5 Steps to Starting A Meditation Practice

I think the most important part of starting a meditation practice is remembering that it is called a practice for a reason!
 
Nobody is "good" at meditation from the start. It takes practice - lots and lots of practice. The beautiful thing is that you can feel the benefits each and every time you take the time to sit in silence and connect with your breath. Soon you will notice that you are able to keep your mind focused a little longer and when it does become distracted, you are able to bring it back to meditation quicker and quicker.
 
Create a set time in your schedule. 
At first it is best to do it first thing in the morning when you wake up. You may want to splash some water on your face and brush your teeth to make sure you don’t fall back to sleep!

Designate a set duration. 

When beginning a practice it can be hard to set aside part of your day to sit still. You may want to start with three minutes on the first day and set an alarm. See how that feels and try adding an additional minute every other day so by the end of the week you are sitting for six minutes. Keep it at 6 minutes for a week and see if you feel the desire to sit longer. Even a 3-minute meditation practice is beneficial so don't feel like you need to sit for longer.

Find a special space in your home. 

Make a space that is quiet and clean. No clutter or visual distractions. You can create an altar of things that are special, have significant meaning to you, or that make you smile. Make sure you have the proper seating arrangement that you can be comfortable sitting upright.

Now, if you know my dog Bodhi, you know he likes to be within arms reach of me at all times! I do meditate with him and although it can be a slight distraction - I think learning to meditate with small distractions around is quite normal. Don't use animals or even humans as an excuse not to practice. Some days I sit and meditate in my car before walking to whatever errand or client I am headed to. Finding a special place is wonderful but just know that you can learn to meditate anywhere.

Designate a focal point. 

You may want to keep your eyes open and stare at a candle flame. Other people choose to close their eyes and focus on the third eye if they are intellectual or the heart center if they are emotional. Try different methods to see what feels best.

Focus on your breathing. 

Slowly begin to inhale through the nose taking slow deep breaths in and out. At first you can count your breaths in an effort to keep the mind from wandering. When you mind does wander, just bring your focus back to breathing as quickly as possible. Your mind is going to wander and it is okay! When you are done with your practice just take a moment to bring awareness to where you mind wandered to.

One breathing technique is repeat "rising, rising. rising" as you inhale, and "falling, falling, falling" as you exhale, and "thinking, thinking, thinking" as soon as you catch yourself thinking to help you bring your focus back to your breath again. It's simple and one of my favorites.

This is a starting point. What you do with it from here is up to you! There are many benefits to meditation, as simple as lower stress levels to preventing heart disease. 

Helpful Apps

There are several apps out there to help you! Here are the top three I have tried and my brief reviews.

Insight Timer - I love this app because there are several different ways to use it. It does have a timer that you can completely customize with different peaceful sounds. That way if you are trying to meditate for ten minutes, you could set the timer for ten minutes but you could also have a bell chime at 5 minutes and at 9 minutes so you know when you are half way done and when you only have a minute to go. Sometimes sitting in silence for ten minutes can seem like an eternity so some days I like the timer component! The other feature of this app I see as a positive and a negative. There are thousands of guided meditations on here from teachers throughout the world. In that sense it is awesome but it tends to suck me into scrolling to find the perfect one I'm in the mood for. I avoid it a little now because I spent to much time searching and not enough time meditating but it is completely free!

Headspace - This is a great one for beginners that will help you develop a habit. Meditations are set up for a certain amount of days with a specific focus. I have a really difficult time listening to his voice. There is nothing wrong with it but it makes me zone out - I just can't focus on him and my mind wanders way too much. I tried it for a month but cancelled my subscription. It has great topics though for focus, pain relief, relationships, and more. If you like his voice, it is definitely a great structure.

Inscape - This is the one I use consistently now. When I first downloaded it, I wasn't hugely impressed but they just did an overhaul and it's wonderful. The meditations range from 3-20 minutes and are sorted into categories like: Sleeping Better, Reducing Stress, Love & Relationships, and more. There is a wide variety between sound meditation, breathing practices, and guided imagery that my clients and I have really enjoyed. If you have time for facebook you have time to meditate! Stop making excuses and start your practice today.

Another option for a wide variety of meditations is just heading to YouTube and searching for the meditation focus you are looking for.

I teach meditation techniques in 30 minute sessions if you would like some expert guidance. Don't worry, you won't be sitting in silence the whole time! I break it into small 3 minute meditations at first and we test out a lot of different styles to see what works best for you. If you decide to continue with guided meditations then we will slowly increase the length of the exercises. I can also provide guided meditations tailored to you unique needs that I can record for you to use at your own convenience.

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