For the uninitiated and the inexperienced, the idea of meditation can feel super intimidating and even pointless. Sitting still, alone with your thoughts? Talk about daunting.
So we talked to some meditation pros to find out how to start a bare minimum, no-pressure meditation practice – for all us novices out here. They agree a little meditation – even a few minutes a day – is better than no meditation at all. Here are some top of their top tips..
"Meditation may bring to mind daunting images of a nubile, contorted yogi ‘Zenning out’ on a mountain top for hours, but meditation is for anyone, can take many forms and the benefits are bountiful,” says Dawn Gonzalez, owner of Mindful Balance Health & Wellness Workshops, whose goal is to teach mindfulness practices through meditation and movement.
"In cultivating a mindfulness practice, meditation is simply focused attention in the present moment without judgement,” Gonzalez explains. “You could be focused on a sound or a colour, a hobby, a movement, a food, or anything for any length of time. But quite often a beginning point of focus for mindful meditation practice is the breath. After all, it's free, and it's always with you.”
Gonzalez says a good time to give meditation a try is when you’re in bed – both before you fall asleep and when you wake up.
“Begin sowing the seeds of your practice by simply pausing during your day to take just 3-5 deep breaths – giving full attention to each inhale and exhale, noticing where you feel the breath enter and leave your body, bringing your awareness to the present moment,” Gonzalez says.
When you’re ready, you can take those few focused breaths a day one step further and make a plan for your meditation practice.
“It's important to set realistic goals,” says Joy Rains, author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind, a book designed to be a primer for beginning meditators.
“Rather than setting a goal that may not be sustainable, try setting a more manageable goal, such as meditating just a few minutes a day. It's important to set goals that you can feel successful in completing, and it's also important to start to develop a regular habit of meditating. It’s better to meditate for a few minutes than not at all.”
Next, Rains says, regularity is key.
“Try to meditate every day so it becomes a habit. If you can, meditate in the same place in your home or office, such as a favourite chair, or favourite room. Once you get used to meditating there, simply by entering that space your mind may begin to settle.”
One way to turn meditation into a habit is to make it part of your mundane daily activities.
“You may want to associate practising with something you do every day, such as brushing your teeth,” Rains says. “Wake up in the morning. Brush your teeth. Meditate.”
But the most important thing to remember as you begin a meditation practice is that it takes exactly that – practice.
"Remember, it's a practice, and not about perfection,” Gonzalez says, “so practise kindness to yourself and leave out judgement.”