Meditation 101

12 steps to the prefect meditation session

I’ve had a few people inquire about my meditation practice so I put together this list of tips and tricks to help you get started. Enjoy!

1) It doesn’t matter how you sit as long as you are sitting comfortably.

We’ve all seen pictures of people meditating, with their legs crossed in a lotus position, with there hands on their knees, palms up, with thumb and middle finger touching.

I don’t medtitate in this position, I just find it way to uncomfortable.

Within 5 min my feet fall asleep (pins and needles) and my legs begin to cramp up.

You can get the benefits of meditation, regardless on how you sit. Just make sure you are sitting comfortably and follow these simple guidelines:

  • Sit with a tall and relaxed back.
  • Relax your shoulders and hold head up.
  • Put your hands on your thighs or cupped together in your lap.
  • Legs can be crossed or feet on the ground.
  • Relax the muscles around the eyes and put a slight smile on your face.
  • Close your eyes or keep them lowered to a point on the floor in front of you (free of any distraction).

2) Start with a couple of deep breaths.

I like to take a moment to pause and slow down prior to staring a meditation session.

To transition (from whatever I happen to be doing) into a meditative state I find it useful to start with a couple of deep breaths in, and long breaths out.

I like to use a 4-4-8 count. Take a deep breath in on the count of 4, hold to a count of 4, and then breath out to a count of 8.

Do about 3 or 4 of these and then allow your breathing to return to normal.

3) Meditation is exercise for your mind.

Your mind requires exercise just like your body needs exercise. When you meditate the muscles that you are exercising are the muscles of your conscious awareness. These are intention and attention.

When you practice Meditation you are training your intention – your ability to make good choices and follow through on them. And your attention – your ability to focus on what matters and to achieve full awareness.

To exercise your intention: When you start your meditation, direct your mind by setting an intention to be still and to relax for a set period of time.

To exercise your attention: Throughout your meditation, you direct your attention on any number of areas. Options include your breathing, a body scan or perhaps a mantra.

4) Focus on the breath.

When I started meditating I focused on my breathing.

You want to draw your attention to where you notice your breathing the most.

When you take a breath through your nose, do you notice it in the rise and fall of your chest? Or perhaps you notice the air flowing in and out of you nasal cavity. Or do you notice the cool air flowing over your upper lip when you breath in and the warm air when you breath out?

The great thing about focusing on your breath is that it makes meditation very easy, regardless of you where are. Because you always have your breath with you.

5) You will get distracted by the monkey mind.

“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.” – Jon Andre

You will probably notice that your mind is very, very busy.

After just a few breaths you will start thinking about something at work. Or you will notice an ache in your big toe. Or perhaps about a conversation with your kids. Or perhaps something your need to add to your todo list. Or perhaps … you get the idea.

Don’t worry, this is normal.

There is a never-ending stream of thoughts moving into your conscious awareness (flowing from your unconscious mind).

What do you do when you notice you’ve been caught up in a thought?

You come back and return your focus to your breathing.

You simply repeat this process for the duration of your meditation session.

6) Do not beat yourself up.

You do not what to be too hard on yourself during your meditation.

It’s important that you be supportive and understanding to yourself.

Most of us are way too hard on ourselves and the language we use to talk to ourselves, we would never say to another person.

Another intention of meditation is to practice being kinder to ourselves by being non-judgemental.

So when you notice that you been caught up in a thought, simply return your attention back to your breath without judgement.

Don’t beat yourself up about it, practice being kind to yourself.

Simply return your attention to your breath, without judgement.

7) Some sessions will be amazing and others will be a struggle.

After meditating daily for a couple of weeks, I remember having some really deep and calming sessions. I was able to keep my attention on my breath for almost the entire session.

After having these amazing sessions I found is frustrating when I started to get distracted.

At one point my sessions were actually getting worse. I was unable to stay focused on my breath for more then a few seconds.

This is normal.

Some session will be amazing and other will be a struggle. Once again, avoid beating your self up for this.

View each session on it’s own, doing the best you can in the moment, and avoid comparing your current session with past sessions.

8) Start with 10 min.

When you first start, I recommend that you meditate for 10 min.

Ten minutes is not very long and as you progress you can add more time.

I’m currently up to 25 min and I find this to be the sweet spot for me.

Set a countdown timer with a quiet alarm so it doesn’t jar you out of your meditation.

A simple bing or gong sound at the end of your session works best.

9) Meditate at the same time every day.

As with any new habit or ritual, one of the best ways to improve your chances of sticking with it, is to perform the ritual as the same time every day.

For me, this is first thing in the morning, right after I wake up.

I wake up at 5am (without an alarm) and the first thing I do is meditate for 25 min.

This has been my morning ritual for almost 2 years.

10) Don’t break the chain.

When Jerry Seinfeld was an up-and-coming comic he knew that to become a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write one every day.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” – Jerry Seinfeld

This same advice can be applied to any new habit, including meditation.

As of this writing I’m on a 591 day meditation streak.

I’ve medtitated, every single day, for the past 591 days.

And I plan to continue this streak, every single day, for the rest of my life.

11) There’s an #app4that.

I’ve tried a number of meditation apps and my favourite is Calm.

Calm is free to download and they have a great 7 day meditation course that you can try out.

There is also a couple of guided meditations and sleep programs that are free to try.

I highly recommend upgrading to a 1 year subscription.

I’ve gone through all of the guided meditations and they are fantastic!

I really like that you can change the background sounds (my favourite is Flying About The Clouds) and they are many to choose from.

They makers of Calm are constantly improving the app and releasing more content.

For my daily meditation routine, I listen to the Daily Calm (a 10 min daily meditation lesson) followed by at 15 min timed meditation.

I also like that the app keeps track of your meditation stats including longest streak, time meditating and total sessions.

The app is available on both the Apple Store and Google Play.

12) Recommended reading.

If you would like to learn more about meditation I highly recommend these 3 books.

1) Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana – Print or eBook

2) 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris – Print or eBook

3) Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer – Print or eBook

Happy Meditating!

… Ron 🙂

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