How To Get Started with Mindfulness Meditation: Some Ideas to Help You Establish Your Own Practice

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this lifetime. – Sogyal Rinpoche

In Mindfulness Meditation: Why You Should Seriously Consider Giving It a Try and Mindfulness Meditation: What Are the Benefits for Your Brain? we learned that having a regular practice is extremely important to improve the way we relate to our thoughts and feelings and to let go of our limiting beliefs.

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath. – Amit Ray

Would you like to establish your own practice? 🙂 In this post you can find a description of some of the most used techniques. The main difference between them is the choice of the anchor, namely the object where the attention is repeatedly brought back every time we recognize that we are lost in our thoughts. If you are new to mindfulness meditation, I would start by playing a bit around with all these techniques, picking the one that resonates more with you 🙂

Before entering into the details of the different practices, I would like to point out a couple of very important things. First of all, remember to be patient with yourself. Some people believe that they are failing at meditating when they notice that they are lost in their thoughts. If you will ever find yourself in this place, do not beat yourself up. It is actually a very good news, because it means that you are aware of the present moment, so you are practicing exactly what you are supposed to do 🙂 Just recognize the thought I am failing as the voice of your inner critic, and gently bring back the attention to the anchor. Meditation is all about observing whatever emerges with curiosity, not judgement.

Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are. – Pema Chödrön

Another important aspect is to not get discouraged if you do not see any result after meditating for few days. Just keep going 🙂 As we discussed in Mindfulness Meditation: What Are the Benefits for Your Brain?, rewiring the brain requires time and you need to repeat an action over and over. To establish a habit, I would recommend trying to meditate for at least one month, in a quiet space, from five to twenty minutes every day, possibly around the same time. Since the brain loves structure, having a daily routine is very important.

Are you ready to start your own meditation journey? 🙂 Keep reading to learn more about the most used techniques 🙂

Box Breathing Meditation

This is a very simple technique, particularly suited if your mind is very active or if you are agitated. The idea is to focus on the breath and at the same time count from one to four. These are the steps:

  1. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting from one to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
  2. Hold your breath while counting slowly from one to four.
  3. Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times, or until you feel calmer.

In this short video you can find an example.

Mantra Meditation

This is also a simple technique. The idea is to focus your attention on a mantra, a word or phrase that you repeat over and over again. These are the steps:

  1. Select a mantra, few words or syllables that inspire you.
  2. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your back upright, but not too tight. Relax your body. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
  3. Repeat your mantra slowly and steadily, concentrating on its sound as fully as you can.
  4. As thoughts arise and your mind starts to wander, say mentally thinking and simply return to the mantra. Gently bring your attention back again and again.

In this short video you can find an example, where the mantra is OM.

Breathing Meditation

In this technique the anchor is the breath and its sensations in the body. The main steps are the following:

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your back upright, but not too tight. Relax your body. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
  2. Feel the natural flow of the breath, in and out. Do not control it, just observe it. Notice where you feel your breath in your body: In your abdomen? Or maybe your chest? Your throat? Or in your nostrils? What are the sensations you can feel?
  3. As thoughts arise and your mind starts to wander, say mentally thinking and simply return to your breathing. Gently bring your attention back again and again.

In this short video you can find an example of guided breathing meditation, offered by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Body Scan Meditation

In this type of meditation body sensations are used as anchor. Since we live most of our life in our heads, this practice is very useful to reestablish a relationship with our entire body so that we can start listening to its wisdom. If you suffer from anxiety or if you are stressed out, going back to the body and relaxing it is a grounding strategy that can be very useful. Moreover, through this practice we become more aware of our emotions, focusing on how they feel in the body. This knowledge is fundamental to release old stored feelings.

  1. Find a position that is comfortable enough for you to fully relax without falling asleep. If convenient, lie down on your back and relax.
  2. Starting from your feet, slowly bring your awareness to every part of your body, pausing for a few moments on each of them. Do you notice any tension, tightness, or numbness? When any uncomfortable sensation arises, focus your attention on that part of the body and as you breathe into it, relax it.

In this short video you can find an example of body scan meditation you can practice with.

Loving Kindness (or Metta) Meditation

This technique is a bit different from the previous ones and it is especially designed to cultivate compassion and open your heart to unconditional love, towards yourself and others. You can use it to practice forgiveness.

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your back upright, but not too tight. Relax your body. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. Focus your attention around the heart region.
  2. In your mind repeat few times the following phrases (or similar ones that resonate with you): May I be wellMay I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be loved.
  3. How does it feel for you? Do you feel loved? Or is there some numbness, self-judgment or self-hatred? Gently welcome everything that arises, without judging it.
  4. Bring to mind someone you love deeply for example a partner, a child, a parent, a best friend, a pet or a mentor. Repeat few times May you be wellMay you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be loved.
  5. Extend the practice to a person that is neutral for you, for example the bus driver, the administrator of your building, the waitress at the bar, and so on.
  6. Bring to mind someone you have difficulty with, hostile feelings or resentments. Direct your loving kindness phrases to them. What arises in you?
  7. Think about all the people you picked before or all living beings, including yourself, and wish them all May we all be wellMay we all be happy. May we all be peaceful. May we all be loved.

In this short video you can find an example of guided loving kindness meditation that you can start with.

 

Does any of these practices resonate with you? 🙂

If you would like to find more resources, have a look at the web page of Tara Brach, she is a wonderful meditation teacher 🙂

Do you need help in establishing your own daily routine? Try using an App, for example Insight Timer or Headspace. These tools can be very useful and they offer also many guided meditations. If you are currently going through very strong and dark feelings or if you had deep trauma in your past, it is better to look for a meditation teacher or a therapist who can help you establish your practice and get through the unresolved emotions stored in your body, in a safe way.

Is it difficult for you to stay committed to a practice? For some people it is easier to build a routine when they share their commitment with others. If this is the case, look for centers in your city or communities online where you can find support and meditate together with other people.

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom. – Buddha

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