anxiety

A Beginners Guide to Meditation

1. Let go of your expectations  

When I started out meditating I treated it as something I needed to master and that it would ‘cure’ certain problems I was experiencing. Just like achieving a goal in other areas of my life; work, fitness etc, so I took the same approach to meditation.

What I soon found out though was that this approach was, in fact, working against me and my progress. When I finally just surrendered from my expectations of what I wanted it to do for me (almost at the point of giving it up), that’s when it started to work its magic.

So my first piece of advice/step for those starting out or wanting to try meditation is to first let go of the reasons why you want to meditate and just enjoy the process. Go into it expecting nothing and I’m confident you’ll come out of it with more than you can imagine.

 

2. Find your zone and essential gear

There are certain ‘things’ that help with the effectiveness of meditation, particularly when starting out. First is finding a place/environment you feel comfortable and relaxed in. For me, this was just down the road from my place at the beach, early mornings. Nature has a special energy and immersing myself in it when I meditate really helps.

Another is your surrounding sounds. Again, when starting out, minimizing potential distractions does help. Either picking a place which you know will be fairly quiet or investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones will help.

If you can find a quiet place in nature, then I don’t think meditation music is needed. But if you can’t find such a place, grab those headphones, head to Spotify and search for some meditative music (I prefer to just go for nature sounds like the crashing of waves).

As you progress and get stronger with meditation you may be able to practice in any environment and welcome any noises around you or even find peace and connect with what you once found were distractions.  

 

3. Priming the body

Another thing I experienced when I was first started to meditate was that it would take a while for my body to relax or I’d find myself fidgeting or having to break my sitting position. I did some research and found that a few Tai Chi exercises before meditation really helped put my body in a state ready for focus. If you don’t want to learn Tai Chi, I would recommend doing some easy stretching and breathing exercises before meditation.

Once your body is feeling nice and relaxed, find a sitting position that is comfortable for you. There’s often this preconceived idea that you have to sit like a pretzel to meditate, which is not the case at all. For me, it’s sitting in a chair, feet firmly planted on the ground (shoes off) and hands just resting in my lap. The only two things that are important I think when it comes to your sitting position is to activate your core (pull your belly button in) and having a nice long, straight spine. Other than that, just find a position where your body feels most comfortable.

 

4. Start with life’s most basic yet essential process. Breathing.

You’re now ready to delve into the meditation practice itself. Simply close your eyes and start focusing on the cycle of your breath. Particularly bring your attention to the area around your left nostril. Really feel the air entering the nostril and follow it all the way down into your lungs. Once it fills up the space in your lungs, follow it as it begins to leave. Let your body sink and relax a little more with each breath out.

Whenever you feel ready, gently bring your attention to the right nostril and repeat this process a few times. Finishing with focusing on your breath entering and leaving the body through both nostrils. With your breath getting deeper and heavier.

 

5. Detach your body

When you’re ready, take your focus all the way down to the very tips of your toes. As if you’re putting your mind into your toes. They may feel tingly as if there’s energy swirling around and through them. Focus on this energy as it begins to move around your feet and creep up your legs. Take your time with this and just focus on the different parts of your body as this energy moves up. The calves, around the knees, your thighs, hips and into your lower back. You might notice that your lower body begins to feel heavy and detached. As if it’s becoming a part of the ground underneath you. Just let this happen and continue to follow the energy as if moves up and around the body.

Let your torso, shoulders, arms and hands go. Notice that your spine is still long, straight and strong. Leaving only your neck and head left. Take your time as you feel the energy move around neck and head. Paying particular attention to the detailed areas around your face. The last part of the body ‘to go’ is your eyes. Focus on your eyes, only your eyes and when you’re ready just let them melt away.

 

6. Tap into your primary sense

At this point, you may feel very light and your attention is now looking to grab onto something. Each one of us has a primary sense, this could either be auditory, visual or kinesthetic (touch). Left your focus drift to what it naturally gravitates to here. This could be the sound of the waves or birds chirping around you. It could be the colours flashing before you or the gentle breeze touching your face. Whatever you pick up on first, just focus on that and then go deeper with it. Dance with it. Connect with it. Get lost with it. All we’re doing here is being completely connected with the present moment.

What you’ll often find when you’re doing this is that thoughts will pop up and break your connection. This is completely natural and to be expected. When this happens, welcome the thought and just gently move it aside and bring your attention and focus back to that primary sense you’ve connected with. This essence of meditation is just simply repeating this process. You can’t stop thoughts coming in, you can just simply and gently move them aside and tap back into that sense you connected with.

