The goal of meditation is to focus and understand your mind—eventually reaching a higher level of awareness and inner calm. Meditation is an ancient practice, but scientists are still discovering all of its benefits. Regular meditation can help you to control your emotions, enhance your concentration, decrease stress, and even become more connected to those around you. With practice, you’ll be able to achieve a sense of tranquility and peace no matter what’s going on around you. There are many different ways to meditate, so if one practice doesn’t seem to work for you, consider trying a different type that works better for you before you give up.
Getting Comfortable before You Meditate
Choose a quiet, peaceful environment. Meditation should be practiced in a peaceful location. A tranquil environment will enable you to focus exclusively on the task at hand and avoid external stimuli and distractions. Find a place where you will not be interrupted for the duration of your meditation—whether it lasts 5 minutes or half an hour. The space does not need to be very large—a walk-in closet or even an outdoor bench can be used for meditation as long as you have privacy.
- For those new to meditation, it’s especially important to avoid any external distractions. Turn off TV sets, phones, or other noisy appliances.
- If you play music, choose calm, repetitive tunes to avoid breaking your concentration. You can also play white noise or quiet nature sounds, like running water.
- Your meditation space does not need to be completely silent, so you won’t need earplugs. The sound of a lawnmower or dog barking shouldn’t prevent effective meditation. In fact, being aware of these noises without letting them dominate your thoughts is an important component of meditation.
- Meditating outside works for many so long as you don’t sit near a busy roadway or another source of loud noise. You can find peace under a tree or sitting on some lush grass in a favorite corner of a garden.
Wear comfortable clothes. One of the major goals of meditation is to calm the mind and block out external distractions. This can be difficult if you feel physically uncomfortable due to tight or restrictive clothing. Try to wear loose clothing during meditation practice and make sure to remove your shoes.
- Wear a sweater or cardigan if you plan on meditating someplace cool, or bring a blanket or shawl you can wrap around yourself. You don’t want the sensation of feeling cold to consume your thoughts.
- If you are in a place where you can’t easily change your clothes, do your best to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Try just taking off your shoes.
Decide how long you want to meditate. Before you begin, you should decide how long you are going to meditate. While many seasoned meditators recommend 20-minute sessions twice a day, beginners can start by doing as little as 5 minutes once a day.
- Once you have decided on a time frame, try to stick to it. Don’t just give up because you feel like it isn’t working. It will take time and practice to achieve successful meditation. Right now, the most important thing is to keep trying.
- Find a way to keep track of your meditation time without distracting yourself. Set a gentle alarm to alert you when your time is up. Or time your practice to end with a certain event—such as the sun hitting a certain spot on the wall.
Do some stretches before you start to prevent stiffness. Meditation usually involves sitting in one spot for a certain period of time, so it is important to release any tension or tightness before you begin. A couple of minutes of light stretching can help prepare both your body and mind for meditation. It will also prevent you from focusing on any sore spots instead of relaxing.
- Remember to stretch your neck, shoulders, and lower back—especially if you’ve been sitting in front of a computer. Stretching out your legs—with an emphasis on the inner thigh—can be helpful when meditating in the lotus position.
- If you don’t already know how to stretch, consider learning different stretching techniques to try before you meditate. Many meditation experts recommend doing light yoga stretches before meditation.
Sit in a comfortable position. It is very important that you are comfortable while you meditate, so finding the best position for you is the goal. Traditionally, meditation is practiced by sitting on a cushion on the ground in either a lotus position or half-lotus position, but this position can be uncomfortable if you lack flexibility in your legs, hips, and lower back. You want to find a posture that allows you to sit with a balanced, tall, and straight posture.
- You can sit—with or without crossing your legs—on a cushion, chair, or meditation bench.
- Once seated, your pelvis should be tilted forward enough to center your spine over your “sit bones,” the 2 bones in your behind that bear your weight when seated. To tilt your pelvis into the right position, sit on the forward edge of a thick cushion or place something about 3 or 4 inches (7.6 or 10.2 cm) thick under the back legs of a chair.
- You can also a use a meditation bench, which is usually built with a tilted seat. If you’re using a bench that’s not tilted, put something under it, so it tilts forward between .5 to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.5 cm).
Tip: Don’t feel restricted to sitting if that’s not the most comfortable position for you. You can also meditate standing, lying down, or even walking—the most important thing is to be comfortable!
Straighten your spine once you’re seated. Good posture during meditation will keep you more comfortable. Once you’re in a comfortable position, focus on the rest of your back. Start from your bottom and think about each vertebra in your spine as balancing one on top of another to support the whole weight of your torso, neck, and head.
- It requires practice to find the position that allows you to relax your torso with only slight effort being used to maintain your balance. Whenever you feel tension, relax the area. If you can’t relax it without slumping, check the alignment of your posture and seek to rebalance your torso, so those areas can relax.
- The most important thing is that you are comfortable, relaxed, and have a balanced torso, so your spine can support all of your weight from the waist up.
- The traditional hand placement involves resting your hands in your lap, palms facing upward, with your right hand on top of your left. However, you can also rest your hands on your knees or leave them hanging down by your side.
Close your eyes if it helps you focus and relax. Meditation can be performed with the eyes open or closed. As a beginner, it is often best to try meditating with closed eyes in order to avoid visual distractions.
- Once you have grown accustomed to meditation, you can try practicing with your eyes open. This tends to help if you find yourself falling asleep when meditating with your eyes closed or if you experience disturbing mental images, which happens to a small number of people.
- If you keep your eyes open, you will need to keep them “soft” by not focusing on any one thing in particular.
- You don’t want to go into a trance-like state. The goal is to feel relaxed, yet alert.
Learn how to pay close attention to the present moment with this meditation exercise.
Find a comfortable place to sit, and a posture that is both alert and relaxed at the same time. See if you can make the spine erect, without being too rigid.
Close your eyes (or leave them slightly open if you prefer), and take a few slow breaths. Take a few moments to loosen your body from your head to your toes, and take a few more deep breaths.
Stop to notice the sensations throughout your body — the warmth, the coolness or any discomfort. Be aware of them, but try not to fidget too much.
Pick one sensation — such as the feeling of your breath going in and out — and devote your attention to it. Just focus on that.
When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the breath. After a few moments, your mind may wander again. Once again, notice that and simply return your attention back to the present moment.
When you’re ready — after one minute, 10 minutes or 30 minutes — open your eyes. Though your formal meditation practice may have ended, your mindful awareness can continue throughout the day.