How to Meditate in 9 Simple Steps
“I get it, I get it!” I remember wanting to scream. Meditating is good for me, so is kale, spirulina, hemp, and chlorophyll water (let’s not talk about it, but I went through a chlorophyll water stint and my father’s heart would probably skip a beat knowing how much I spent on bottles of that flavorless green water). In summary, today’s wellness world tells us that green things are good for you.
I’d classify meditating as “green” in society’s sense of the word; instead of composting your food items, you can compost your thoughts through your breath. Like composting, meditating aids in letting go and seeing the beauty in the grime of your own thoughts, habits, and old patterns, and growing anew. Sounds like sustainable living to me.
I had heard the science (meditating for 20 minutes a day decreases stress and anxiety), listened to friends preach personal benefits (they felt happier), and downloaded the apps. Despite it all, meditation still sounded a little hokey to me. Plus, I knew one thing to be certain: I didn’t have time to meditate.
Any of this sound familiar? If it does here is a tried and true guide on how to meditate in nine simple steps:
Make the time
In today’s fast-paced world, finding the time to meditate may seem challenging. We have work, classes, meetings, friends to see, exercise classes, happy hours, Netflix shows to catch up on, parties, and more work. Not to mention checking our ever-present social media becomes a daily chore in itself as we find ourselves more and more attached to our phones. But just like we brush our teeth, eat our meals, and take a shower, we can incorporate meditation into our daily regimens. Sure, at first it’s difficult, but the research says it takes 21 days to establish a habit.
Most regular practitioners meditate for 20 minutes a day at the beginning of the day, soon after they wake up, or at the end of the day, right before they go to bed. No need to start with 20 minutes, simply beginning with five minutes is a feat in itself. Then work your way up to 10 minutes, then 15, and finally 20.
It takes effort and commitment on the part of the practitioner, so start by setting the intention to meditate every day—and follow through. By doing this you’ve already won half the battle.
Create a space to meditate
Create a space in your home that feels safe and comfortable, but not too comfortable as you may risk dozing off instead of meditating. The space should be relatively quiet. You can even meditate in your office in an unused conference room or at your desk when the office isn’t bustling. You can choose to sit on the floor or in a chair, which brings us to the next step…
Find your meditation posture
In the beginning, I would recommend staying away from meditating on a bed, lying down. If you are able-bodied, I would recommend not meditating horizontally at all. However, if you’re injured or have back problems, feel free to meditate lying down or in a chair. Just remember, meditation is an exercise in awareness and focus, and it’s hard to do either if you’re a little too comfortable.
If you choose to sit on the floor in the traditional meditation posture, you can either sit with your legs crossed in front of you or folded underneath you. Either way, you should have some kind of cushion under your bottom, and your hips should be higher than your knees; this allows for better posture and prevents your legs from falling asleep. Sit upright, with your back nice and tall, but don’t overstretch your back. You should still be able to feel the curve of your lower spine. Keep your head up nice and tall, you can imagine yourself being pulled up loosely by an imaginary string that starts at your tailbone and comes through the top of your head. Your hands can rest gently against your legs around the middle of your upper thighs.
Again if you are injured, feel free to sit in a chair. Sit at the edge of the seat, upright and tall (but not uptight). If you can, don’t lean against the back of the seat. Again your hands should rest loosely against your legs.
If you have to lie down, no worries. Try to do so on a harder surface with a yoga mat underneath you. You can put a cushion under your head if you have any neck injuries, or even a rolled up blanket under your knees if you suffer from back or leg injuries. Allow your hands to fall against the side of your body, resting palms up.
Don’t fret about what to do with your eyes
Certain groups insist the eyes should be open because keeping them open allows us to be more present and aware of our surroundings. If you choose to keep them open, find a spot 3–5 feet in front of you on the ground. By looking down like this you are limiting your peripheral vision. Now allow your gaze to hazily rest on the spot you chose—hazy is key here. No need for laser focus, that’ll only strain your practice and possibly give you a headache.
If closing your eyes feels right, then, by all means, shut those eyelids! Meditating is respecting our body and doing what feels right for us. If you do close your eyes, remember to stay aware of your breath as your anchor in the present moment. (Warning: lying down and closing your eyes can be a lethal combination and side effects may include loud snoring and possible drool).
Breathe normally, don’t alter or change the natural rhythm of your breath.
Just keep breathing
Now bring your awareness to your breath. Feel the cool air come into the body through the mouth and nostrils and the warm air leave the body. Or you can focus on the rise and fall of your chest or belly.
If that’s too hard, count the breath silently in your head. “1” as you breath in and out, “2” on the next full cycle of your breath as you breathe in and out, “3” and so on…
AHH, I KEEP THINKING…Be compassionate!
That’s okay! It happens to all of us. Come back to the feeling or counting of your own breathing.
You can even kindly say “thinking” or “I love you” when you notice you’re thinking, and then come back to your breath. Be gentle and practice self-compassion, notice the way you say “thinking” to yourself, we are often our own harshest critic.
This… feels… kind… of… nice…
Congratulations, you are meditating!
The bell rang and the timer’s up—Transition out of your meditation with a moment of gratitude.
Begin to wiggle your fingers and your toes, slowly open your eyes or lift your gaze. Take a moment to thank yourself for taking care of yourself (I like to place my hand over my heart and say a warm thank you). Enjoy your day!
Featured image by Jessica Felicio
Author Bio Sara Shah is the Founder of Mother Yin (https://www.motheryin.com/), a free holistic online resource created to help women find balance in their bodies, minds and lives through self-nurturing practices. Sara is a meditation coach, yoga teacher, and freelance writer currently based in Bali, Indonesia. She has trained with leading teachers in San Francisco, New York City, London, and Bali. Her practices are centered around self-compassion and healing the whole person step-by-step.