If you've decided to start meditating, congratulations! Daily meditation has the amazing ability to reduce stress, pain and low mood while increasing compassion and happiness. As with many things in life, your meditation will improve with practice but it is important not to strive for the age-old saying of "Practice makes perfect."
Meditation is personal and individual - your experiences cannot be compared to those of others. Yes, you may have bad days but the beauty of meditation lies in the journey and the regular benefits that practice yields, not reaching an end goal of perfection. Here are six tips for starting out:
1. Take a few moments to prepare yourself
Before you start your meditation take a few moments to find somewhere to sit or lie down. You may want to sit on the floor or on a chair. If you lie down, lie on your back and make sure you aren't so comfortable that you may fall asleep. Choose whatever works best for you on that particular day.
2. Be aware of your posture
Many people mistakenly believe that you need to sit in the lotus position or crossed-legged to meditate properly. This isn't true and, in fact, isn't possible for every person. You can also sit in a chair with both feet on the floor or lie on your back with your legs straight and your feet slightly apart. Just be sure that your spine and body are aligned naturally.
3. Think about your intention
Instead of having a goal for your meditation, instead think about what your intention is for each practice. You should choose to meditate for the purpose of meditating rather than in the hope that you will get something specific out of it. If you are hoping to get something out of it, your focus immediately shifts to being in the future instead of remaining in the present. Intentions are less cast in stone than goals. You can intend to focus on your breathing while meditating but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't mean you have failed.
4. Be kind to your mind
Don't expect to silence all thoughts from your mind. Try not to get frustrated if your mind wanders. Some days thoughts may be racing through your head while other days your thoughts may be more peaceful. Try not to judge yourself or your thoughts but rather allow them to flow naturally in and out of your consciousness. Almost as though you are sitting near the window of a café, simply watching people pass by.
5. Start short but sweet
The Overcoming MS Program recommends 30 minutes of meditation daily, either in one session or split into two 15 minute sessions. However, for beginners it can be easier to start with smaller sessions, slowly increasing them over time. You may want to try one 10 minute session or two 5 minute sessions and build from there. Don't punish yourself if you miss a session, simply pick up again the following day.
6. There is no right or wrong
The most important thing to remember when it comes to meditation is that there is no right or wrong. For there to be right or wrong there would need to be judgement. Meditation is about stepping away from judgement, negative thinking and self-criticism. It is about being present and kind to yourself, your body and your thoughts.