10 Tips To Help You Start A Meditation Practice

Written by Oneika Mays

I meditate. But it's been a long road to get here. Buddha on the mountaintop, I'm not. You might describe me as a bit tense high-strung. My mind clicks a million miles a minute. In fact, as I type this, I am thinking of a grocery list, my class tonight, my own practice, and the laundry that I need to fold.

Last year I practiced 108 days in a row of yoga. It was a great way to reconnect with my practice and myself. And it worked.

I was going to do it again this year, but in the back of my mind, I knew that meditating was the bigger issue. So I procrastinated. I told myself I needed the perfect meditation space. I told myself I should start on a Monday, when the sun was out, on the fifth of the month …. blah blah, you get the idea.

After reading a post on this site about before and after photos of people who meditated I said it out loud:

"I'm going to commit to 108 days of mediation and see what happens." (I love experiments particularly when I'm the guinea pig.)

And so it was. I don't know how you operate, but when I say things out loud—even when my dog Dakota is the only witness, they become true and therefore must be realized. Now that I had said it—it was time to get started. Here are the 10 things that helped me:

1. Leap.

There is no great time to get started meditating. I would always be busy. I just had to start.

2. Keep a journal of your feelings either in a diary or on your phone.

Jotting down feelings is a powerful motivator for both change and acceptance.

3. Start small.

I started out for with 10 minutes and went from there. If 10 minutes seems like eternity, try five.

4. Use an app or a timer.

It’s hard to let go if you're constantly sneaking your eyes open to take a peek at the clock. By using the stopwatch function on your phone, you can focus on the act of observing your breathing rather than watching how many minutes are still left. I found success with two apps. One is Stop, Breathe & Think. This app allows you to "check in" with your feelings before you begin and offers suggestions for a meditation that suits your mood. Another app I like is Insight Timer. One of its cool features is that it shows you how many people are meditating when you are.

5. Find a comfortable seat.

Sit upright. I sit on the floor on a block. Others may prefer using a pillow or a chair.

6. Find a comfortable gaze.

This may mean the eyes are open or closed. I like to close my eyes. If I chose to do a second meditation at night, I'll keep my eyes open and use a candle.

7. Use a simple mantra.

My monkey mind can get the best of me, swinging from thought to thought while I’m trying to be still. Instead of trying to reach up and grab the thoughts, I allow them to go on but I focus on a simple thought that turns the volume on those thoights down. Sometimes it’s a simple phrase like I am. I inhale on the word I and exhale on am. Inhale and exhale. I … Am … Eventually I come to a place where I am very quiet, even if only for a moment. If a phrase doesn’t work, counting can help: inhale on one and exhale on two.

8. Be kind (to yourself).

It's not easy to be still, especially in the go-go-go world. There will be days when it's torture to sit. Heck, many days are like that, but if every step I take is on the path to enlightenment, I can't go wrong by trying.

9. Be consistent.

During the first few days, I made time each day to be still. This didn't work for me. So now, I get up early each morning and begin my day with stillness.

10. Try again.

And again.

It's been two weeks and I feel … aware. Open to the idea that living in the moment is powerful. The biggest thing I've learned is that meditating is not about emptying my mind, but coming to understand it.

So go ahead and sit. Namaste y'all.

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