How To Start Your Meditation Practice
No matter who you are, where you live, or your financial status, meditation is an option for you. If you feel stress, discomfort, or anxiety in your daily life, then it’s an option you should strongly consider. If you don’t face any of those issues, then CONGRATULATIONS, please tell me your secret! Still, that doesn’t mean meditation isn’t for you. Meditation takes you on a spiritual journey, allowing you to know yourself on a deeper, more spiritual level. The point is, meditation can be for everyone.
Meditation is used in fortune 500 companies, branches of the military, and it’s taught in many schools as a method to educate children on how to deal with stress from an early age. Stress is the number one killer in the United States and in several other countries around the globe.
Meditation is a flexible technique that can be made to fit your schedule. You can meditate for five minutes, ten minutes, or longer, depending on your availability. You can meditate in the morning, on your lunch break, or in the evenings — again, whatever works for you.
I started meditating in 2012 when I was twenty-five, and it felt like my world was falling apart. At the time, I didn’t have health insurance, and I couldn’t afford to see a therapist. I happened to read Eat, Pray, Love that year, and there is a section where author, Elizabeth Gilbert, breaks down meditation to sitting with your eyes closed, saying the mantra, Hum Sa, “I am that.” So, I tried it. Keeping my mind quiet wasn’t easy, but despite that, I felt a bit of ease after.
I kept going, practicing on my own, knowing nothing more than what I’d read in Eat, Pray, Love. It was three or four years later, once I was living in New York City before I ever took a formal meditation class. The classes were great because I learned new styles of meditation, but they weren’t necessary to learn how to meditate, especially in the age of YouTube.
Why do I continue to practice meditation daily? I’ve been doing it long enough that I know I am a better person on the days I meditate vs. the days I don’t. Meditation helps my patience, my kindness, and my temper. It also makes me a more pleasant person to be around and live with. That’s why I keep carving time out of my day, even if I only have five minutes. Those five minutes make me a better version of myself.
All you need to start your meditation practice is time, a quiet area, and the willingness to come into your practice with an open mind. Here are some tips on starting your own meditation practice.
Breaking The Stigma
There’s a stigma placed on meditation such as it’s hippie business or some sort of Eastern voodoo. None of this is true. Perhaps the hippies helped normalize it in Western culture. Still, since the 1960s, meditation has been used as a tool for people of all colors, shapes, sizes, and political affiliation to calm their minds and to help alleviate stress. There is no religious component to meditation – you can be a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, whatever — it’s a spiritual practice, not religious. As I mentioned, several studies are documenting the benefits of meditation when introduced in the workplace, military, and schools. Meditation is simply a tool readily available to help you work through the stressors in your life. And that’s not even the best part …
Meditation is FREE
Did she say free? Damn right! All you need to meditate is yourself, a quiet place, and an open mind. Sure, you can take courses to learn certain types of meditation like Transcendental Meditation (TM) that will cost money, but even in those scenarios, they base it off your income. You don’t have to go that route, though. You can opt to go the free route and do it in the comfort of your own home.
While the act of meditation is free, there are optional items you can buy for your meditation tool-kit. These are entirely optional. They can be helpful during meditation, but they aren’t necessary for your practice. Again, all you need is you, a quiet place, and the willingness to take an open mind into your practice. However, as your practice grows, you may want to build your meditation tool-Kit. Here are some of the items I recommend.
I recommend picking these in-person vs. buying them online because you want to have a connection with your stones, and your initial reaction to the stone is important. However, if you don’t have convenient access to a stone shop, you can go the online route. Type in buy meditation stones on Google, and a plethora of shops will be at your fingertips.
My favorite meditation tool is sage. You light the end and then smudge away the bad energy. I love starting my mediation practice with sage. I also sage our home after I’ve cleaned to further remove lingering energy, after an argument, and on Sunday nights to bless the week ahead. There are all sorts of sage rituals, and you can build your own. If you want to learn more about smudging and the history of sage in meditation, here’s some further reading for you.
Certain scents ignite joy, peace, and relaxation and can be helpful in your meditation process. This can include candles, an aromatherapy diffuser, essential oils, or incense. I enjoy changing my aromatherapy based on my mood and what I need. For example, if I need to chill out, I’ll go with a lavender scent. If I have a big day ahead and want to feel alert, I’ll go with an orange fragrance. As you continue your practice, you will learn more about what the certain scents represent.
Once you have your tool-kit in place, you’ll need a place to house the items. It’s helpful to set up a shrine for your practice. This is not a religious shrine, but a shrine to your spiritual self. Your shrine can include your tools and any items connected to the core of who you are. Your shrine should 100% reflect you. This doesn’t have to be a fancy shrine either. Mine is a picnic basket I rarely used repurposed as a shrine. It brings me joy and peace every time I see it.
