5 Tips To Help Deepen Your Meditation Practice In The New Year
Whether your New Year's resolution is to start meditating, or you're already an avid meditator looking to deepen your practice, it's no secret dropping in can be challenging. The mind races, the body can't sit still, and we can wind up feeling frustrated—which is, well, not the goal. To help you tap in next time you go to sit, here are five tried-and-true meditation tips:
Harness your breath.
Not only does the rate of our breath directly translate to heart rate and physiological state, but most meditations have some sort of breath component to help you stay focused and relax the body. Deep belly breathing is an excellent way to bring your body into a state of ease and also gives you something to concentrate on.
How to deep belly breathe:
With the hands resting on the belly, breathe in deeply, sending the breath away from the chest and down toward the abdomen. Imagine there is a balloon in your belly, and on the inhale, that balloon expands into your hands, and on the exhale it deflates. Try extending the exhale slightly to further encourage the body back to its natural resting state.
Find the right practice for you.
From vipassana to transcendental, there's no shortage of different kinds of meditation to try. Release any notions of what you think meditation should look like, and do what comes the most naturally, or feels right. Maybe that's an active meditation, such as mindfully walking or even doing the dishes, or a lovingkindness meditation if you want to offer your practice to a greater good. Guided or mantra meditations are a good option for those who have trouble focusing. Long story short: You've got options.
The truth is, meditation is not about stifling or burying your thoughts. Particularly in the beginning, a novice meditator will have to get used to witnessing their thoughts as they arise, without judgment, and letting them be. It's easier said than done, as any number of things can pop into your head while trying to feel Zen: I'm stressed and this isn't helping. I'm bad at this. I have to go to the store when I'm done. Why can't I focus? These trains of thought aren't uncommon, but they are OK. Let them be there, and find the place within you that is separate from the mental chatter. In time, you will find it gets quieter and quieter.
Meditation can help us with inner growth, as we learn to overcome the mental barriers we create on the path to the best version of ourselves. One way to give this process a bit of a boost is to intentionally reflect either during or after your meditation practice for a moment. You can do this weekly or monthly, or on milestone days like a birthday or the New Year. It's about taking the time to notice the changes you achieved within yourself and reflect on and appreciate how far you've come.
Don't try too hard.
And lastly, as mbg class instructor and meditation teacher Light Watkins previously explained to mbg, one of the most common meditation hurdles people come up against is trying too hard. Rather than straining to concentrate, "it's about stripping unnecessary things away—removing the focus, the concentration, the letting-go, and all of the other 'doings,'" he says. "Instead, just be in it. Being is as much of a skill as doing." This ties back to our third tip; the idea is to simply allow, rather than resist, the present moment, regardless of what that moment is bringing up for you.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.