For those of you that have interest in starting a meditation practice but are not necessarily sure how to start, this blog entry is for you!  Let me preface this by saying I am by no means what would be considered “good” at meditation.  What gives me encouragement is many individuals who have a consistent practice also claim they are not good at mediation, either.  Besides, what defines being good at meditation anyways?  Most would probably say having the ability to be fully present in the mind and body.  Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

1) If you are just getting started, begin by laying down.  Yes, I know what you are thinking…”But that’s not what it looks like in magazines or in movies!”  You are correct.  But many of these individuals have been practicing for some time.  Start laying down so that the physical body does not become a distraction.  When you are asked to sit in lotus position with a straight spine, I can assure you it becomes distracting very quickly.  You may work towards this position with time.

2) Close your eyes and do a head to toe scan of your physical body.  Start at the crown of the head and work your way down to the toes. Anywhere you feel tension, take a few breaths and send the breath there.

3)  Turn your attention inward by steadying the mind with a focal point.  A great focal point to work with is the breath.  Just observe how the breath moves in and out of the body and let the natural breathing pattern occur.  If this isn’t enough, start to count your breaths.  You could also use a mantra (a word or phrase of words that you repeat over and over again.)  Another nice option that I did in my training with Sunstone is to use binaural beats.  These are sound waves that help to calm and steady the mind and you can download many free apps that offer this option.  Just make sure you use your headphones or it doesn’t work properly!

4)  Meditation is a judgment free zone, so if the mind wanders, just gently guide your awareness back to your focal point of choice.  This is something to be celebrated, not frustrated over!  One of the biggest challenges in meditation is to recognize when the mind has wandered so if you do this, be happy you noticed.

5)  Start slow-maybe just 5 minutes to begin and then build up the time.  Meditation is a skill, so it takes practice.  Also know that some days it will be easier than others.  This is because our minds and bodies are never in the same state, so accept what your practice is every time.

6)  Keep practicing!  Find a time that works best for you every day if you can.  In the yoga world, the best time to meditate is dawn but many of us like our sleep or are already out the door by this time.  Perhaps try before bed or even over your lunch break.

7)  Lastly, know that you are doing very good things for the body and the mind.  Meditation is excellent in calming the nervous system, as well as the cardiovascular system.  When we take the time to be still, we get a little closer to our true self.  When we get closer to our true selves, we have the ability to reason better and understand ourselves and others better.

Enjoy!  We would love to hear how your journey in building a calmer, more fully present mind works for you.