Create Your Zen Zone
A zen zone or meditation area is simply the space you create in your home that is sacred to your meditation practice and a place for you to go when you need to relax. This is where your shrine would live and where you would sit and practice your meditation. The items in your zen zone are up to you, so long as all the things bring you joy.
My zen zone is filled with colorful pillows, a furry rug, and my grandmother’s quilt. I didn’t purchase the items for my zen zone all at once. I slowly built it up. When I’d see pillows on clearance, I’d buy those that caught my eye. This does not have to be an expensive endeavor. You simply want to find items that bring you joy. These items may very well already be in your home. My zen zone is my favorite place in the entire house. It’s an adult version of a clubhouse!
Types of Meditation
There are many types of meditation. I’m not going to go too deep into any one kind, but I’ll touch briefly on the most common types of meditation. The great thing about these different types of mediation is that you can find free, guided meditations on YouTube. Aside from TM, you can learn these types of meditation at home, and again, FOR FREE.
This type of meditation trains your brain to be in the moment. It teaches you to be observant of your thoughts while not interacting with them. The great thing about mindfulness meditation is that the more you practice, the more you incorporate mindfulness into your daily habits. Life is much better lived when in the moment.
This was the first form of meditation I learned. Years before I had a zen zone or any meditation tools, I learned to sit with my breathing and imagine a place where I felt most relaxed. I always went to the beach.
I would sit there imagining the soft sand beneath me, the ocean breeze brushing across my face, the salty air touching my lips, the warmth of the sun beating down on me, the sounds of the waves crashing, and the birds squawking overhead.
Once I felt like I was on the beach, I went into my breathing and mantra, Hum Sa. Hum on the inhale, Sa on the exhale. I stuck with this meditation practice for probably four years before I learned new techniques. Another piece of visualization meditations is manifestation meditations, where you manifest the things you want to bring into your life. This can be an incredibly powerful experience.
Gratitude meditation, like mindfulness, is an excellent practice because not only does it teach you to focus on gratitude, but it carries over into your daily life. As Oprah famously said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” Gratitude meditation helps with that. It also makes you feel incredible and uplifted as you move through your day.
I’ll do a separate article on chakras in the coming weeks, but the basics of chakras are there are seven different energy centers in your body. Chakra meditations either help open a chakra area that may be blocked, or you can do a meditation that cleanses and rejuvenates all your chakra centers at once. I read The Chakra Handbook to learn about my different energy centers, and it was an eye-opening experience.
This is one meditation practice where you have to find a certified teacher to learn the method. Transcendental Meditation, commonly referred to as TM, is one of the most popular forms of meditation in the U.S. It gained popularity in the West back in the 1960s when The Beatles famously learned the technique. Almost all major cities have a TM center where you can go to learn. However, if you aren’t in a major city, the course is set over 3 days, and you have to be in attendance for all. With that said, learning TM is described as putting your brain on a charger. Having practiced the technique, I can attest to that.
One of the most unique experiences is participating in an active meditation class. It’s mediation, meets dance, and yoga. The energy that arises between you and your classmates is electric. Active meditations are fun, but the most significant part of the experience is how rejuvenated you feel after.
When Your Brain Won’t Stop Talking
Most folks beginning meditation have the same response, “I can’t get my brain to be quiet.” Yes, because like most activities, you have to practice to become good at it. You have to train your brain to let go of your thoughts. In the beginning, it won’t always be easy, but every time you practice will be rewarding, and you’ll continue to get better. This is why I recommend starting with a guided meditation or a mantra-based meditation. A mantra is a phrase you repeat over and over that coincides with your breath, remember, “Hum Sa.”Your brain will undoubtedly, at some point, get lost in thought – that’s okay – once you realize you’re off track, you simply return to your mantra and breath.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
If you’re shying away from meditation because you don’t have the time or perhaps, you’re always on the road, that’s not a real excuse. You can meditate anywhere, especially now, with the vast selection of guided meditations and noise-canceling headphones. When I lived in New York City, I meditated every morning on my subway commute to the office. If you’re driving and have an extra ten minutes before a meeting or class, take that time to sit in the parking lot and meditate. There are no rules on where you can and can’t meditate. My recommendation is to download a favorite meditation or two on your phone. That way, if you don’t have service or you’re on a flight, you have access to a guided meditation.
Favorite Guided Meditations
Here are some of my favorite guided meditations to get you started.
Choose Your Own Adventure
The best thing about meditation is you can choose your own adventure and determine what styles work best for you. Maybe because you dread Mondays, you make that your day for a gratitude meditation, Tuesdays are for mindfulness, and so on. Build a schedule that works for YOU. After all, this is your inner journey. Enjoy, and feel free to reach out with any questions.