The more and longer you do this, you’ll begin to find ‘the space’ between these thoughts that pop-up will lengthen and that is the ‘special space’ of meditation.

 

7. Coming Back

To ‘come back’ from that meditative state, when you’re ready, begin to bring awareness back into your body. Just like the detachment process, do the same thing in reverse order. You don’t need to take as long to do this, just start from the head and work your way down. Moving slowly each part of the body as if you’re waking it up.

Then when you’re ready, open your eyes and where ever your gaze is, just let it sit there for a while. This is when I like to give thanks for everything I have in my life and set my intentions for the day. How I want to feel and approach what’s ahead of me.

Meditation doesn’t have to go for a particular period of time. For me, the whole above process goes for about 30mins. 10mins for the stretching breathing/Tai Chi phase, 5-10mins for the detachment process and 10-15mins for the connection & coming back phase.

If you want to go for longer, great go for it! If you can get what you need in a shorter period of time. Awesome!

The most important part with all of this is to find what works for you. Even if the above steps don’t quite resonate, I’d really encourage you to not give up. Continue to research and explore different techniques that might work and lead you to that place of peace and contentment that the above has done so for me.

If you'd like to know more about how you actively begin to practice meditation with me, I'd love for you to click below and read what Soul Alive is about.

Cheers,
Luke

 

 

Top 3 Myths of Meditation

Learn to meditate

Myth One: It’s about ‘not thinking’.

I’ve heard so many times “I’ve tried to meditate. But I just can’t seem to quieten my mind.” or ‘meditation would never work for me. My mind runs at 100 miles an hour.” In fact, I’ve been/am one of those people. I have more thoughts and ideas pop into my head every minute of the day than Michael Phelps has gold medals… ok, maybe not the best example but that was one of the random thoughts that came to mind at that precise moment which I think validates my point even more.

So if it’s not about ‘not thinking’ what is it about?

For me, the answer came when I was reading one of Ram Daas’s books and he said something along the lines of… ‘meditation isn’t about not thinking, but accepting.’

When I read that, that instantly resonated with me. So the next time I meditated rather than get frustrated when a new random thought popped into my head, I simply said ‘oh, hello there little random thought. Thanks for stopping by I’m just going to gently bring my attention back over here.”

And the ‘over here’ focus point would be something like my breath or the sounds of what was around me, birds chirping, the ocean, meditation music etc

At first I was saying this a lot. But as time went on, the gaps between me saying this to myself started to get further and further apart and my meditation started to become deeper and more powerful.

 

Myth Two: You have to sit like a pretzel

Type into google meditation and you’ll get a hundred thousand photos of people sitting on top of a mountain cross-legged, eye’s closed, hands turned upwards resting on their knees with index fingers touching the thumbs. Got the visual right? Well, what did I do when I started out meditating? Yep, I found a mountain and sat in the pretzel position just like in the photos for half an hour or so until my body was riddled with cramps and I’d have to break the position with frustration and pain. Not the most peaceful of experiences.

The reason why we instantaneously associate meditation with the pretzel position is that traditional and very experienced meditators/gurus would choose this position to ‘lock’ themselves into position to forget about the body and focus. They would also often practise yoga and stretching which would help with their flexibility/posture.

Now if you’re just starting out to meditate, by all means try this position and if you feel comfortable in it, great. However, if your hamstrings are as tight as mine then I would recommend you start just sitting in a chair. Feet planted firmly on the ground and your hands resting in your lap however you choose. The only real suggestion I have when it comes to the sitting position is that your core is activated, shoulders are relaxed and your spine is nice and straight.

The reason why I suggest these few things is that although we want our body relaxed we want our mind to remain sharp and focused, not to fall asleep. Which often happens if you try and meditate laying down or if your core is not activated.

 

Myth 3: I’ll be enlightened within a few sessions.  

You can’t get a six pack from doing just a 100 sit-ups. It takes time, effort and patience. This is true for meditation as well. However, it is even harder to ‘see’ the benefits as it’s a state of mind, not a muscle. But if you give it a chance it can change your life.

We spend so much time working out our bodies. I wonder what type of society we would live in if we spent even just a quarter of that time working out our minds?

Just 20 minutes a day. If you can’t do every day, start with 3 times a week and work your way up. As mentioned before your results will be harder to notice than most things you put effort into. But they will come. You may notice that you are able to focus on a particular task at work for longer than usual or you procrastinate less and are more confident in knowing what the right decisions are to make. It could even be that you catch yourself responding to situations more calmly and composed, whereas before a similar moment would of frustrated or annoyed you.

There is more and more research coming out that proves that meditation enhances all areas of one's life. But just like most things in life; it takes time, effort and patience.