How to meditate

While there are specific techniques for different forms of meditation, if this is new to you feel free to experiment.  There is no real "right" or "wrong" way, ultimately whatever works for you is great.  Here are some general tips to get you started with how to meditate, so that you can make the most of your experience.

A calm spot to meditate:  Certainly meditation can be done anywhere, but to start out, steer clear of locations where you tend to be stressed (like at your work desk, or where you pay your bills).  Instead, choose somewhere where you can feel relaxed and focused.

Quiet surroundings: Consider this along with the where - if you are being interrupted, you will just end up feeling frustrated instead of gaining the real benefits of meditation.  When can you find some quiet time? You may need to train those around you to respect this period of time.

A specific time of day:  While consistency is not critical, establishing a certain time can make it more likely for it to become a regular routine.  The most popular time is first thing in the morning as it sets the tone for your day, but pick when works for you.  At one point I tried meditating right before bed as that's when I get the most quiet time to myself, but I found it difficult to stay awake - it improved the quality of my sleep, but that really wasn't the purpose of my practice!  Find what works for you.

Length of time:  I am a firm believer in starting small, so that both comfort level and a routine are developed. Try beginning with 5 or 10 minutes a day.  When you're ready, increase the time as you feel comfortable.  If your schedule is tight, set a timer so you will not become distracted by wondering what the time is.  Best to have a timer with a gentle ring, and have it within arms' length so that you can turn it off without having to get up.  If you use your phone, don't let other alerts distract you!

Posture:  No need to sit cross-legged... unless you want to!  Choose a relaxed position so that there won't be the distraction of a limb stiffening up or 'pins and needles'.  The key is not to slouch:  a straight spine is important for ease of breathing and the flow of energy.  Sitting up is best; lying down you might just fall asleep.  If sitting still is difficult, or you just feel the need for activity, consider a form of meditation involving movement.

The meditation technique:  Experiment here and see what feels right for you.  Consistency with a technique will help to deepen the practice as you learn how to meditate, but there is room for circumstances and broadening one's experience as well.  If a technique draws you, give it a try;  if you have a day where your mind if particularly busy, don't fight it, choose a method that you can manage and relax into.  Be patient, it's all beneficial.

  • Listen to a meditation audio to get started, there are many options (including YouTube) so find one that appeals to you 
  • Focus on a candle or flower - when your mind wanders, just bring it back to focus as many times as you need
  • Use a mantra - a word, phrase, or sound to focus the mind: "Om" is a very typical mantra, I love the powerful Gayatri mantra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d63COahIpVM);  it doesn't have to be in Sanskrit either - "I am", "bliss", or anything that is meaningful to you
  • Focus on the breath, counting each inhale and exhale
  • Relaxation of each part of the body
  • Mindfulness during a repetitive motion like washing the dishes or raking leaves
  • Mindfulness while walking in nature
  • Walking a labyrinth

Post-meditation:  Give yourself a few minutes after meditation to come back into a more physical awareness before jumping up and carrying on with your day.  You might also want to journal anything that you want to remember about your meditation, how you feel, and any insights gained.

Learning how to meditate in the beginning is a practice of consistency, patience with your chattering mind, and opening to the peacefulness and insights that await you.