7 Tips to Build a Meditation Practice
Meditation may be one of those things you are interested in, but have a hard time starting. We know it’s a great way to help deal with stress, relax ourselves, and build compassion. There are so many different traditions, teachings, and practices out there, and it can be difficult to know where we should start. Once we do start, we find that it’s not all fun and games, and meditation can actually be hard. It’s a radical practice. Sitting in silence and observing our experience is not something we’re taught to do in this world, and it goes against our normal habits. In addition to working with a meditation coach, here are a few ways you can begin to investigate meditation and build a practice.
Find a Community
One of the most beneficial things you can do to start a meditation practice is find a community with which to sit. You can find meditation groups in your area on websites like www.FindASit.com to connect with people. A sangha, or community, is a great way to build our understanding of the practice. We can gain support from others with more experience than us, ask questions, listen to others, and find a sense of belonging.
Although meditating can be a solo practice, it really blossoms when we practice together. Sitting with a group can bring our practice to life, give us some new practices, and help us to grow. We highly recommend trying to find a local sitting group, online class, or even a friend with whom you can connect!
This is one of the main reasons people have difficulty meditating, especially when they are new to practice. When we try to sit in silence, we notice that the mind thinks quite a bit. Don’t let this stop you! You don’t need to have a silent mind in order to meditate effectively. In fact, if you’re practicing mindfulness, you can simply observe the thoughts and make it part of your practice!
If you find yourself thinking that you’re not a good meditator or can’t meditate right because your mind is thinking, don’t buy into it! Try just noticing that the mind is thinking. Notice any resistance that arises. Make the thinking mind part of your practice and bring it into your awareness. Try to practice mindfulness of thoughts rather than judgement of thoughts!
Listen to Guidance
Guided meditations are a great way to go. There are tons of different teachers and meditations out there on the Internet in a variety of places. You can try YouTube meditations, Dharma Seed, or a mobile app like Insight Timer. There are many free resources out there, and these are just a few of our favorite ones.
Guided meditations can give you some direction with your practice. Rather than sitting in silence and wondering what you should be doing, a guided meditation will direct you through the practice. They’re helpful when we’re new to meditation, as we learn how to actually practice cultivating compassion, mindfulness, and wisdom through meditation. When we find the mind wandering, the voice on the meditation can help bring us back to the present experience and our practice.
Do Your Thing
There are so many different practices, teachers, and traditions out there. Find what works for you. You don’t need to sit in the perfect meditation posture, meditate without a thought ever arising, or sit with any practice in particular. You can investigate for yourself what works for you. We are all individuals with different experiences, and what works for me may not be what is best for you.
Sometimes we get stuck in wondering what is “right” in meditation practice. Try to notice when this thought comes up and let it go. Sit in a way that feels healthy and supportive for you. Try practices that you find helpful and useful in your life. Of course we must remain open to new things, as what works for us may change from moment to moment, day to day.
Set an Intention
Set an intention for yourself and your practice. Can you set an intention to sit for 5 minutes a day for a week? Try to set an intention that is both doable and pushing yourself slightly. You don’t want to set unrealistic intentions, but you also want to encourage yourself to move forward.
You can also set an intention for yourself and your growth. What do you want to cultivate? Mindfulness, compassion, self-patience, forgiveness? Although we shouldn’t grasp or strive too much, it’s okay to have an intention or something toward which we wish to work. This can help give our practice some energy and purpose!
Be Gentle with Yourself
It seems that a lot of people who begin meditating fall into the habit of straining and stressing. You don’t need to force yourself to concentrate, practice perfectly, or be “spiritual.” Be gentle with yourself as you begin to practice. Remember that meditation is a method of training the mind and cultivating qualities. We’re not supposed to be able to concentrate or have perfect compassion when we come to practice. We come to practice to cultivate these qualities.
You can try some compassion exercises for yourself when you’re struggling. Instead of straining or expecting too much of yourself, respond with some kindness and gentleness. You’re human, having a human experience with the mind and body.
Keep it Simple
With all of the different practices and methods out there, it can be overwhelming. Start simple and stick with basic practices as you start. One of my favorites is body scans, or scanning through the body with mindfulness. This is a great practice because we can return to it any time throughout our days, simply tuning into the body. You can also try a mindfulness of breath practice, building the ability to focus on something happening in your present-time experience.