These 5 steps to creating your own meditation practice are exactly what you need to set up your ‘foundation practice’. It has been designed for beginners – to give your meditation practice the best possible start and, in time, for it to become as familiar and reliable as an old friend.
The 5 steps are a series of questions. Your answers will help you make some decisions about how your meditation is going to run on a regular basis.
Here are the 5 steps:
Step 1: Where are you going to do your Meditation practice?
The actual location isn’t important so long as it’s quiet and distraction-free. BUT what is important is that it’s a space you return to again and again. With each meditation, your mind begins to recognise it as ‘the place to relax’. This has two massive benefits:
It helps your meditation to work.
Feeling the relaxation benefits regularly motivates you to keep going and stay consistent
When you first start meditating, choose one place to use (which for me was my living room) and then stick with it for two or three months. Once your foundation practice feels like it’s become a comfy habit you can then play with changing locations to keep your practice feeling fresh and to reduce boredom.
Step 2: When are you going to do your Meditation practice?
When you choose doesn’t really matter. The most important factors are
It’s a specific time that you have allocated to doing your meditation – time you have reserved for just this purpose
It will help if the time you choose reflects how your energy flows during the day. Early birds are better off choosing mornings, night owls, evening. If neither suit, choose between 11 am and 2 pm.
Other reasons why you might choose morning is that you want to start your day out well, with clarity, calmness and an improved ability to make the right decisions. On the other hand, the evening may be better because you want help in winding down and being able to sleep. Of course, you can do both!
The key is to choose a time and stick with it as much as possible. A bit like choosing a consistent space to meditate in trains your mind to relax, being consistent with your time has the same effect.
Step 3: What position are you going to take for your Meditation Practice
Aches and pains can be a really annoying distraction so the position you choose needs to be comfortable.
Like your time and place, the position you choose should be consistent. The repeated nature of these all build-up towards a practice where you feel all the calm relaxation benefits.
If using a chair causes back, neck or shoulder ache, there are some tweaks you employ using cushions, yoga blocks or rolled-up towels. See Meditation Tip 5 for more info on this.
If a chair is definitely not for you, there are other options:
Sitting on the floor or a cushion
Tips on how to choose between the alternatives are in my blog ‘Choose your best mindfulness position’
Whichever position you choose it needs to be one where you’re going to be able to keep your mind focused on what you’re doing, to reduce distractions and wandering mind syndrome!
Step 4: What type of Meditation are you going to do?
There are loads and loads of different types of meditations, but they all come under four main categories.
Breath and body awareness meditations. You count breaths, follow the movement of your breath through your nose, or use breathing patterns such as the Nine Breaths (see the link below).
Mantras and Affirmations. These use words, sentences, phrases, songs or poems which help you with ‘letting go’.
Visualizations. This involves building a picture in your mind’s eye and can be really useful for strengthening your focus and being more mindful of what your mind is doing.
Sensory meditations where you’re using your vision, smell, taste, touch, or hearing. These also help you with focus and ‘letting go’.
While all types of meditation will help you be more patient, more focused and grounded, it is best to start with the simpler meditations. To begin with, my recommendation is to start with a breathing practice like the Nine Breaths Meditation.
Over time, feel free to try out different ones and see which suit you best.
One of the meditation skills for you to develop is being able to effortlessly drop into a relaxed state of mind.
If you’re not used to being relaxed, then you won’t know how to do this. Doing a breathing practice is a great way of training yourself to generate that chilled out feeling.
Step 5: Know what to expect from your Meditation
It is always great to be aware of what you might experience as you develop your meditation practice. So, here are examples of what others have experienced as they learned the 4 key skills that lie at the heart of learning to meditate.
Relaxed and alert.
Retrieve your wandering mind.
Let everything else go.
Signs of being relaxed and alert
Signs of relaxation include feeling heavy or light, feeling warm or tingly, like time has slowed down.
These may be new sensations for your body to experience and that has the tendency to make you feel a bit sleepy too. However, sleepiness is not meditation. What you’re aiming for a mind that feels relaxed AND alert. You feel able to wake up and return your mind back to its meditation focus.
Stretching, lifting your arms up above your head will help with waking yourself up. Once you’ve done that just return your hands to your lap and re-focus your mind.
Staying focused and retrieving your wandering mind
Meditation involves the dynamic interplay of being calmly focused and then losing it! THIS IS NORMAL.
As soon as you notice you’re distracted bring your mind back to your calm meditation focus.
Let everything else go
This takes time, patience and practice! The ‘everything else’ you’re trying to let go of are your thoughts and the feelings they generate, particularly when they are pointless energy drainers or unnecessary anxiety inducers!
Help to start your own meditation practice
In this blog I’ve touched on the basics you need to start your own meditation practice. I’ve gathered together the points I’ve explained above in more detail in Your Meditation Starter Kit. It’s a FREE download that helps you get all the basics in place. Get started on your meditation today!
PS. If you have any questions I’d love to hear from you. Email me and I’ll answer as soon as I can.