Tips for Starting Meditation

Meditation is all about discomfort and reward.  For those new to meditation, there’s the immediate obstacle of facing certain discomforts.  It could be the discomfort of sitting cross-legged for too long or constant fidgeting.  It could be the idea of sitting still for what seems like no reason.  Whatever the discomfort, it can be hard to remember that these discomforts in meditation are what create the reward we’re after.

Here are some ways of making your start in meditation easier.

Plan to work hard

One way to make the practice of meditation easier is by acknowledging that failure is a part of the recipe.  Meditation doesn’t work without it.  The crux of meditation is remaining focused, and not allowing little discomforts to add up and distract your focus.  It becomes much easier to add meditation to your daily routine if you commit only a few minutes each day to sitting there, being patient with yourself, and putting in full effort to keep going despite failure.

Sit on schedule

It’s hard to track ones progress without consistency.  It’s easiest to practice in the mornings, ideally before you do anything else, or in the evenings when things slow down.  Meditation in the middle of the day, especially in the afternoon, is more difficult.  Regardless of when you practice, just being consistent in the beginning is most important.  Keeping to a schedule for struggle ensures that your perspective continues to expand.  Those who keep to a consistent schedule and put in the effort while meditating will experience the start of an unbinding or unlocking from excesses, leading to a greater mental freedom.

Commit to a length of time

For two reasons. First, there will be times when you’ll sit for what feels like hours but only five minutes have gone by, and other times 45 minutes feels like no time at all.  Second, fitting meditation into normal modern life is tricky, and requires scheduling.  This is why it’s beneficial in the beginning to commit to a length of time for sitting in meditation.  This can play a role in keeping to a schedule and being consistent in practice, but it’s also a handy measure for gauging one’s progress.  Over the years, I’ve gained a good sense of whether a session was fruitful or not by keep track of the time I meditated for.  I may have felt distracted the whole time or I may have fallen asleep in the beginning.  So, whenever I set a time for my session I get a more solid grasp on how it went.

I’ll still track my time once in a while, but in time I no longer needed to track or set time for meditation.  I find that I’m now consistent enough to gauge things without it.  My average sit time has been around 15 to 20 minutes.

Sometimes, when there’s not a lot of time, it can be frustrating to try and fit in a session before going to work or before people come over.  Committing to a sit time can improve our ability to move through life calmly, beginning each day being consciously focused on breathing until the time is up.  This does wonders for our minds when the day gets busy.

Stick to one method

It’s not only beneficial to have consistency in schedule, it’s also good to have a consistent method or style.  I’ve practiced Vipassana meditation for about five years, mainly because I kept to the same basic routine each time.  More recently, I’ve added other methods of practice for certain goals that I have, but I’ve had to figure out when to do which method and why.  Starting out, though, using a simple routine takes the guess work out of the process and allows for more focus on where it ought to be: doing the meditation despite outside distractions.  At the end of the day, it’s only so important which style you choose in the beginning, since it will always be beneficial to practice meditation at all, regardless of the style.

Read a little, or a lot, for support and perspective

Don’t get stuck trying to make a routine without a guide, an example, or some supporting information.  I believe it’s doable without a guide (or teacher), but I’m a believer in having information and guidance from somewhere when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing or why.  I have always found a need for books and perspectives that can relieve me of modern day mental chaos; perspectives often obscured or ignored.

I keep and regularly read a couple of books that enable me to practice with perspective, a powerful combo that enhances practice more quickly and also makes daily life more enjoyable.  If I was to choose only one, I would keep the Tao de Ching.  The Tao expresses how meditation serves as an observation and all-access point to our internal natural energy.  The Tao de Ching also serves as a universal cheat sheet for life’s confusing times.  Those who want the most out of meditation, and life, will also read about and investigate what they practice.

After failure, start again

When you fail, are bothered by it, and let it turn into frustration, it’s called a knot (or Gordian Knot).  Knots are harder to undo the tighter they’re pulled, and can end meditation sessions early on.  So in failure, accept these small failures openly when they come, and simply start again.  This is how you observe yourself without involvement.

See what happens

The most effect way of approaching discomforts while meditating is to see what happens.  The essence of observation is just that: to watch patiently to see what happens.  Legs starting to tingle or even burn?  Got an atomic itch?  These tiny distractions are opportunities for big discovery.  Each itch, distracting thought, or whatever big reason comes along that usually ends a session early is also an opportunity to see what happens when you do nothing.

Looking for more reasons to meditate?

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