By Amanda (Guest Writer) –
These days, our precious daylight hours are saturated with constant noise, movement, and distractions. We’re surrounded by flashy entertainment, noisy gadgets, work pressures, and family commitments all at the relentless pace of modern life. It seems there is little time to stop, breathe, and find a quiet moment to reflect on the present. By the time we get home from work, make our dinner, and, we practically collapse—our bodies already asleep before we are even fully tucked into bed.
The thought of trying to add meditation to an already packed daily schedule may seem like just one more thing to add to the daily checklist, imposing yet another obligation. Additionally, it may seem impossible in a demanding household of kids, pets, spouses, in-laws, and the various obligations and adult responsibilities that take so much time and energy. Perhaps we fear that if we take one minute to sit quietly, we may never get up again.
If you have decided you need to get serious about committing to a regular meditation practice but cannot figure out where and how to do it while at home, I have developed six tips to help you get started on your meditation practice.
Tip 1: No Judgment
If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this: There is no room for judgment in meditation practice. Meditation is an intimate and personal practice. No one knows what you are experiencing in your mind except you. The only entity who will do any judging is your ego. Your true self will not judge your meditation practice. Instead of judgment, seek compassion and patience with yourself. Cultivating compassion and patience will begin to help you in your relationships with others as well.
Tip 2: Find or Create a Space
As with the first tip, there are no rules about what kind of space is appropriate as a meditation space. It can even be the bathtub. Use your instincts and intuition to find a space—it can be indoors or outdoors, big or small. However, if you are looking for a space inside your home for meditation, take time to walk around your home and look for a space that might work. Find a space that you connect with. You can use a room divider or screen to shield you when you are meditating. Ask everyone in your household to stay away from the space during your practice if they plan on talking or engaging in anything other than quiet activities.
If you live in a busy household with kids, pets and a spouse, it might be challenging. However, if meditation is important to you, let your family know that a certain space in the household is off limits when you are meditating. It could be a corner in a walk-in closet, a cozy spot in the basement, the window seat in the living room, or the guest bedroom or home office. If your space is near your furnace or in your kitchen or laundry room, make sure your appliances are in good working condition to keep them from becoming bothersome.
A meditation space need not be large but there are a few tips that can help make it an inviting space. First, personalize the space. Find objects or images that give you peace or pleasure and place them in and around the space. Bells, chimes, sculptures, or images are all appropriate but keep it simple and uncluttered. Find a comfortable pillow or chair that you enjoy sitting in and that supports good posture. Second, engage your senses with soft music or aromatherapy. Third, add a touch of nature if you can such as a rock, fossil or small succulent or orchid.
Tip 3: Start Small
Chances are, if you grew up in a westernized country, you were not raised with a regular meditation practice. Westerners curiously both overestimate and underestimate what is involved with a meditation practice. On the one hand, what could be easier than sitting quietly and breathing for a few minutes? On the other hand, many people have said that they would rather experience an electric shock than to be alone with their thoughts and over 90% of the public does not meditate regularly despite widespread awareness of its many benefits.
Many people experience anxiety and frustration the first few times they try meditation because there is a certain amount of sensory deprivation involved that can be unsettling to a person if they have not spent much time away from the constant noise and hustle of modern civilized living. Others treat meditation much like they treat any new practice or subject in a capitalist society, as if it’s a competition they have to win or a commodity they have to consume. People get caught up in comparing and competing with others when the entire objective of meditation is the exact opposite of capitalist consumption. Many who try meditation a couple of times may not “get” meditation initially and will question why someone would want to do it when there is no external recognition or immediate pleasure or gratification to be had by engaging in it. Others may view it as simply wasting time when one could be accomplishing goals and tasks that appear to be more concrete.
If you are open to meditation, keep in mind that you may need to pace yourself at first. Most importantly, you will need to be patient with yourself. Expect to experience the full range of thoughts and emotions. The ego generally does not take kindly to meditation and will summon a full range of stressful emotions and mental chatter. You may only be able to sit quietly for a few minutes when you first begin before the noise in your head and the emotions that arise start to overwhelm you. This is completely normal, even for experienced meditators who have been practicing for years. Use a meditation timer and work on increasing your meditation an additional minute or two over a period of time until you work up to 20-30 minutes a day.
Tip 4: Find the Right Time to Practice & Commit
Meditation, like brushing your teeth or getting exercise, is a habit. You have to build it into your daily routine. Generally, we brush our teeth at the same time every day. Meditation is the same way. You need to find a time when you can commit yourself to your practice every day. For some people, it may mean setting your morning alarm 10-20 minutes earlier so that it is the first thing you do when you wake up.
For others, it may be better to do it before you go to sleep every night. It might need to happen right after the workday ends, to reset your mind and body. Or, you may need to do it in the middle of the day, to give yourself a mental break. Again, it is very personal. You may need to try out a few different times of day to see what works best and what you are most likely to stick to. Once you figure out the best time for you to do your meditation practice, let your loved ones know so that they will respect your time. Turn off notifications on your phone, or give your phone to your spouse or loved one to monitor. Finally, commit to doing your practice every day.
Tip 5: Consider Movement
If sitting for more than a few minutes is physically painful or overwhelming, consider a movement practice. There are many different types of moving meditation, many of which are gentle on the body, such as Walking, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or Yoga. Again, there is no rule that says you must sit in meditation. Many meditation gurus state that the most important aspect of meditation is the intention and focus you bring to the present moment and the ability to focus your awareness exclusively on whatever object you have chosen for your meditation practice.
If you focus on bringing awareness and presence to each movement, you will be engaging in a meditation practice, even if you’re moving while doing it. Additionally, engaging in physical exercise and/or a movement practice before attempting a sitting practice, if you need to burn off some physical energy and tension, can help facilitate a seated practice.
Tip 6: Think About Your Motivation
Why do you want to meditate? Knowing your motivations for starting a meditation practice is critical to getting the most out of your meditation practice. Many people find it difficult to continue meditating once they start because they didn’t really think about what they hoped to get out of it. Perhaps their doctor or therapist recommended it for stress relief, or their neighbor started doing it and encouraged them to try it. Maybe a family member started doing it and pressured their loved one to do it as well.
While all of these are reasons to start a meditation practice, they’re not reasons to keep meditating. Meditation can take you on an unexpected journey and there are many twists, challenges and obstacles that people are not always prepared to encounter. Meditation can lead to a deep-dive into the self and that can be scary. Getting clear about your reasons for meditating can help you determine how to make the commitment and get the most out of your practice. Doing a detailed internal self-inventory about your current state of mind, physical health, performance at work, and the health of your personal relationships are all integral to determining what kind of meditation practice can help you to zero-in on your self-awareness and mindfulness objectives.
Those of you who are nurturers and caregivers may feel guilt or anxiety about giving up personal time to meditate when children and family members need your time and attention. Those of you who are career oriented may feel concerned about taking a break from getting work done. Keep in mind that the benefits of meditation have the potential to revolutionize your mood, personal relationships, and overall job performance. Your personal health and your emotional stability all stand to benefit from a regular, long-term meditation practice and so do the people in your life. A committed long-term meditation practice will make you a better caregiver, boss, and co-worker.