Cultivate Your Meditation Practice: Step by Step
Meditation is the single most important skill all of my clients (and all of humanity really) need to develop to step into their limitless potential as soul beings in human form. I believe and know how critical meditation is to the spiritual awakening and ascension journey that I offer free weekly meditations on zoom and social media. But I know many starting out on their spiritual journey struggle with the how, what, where, when, and how long questions of meditation that they often get stuck and frustrated. For more experienced meditators, your practice can always expand and deepen, so reevaluating your practice situation periodically is a good idea to help with that evolution. Like any skill, learning meditation has its challenges. With a little preparation, experimentation, and repetition you will be meditating with more ease in no time. Here are the steps I recommend people take to cultivate a meditation practice with more joy and success.
1) Determine your intention
The first thing you want to do is determine why you want to meditate. There is an abundance of literature supporting the positive effects meditation has on reducing stress, improving pain, and improving focus and attention. It also helps us develop greater self awareness, process emotional wounds and unprocessed grief, and helps us connect with our inner wisdom to embody the spiritual virtues of compassion, love, peace, joy, and bliss. Before you move forward with meditating, ask yourself what are you want to get out of your meditation practice.
2) Find your meditation space
The space in which you meditation is the next thing you want to figure out. The location for meditation makes a huge difference in whether it will help or hinder your ability to still the mind. Too often people choose places to meditate where they will be interrupted, are not cozy enough, not accessible consistently, or are way too cozy (and they fall asleep). To avoid these common pitfalls of choosing a meditation location, I recommend you pay attention to the places you frequent throughout your typical day and choose 3 spots you can have quiet uninterrupted time alone. This could be at your home, in the parking garage at your office, by the tree in your yard, the park down the street, your den/home office, or any other place you feel drawn to. Maybe your weekend meditation spot will be different then during the week. Having multiple locations as potential or actual meditation space(s) gives you options to choose from as your settling into your meditation routine. It also gives you variety to change up your meditation experience which can keep you excited and motivated to keep at it. Experimenting with multiple locations will help you get comfortable integrating meditation, eventually, anywhere at anytime. If you need to get centered or have an emotion to process, being able to pop into a meditation where you are comes in very handy. For me, I started to meditate at the park because I eventually wanted to be able to meditate in public with all the noise around. Now, I can meditate at the airport while waiting for my early morning flights with no issue.
* Note, steer clear from meditating in your bed because they more often then note fall asleep.
3) Time to accessorize
Yup, its time to get your location all dazzled up with the accessories you want to bring the tranquility into your space. Making your meditation space feel like a sanctuary is a real plus especially when you are starting out. It again helps you feel connected to your practice because you are investing in it. But more importantly, having a space that sets the energetic tone of peace and relaxation will assist you in getting into those necessary vibrational states to meditate more easily. If your meditation space doesn't make you feel more relaxed and even enticing to be in then evaluate the accessories until it feels right.
An accessory is really anything that will enhance your meditation location. This can be posters, meditation pillow, music, candles, dimmed lighting, statues, and etc. You do not have to go all out. If one of your locations is at a remote area where you cannot bring many items, an accessory as simple as a beaded bracelet, essential oils, candle, or a photo to look at can be enough. I used to LOVE meditating in my car and I would carry with me a little bag of essential oils and my wood bead bracelet. When I put the oil on me and focus on my beads it quickly got me into the deeply focused and relaxed state I needed to meditate. The key again here is to make your meditation space energetically alluring and conducive to relaxation.
4) Choose your Style
Now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of your meditation practice. Here you must decide what kind of meditation you want to do. There are many different kinds and you want to choose one that will most align with your intended purpose for meditating. There is guided visualization, transcendental, mindfulness, mantra, movement, focused, spiritual, and loving-kindness types to name the most common. I generally recommend beginners to start with guided visualization so they can develop more of their focused attention ability, no matter what your intention is. Movement meditation is also a great one as I find it really helps cultivate the state of spiritual presence for those seeking a more spiritually rich moment to moment life. Allow yourself to experiment with different style before you commit to practicing one. From personal experience, you want to avoid pushing yourself onto one style that may not be the best fit you. When I first started meditating as a teenager I used Zen meditation which was very difficult to start out doing. I just couldn't consistently get the "stare at my eye lids" focus figured out at that time. Even though I enjoyed the challenge and discipline it took to reach those fleeting deep states of consciousness, I did become frustration with its difficulty. Unfortunately because I forced myself into a particular style it caused me to leave meditation for many years before trying a different style. That was my own stubbornness and over achieving ego at play there. When you are choosing a style, leave your ego at the door and pick a style that suits what you are after and also facilitates you having a pleasant meditation experience.
5) Practice, practice, practice
Time to get in there and put all this preparation into action. The best way to do this is to make a planned time of day to practice and create a reminder. You can write it in your phone calendar or have a sticky note in your home, car or office. But plan to practice every day for at least 21 days. That time frame is ideal to help really engrain a new habit. Your skills will also build quickly over that time frame. If you miss a day don't get down on yourself. Just get back at it the next day. I suggest making it a game or creating some sort of reward for yourself. One person had a meditation party after she reached her goal so she had something that really motivated her. One client gave her friend $100 and she would only get it back after reaching her meditation goal. Choosing an incentive for yourself that also helps you stay accountable is the best way to reinforce your practice. So, enlist friends and family into your new practice build venture and get creative how you will set up your practice plan.
As for how long to practice? You can start out at just 5 mins a day, but increase that time frame a minute every day or so. Some people like to break up their meditation over the day (5 mins am and pm) to build skill faster. Doing 20-30 minutes of meditation a day is really beneficial and the amount of time to shoot for.