

Make it playful

 

When we start to get serious about things we do, we tend to lose interest. It’s because we’re not playful about them anymore. It’s like we set rules and if we break them once in a while, the work we do becomes invaluable.

 

This also happens with meditation. We try to sit in stillness but we forget about comfort that makes our experience enjoyable. We think we can’t even move our legs if our body starts to get tired after a while. We believe we can’t place a pillow behind our back because that would be cheating the experience.

 

I remember the first time I tried a meditation class. I was very ambitious about my meditation goal and decided to join a one-hour session. The class had two sessions so we had a break every 30 min. But the experience wasn’t compassionate to my body. Or maybe I wasn’t compassionate to myself. My leg fell asleep and I was too shy to change my position. I guess I was thinking if I moved my body, I would fail my meditation practice. And “I cannot and will not fail!”

 

Let me tell you, I didn’t move my legs during that class and I didn’t enjoy my meditation practice. Because I was constantly thinking about my leg. “Should I move it or not? Oh, I lost my leg. How much time do we have left?”

 

But there is nobody that evaluates our meditation practice. It’s us who are in charge of how we experience it. So, make it playful. If you can’t sit in one position during meditation, find a way that works for you.

 

Here is what I’ve learned recently from Artur Paulins, a breathwork coach from London. Let’s say you intend to meditate for 10 min. Set a timer for 2 min intervals and once your alarm goes off, change the position. The important thing is to find postures that will support the flow of your diaphragmatic breath.

 

These are a few positions you may try:

 

  • You can lie down on your back.
  • You can sit straight up.
  • You can walk slowly matching your inhales and exhales with your slow steps.
  • And you can stand straight up.

 

 

By keeping it playful and less restrictive, we don’t resist finding time to meditate. We don’t feel forced by it. We end up creating a habit that will be consistent and part of our lifestyle, which is the main goal of all self-care activities.

 

Final Words

 

These are some of the things I did to warm up my mind to the idea of meditation. But I have no doubt that you’ll find your ways while experimenting to be alone with yourself.

 

Remember, your mind will show you thoughts that will trigger you during meditation. It’s okay that we remember things as we sit in silence. It’s okay that we might be distracted by things that are outside of our control.

 

Instead of trying to silence your mind, focus on getting to know what your mind is showing you. See your thoughts as teachers that are guiding you to where you need to shed some limiting beliefs. See them as friends that are teaching you how to be your authentic self when nobody is watching.

 

Pema Chödron sums it up so well.

 

“In practicing meditation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal — quite the opposite. We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is.”

Bio: Begüm Erol is a freelance writer and yoga & meditation teacher with a passion to empower others through mindfulness. You can read her articles about mindfulness and life on Medium. Connect with her also on IG: @begumerol_