There are a lot of resources out there to help you get started with meditation. While they all try to be as helpful as possible, there's one super-simple trick to kick-start your meditation practice that is rarely discussed.
How small? One to two minutes at first, once per day.
Starting something new is always hard, and the difficulty only increases when you start something new at the volume and intensity of someone who's been doing that thing for a long time. That compounding difficulty makes it more likely to discourage you from continuing.
So why isn't this a more widely discussed meditation trick? I think the side effect of having very experienced people try to teach you anything is that they're so far removed from a beginner's place that they don't even remember what it was like when they first started.
Sure, they'll be able to help you with the basics, like how to sit, the environment you should be in, how to begin and end, the list goes on. The problem? They've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner.
Suggesting a new person start with 10 minutes of meditation isn't that far off from suggesting they start with 10 hours. It's easy to get overwhelmed, frustrated, and give up, concluding "It's just not for me" when that couldn't be further from the truth. Maybe you just have the wrong initial setup and expectations.
Start with a very short session, acknowledging that starting small is the smart thing to do, and then enjoy a very brief meditation session.
A few other helpful tips that will help you with your "start small" approach:
- If you start small, make that small meditation into a daily habit. While a short and small meditation session starting point makes it easier to grow your sessions longer and longer, doing it every day makes you more likely to stick with it. Even if it feels hard at first, meditating daily makes it more likely to become a habit that sticks.
- Meditate in the same setting and at the same time every day. Meditating in the same context each and every day will make it more likely to be a habit that sticks. Two very common times and situations are first thing in the morning right after you wake up or right before you leave the house to go to work or start your day.
- Picking a similar time, place, or situation each and every day makes it into a ritual that you'll be less likely to forget or skip.
- When you increase your meditation time, make those increases very small. Maybe after a full week of two-minute meditations, you'll want to add a few minutes to your routine.
- But even as you add time to your daily meditation, keep it small. Go from two minutes to four minutes. Then, after a solid week, you can bump it up from four to six minutes. Small increases operate on the same principle of small starts: not overwhelming yourself.
- Take a long-term view. I love all the 30-day challenge programs out there, designed to help motivate people to try something new. But look at this as a skill to practice and build for a long time to come. And since the more days you practice meditation the more you benefit from it, taking a long-term view will lead to more and more benefits from the practice.
Even with all these pieces of advice and tips, don't forget the most important one: Start small.
So, if you've never done it before, try it with me now. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably, with your back upright, your eyes closed, and using either a timer or a guided meditation, try to focus on your breath for the next two minutes.
Starting small will do you a world of good.