Step 1: Prepare Your Space
First things first: select your spot. Find somewhere quiet and peaceful, where you won’t be disturbed during your meditation. This might be your bedroom, home office, or anywhere that you can close the door and find uninterrupted solitude.
As you practice meditation, it will become easier to practice anywhere, but as you are first getting started, quiet and solitude are very beneficial. Once you’ve settled on a location, make sure that your meditation spot is fully neat and clean. A messy, cluttered space can make it harder to relax and focus.
While not required, you might also find it helpful to set the mood by lighting a candle or stick of incense, or playing some soft, ambient music whatever helps you get “in the zone.”
Step 2. Set a Goal
Starting a meditation practice can be challenging to people, especially in our fast-paced world. We find that it is extremely helpful to decide in advance how long you are going to practice, so that you have accountability from the beginning.
We also recommend 30-40 minutes per session, depending on how comfortable you are in your practice; adjust as needed. It’s important to note that distractions are inevitable, and that is okay. Do what you can to minimize them (turn off your phone; let your roommates / family know what you’re up to, etc).
If you are interrupted for whatever reason, just sit back down and finish your session as soon as you can. The biggest hurdle by far, especially in the beginning, is not distractions, but your own mind and restlessness.
The ego can’t stand sitting quietly, doing nothing, and it will come up with an endless list of things you should or could be doing instead. Don’t give in. Set a timer, or a stopwatch, or an alarm on your phone, and don’t dismiss your meditation until your settled-upon time has been reached.
Step 3. Get Comfortable
When we say “get comfortable”, we’re speaking in the literal sense. Posture is important in meditation, for many reasons. It helps you breathe easier and deeper.
It helps the flow and circulation of blood and energy. Perhaps most importantly, sitting properly will help to minimize aches, pains and discomfort. There is not one correct way to sit; this depends on your body type, bone structure, and constitution. You can sit on the floor, on a cushion or a bench.
You can sit in a chair, or even stand up if that’s easier. The important thing is not to slouch, or lean against anything. You should be relaxed yet poised, loose yet balanced, comfortable but alert. Pay attention to any pain or discomfort in your back or your legs, and make adjustments as necessary.
It takes time, but eventually you will find the “sweet spot,” where your spine is erect, but not rigid; straight, but not stiff. The perfect balance of effort and ease
Step 4. Follow the Breath
Bring your attention to your breathing. Focus on the sensations: the air flowing in and out of your mouth and nostrils; the rise and fall of your chest, the filling and emptying of your belly.
Don’t try to control your breathing. No need to deliberately breathe slow or deep (although this will often happen on it’s own, as you become aware of your breathing). Just pay attention, and feel the rhythm, the ebb and flow. There are breathing exercises which we will explore later on, but for now, just observe.
Step 5. Just Relax
Easier said than done, right? But relaxing is possible, and the first step is awareness. Start by becoming aware of any places in your body where there is tension or discomfort. We have a tendency to store stress in our bodies, particularly in the legs, shoulders, back, neck and face.
Each time you breathe out; imagine that tension flowing out of your body. With every breath, release and relax, until you feel entirely comfortable and at ease. This can take some time, especially as you are first getting started. Generally, the more often you practice, the quicker and easier it will be to let go of stress and sink into a state of peace and relaxation.