Learning to meditate is like training a puppy to sit still. Your mind is a puppy, it’s thoughts bounce from one thing, SQUIRREL, to the next. The littlest stimulus can through you off track. But just like a puppy chacing a ball, it always comes back. Your thoughts are going to be all over the place. Your mind is going to race. But that is okay. Every breath is an opportunity to bring your thoughts back.
If you notice your mind chasing one thought to the next like a puppy running all over the place, don’t be mad at your mind. It’s just learning. Eventually, you will be able to train your puppy brain to sit in place. As you start a meditation practice, be forgiving. Treat your mind like a new puppy. Be loving, be kind, and laugh. The mind will calm, it just takes time.
If you are interested in starting a meditation practice, here are some tips!:
- Move first
- If you find you are having a hard time quieting your mind, try moving your body a bit first. Yoga is a wonderful way to start your meditation routine as it lets your puppy mind (and body) run around about and tire itself out first, which makes sitting still a bit easier!
- Create space
- Make a corner or spot of a room the place you go to when you practice meditation. You can put a few things in that space to make it special, or keep it clear of clutter. But having a consistent space that you turn to meditate is really helpful. When you walk to that corner or pull out your cushion, your mind starts to turn on its meditation mode. Use as many triggers as possible to tell your mind that your meditation is about to begin.
- Start small, and slowly increase
- Meditating is hard. It’s like running. It requires training. When you first start out or haven’t for a while, your body is not going to be able to bust out 6 fast miles. You have to ease up to it. Just like you have to train your body, you have to train your brain. When I have a stretch of inconsistency in my meditation (which happens a lot) I try to start back up small, one bit at a time, 11 minutes seems to be a good re-starting amount that is attainable for me, but I encourage you to find what is the right starting place for you. Slowly add time minute by minute, just like training for a race you would add mile by mile.
- Be consistent
- Consistency counts. Whatever your time or space is, try your best to be consistent about the time of day you sit. Having a time of day mapped out to meditate trains the body and mind that it is time to meditate, making it easier to get to that place of focus. Maybe it’s when you first roll out of bed. Maybe it’s on your lunch break. Schedule it in your day. Write it down and plan for it. And make it happen every day, even if it is not for the full amount of time. But the consistency of making it a priority in your daily life is necessary, and it really will help.
- Use a timer
- Personally, I use Insight Timer. It has a wonderful singing bowl that is a tranquil sound for the start and stop of your meditation. I set my timer and my mind no longer has to wander or wonder about time. I let go and trust my timer (some more great mindfulness practices!). Also, it shows you how many people around the world are meditating with you, which is really helpful.
- Practice in the morning
- Personally, meditating in the morning is best for my lifestyle. It sets my tone for my day and I don’t spend the rest of the day worrying about whether or not I will get to it or not. I make it a priority to start my day that way and it goes from there. But you have to do what is right for you, so start your meditation in whichever way you choose.
- Be forgiving
- Your mind is going to wander and that is okay. Meet your thoughts and puppy mind with compassion. It will make meditation much more enjoyable than beating yourself up all the time.
- Focus on the breath
- Every breath is a new beginning. Start by counting or following the breath as a place of focus. Don’t be discouraged if you find your mind wandering; allow your breath to bring you back. Every inhale is a reminder to bring your attention back.
- Create a community
- Having support from your peers is one of the most helpful steps towards maintaining any new practice in your life. Find people who you can share your experiences and challenges with and who will help motivate one another if you are having a hard time. There might be something in the works on this end, so if you’re interested, stay tuned! (You can sign up for my email list at the bottom of the page by clicking the “connect” button)
- Find what works for you
- This is your practice, so it has to be sustainable for your life style. Whatever time or place works best for you is what you need to do. Try some different things out when you are starting to see what is the best fit for you!