We hear a lot these days about the incredible benefits that a dedicated meditation practice can have on our brain health, mental and physical abilities, creativity, and overall happiness and well-being. But how do you meditate?
It can seem like a silly question — just sit down and breathe, right? This is what I used to think too. “Meditation? I’m a yogi, I got this!” Or so I figured… And then, I found out how to really meditate, or at least, how to do so while truly reaping its full range of benefits for the body and mind.
While it might be technically simple to meditate, it’s not quite as foolproof as you might imagine. The magic ingredients? Intense focus, duration, and regularity, all built on a bedrock of calm, patience and self-compassion. The longer you can set aside to meditate, and the more regularly you practice, the greater the benefits you’ll get. So when I went from an occasional 10-minute break to a daily 20-minute morning ritual, for instance, it made all the difference.
Are you ready? Come along now on Goalcast’s guided meditation, and we’ll give you a few pointers to get you started on the path to living a mindful life.
The 4-Step Guide to How to Meditate
There are different ways to meditate, but most share the essential points. If you’re new to the practice, start with a 10-minute session a day, and begin to go longer and longer as you learn to calm your mind. Eventually, you can integrate a 30-minute session into your daily routine to benefit more fully from the powers of meditation.
- Find a comfortable and upright sitting pose. The first thing is to make sure that you are sitting in a relaxed and comfortable position, so that you don’t get distracted by bodily tensions, cramps or discomforts. Generally, a cross-legged position on a soft surface (like a yoga mat, area rug, or lawn) is preferred, but it’s important that your knees be below your hips so that your back is upright but relaxed, without any effort required to hold yourself up. This will favor oxygen and blood circulation throughout the body. If your knees are above your hips, you should find an elevated surface to sit on to avoid rounding your back. (A stack of books works well as a makeshift stool if you don’t have a yoga block on hand.) But if you’re at work, you can even meditate at your desk, so long as your posture is comfortable, upright and relaxed.
- Breathe deeply. You can begin settling into your posture by taking a deep breath through the nose, and slowly letting it out. Then begin inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils, allowing your chest and abdomen to expand as you take the air in deeply. If you’re feeling tense or anxious, it might feel forced at first to lengthen your breaths like this. Don’t worry. Just gradually deepen your breathing more and more, and in a few minutes it will start to feel more natural.
- Pick a focus point. Focus is the heart of the meditative practice, and what allows for the fullest benefits to be unlocked. It’s also the most challenging part of meditation, and what leads many people to get frustrated when they’re unable to stop their thoughts from ricocheting around their heads like a kid in a candy store. Don’t stress it. Just begin by picking something to focus on — it could be a point on the floor a few feet in front of you, a soothing sound, an image in your mind, or just your breathing.
- Cultivate patience and self-compassion. Especially when you first start out, your mind will have a hard time settling down. It’s okay. Behave as you would a hyperactive (but well-intentioned!) friend — acknowledge the thought, but gently invite your attention back to your focus point without judging or criticizing yourself.
With time, you’ll get better and better at slowing down, until frustration finally makes way for excitement for the daily moments spent pampering your most precious resource: your mind.
Do you have your own tips or methods that you’ve discovered for your own meditation practice? Share it with us in the comments below!