On our recent creative weekend, some of our team got together to come up with ideas on how you can best support your meditation practice. Below we have some of our best tips for new meditators who want to set up a sustainable practice and skip some of the bad habits meditators sometimes pick up. Associate teacher Duncan Cryle also recorded a guide meditation to help you through your first sit, and learn the all-important review.
First, some basics tips when getting started with meditation:
- Learn the basics, both physical mechanics and mental basics. ‘What am I supposed to be doing while I sit here?’ Guided Meditation: Here’s a video on our YouTube channel of a guided group meditation with instructions, a five-minute meditation, plus group review process led by Clear Sky teacher Duncan Cryle.
- Consistency – a little, regularly, is better than irregular long sits because the effects are cumulative. It’s better to sit for 10 minutes than not at all.
- Set up a dedicated space in your home to sit. Honor that intention to seek spaciousness, clarity, and bliss.
A Selection of Our Do’s and Don’ts of Meditation
1. Set a regular time and day to meditate
For example, I will meditate at 6:45 pm, five days a week. While being busy seems to be the norm in the 21st-century, there are specific things you can do to support your practice. Setting a time of day has been the one big thing that has made the most difference in me building an ongoing meditation practice.
2. Have a dedicated space to meditate
Since early on, this has been very supportive for me. In fact, establishing a designated space is almost for sure why I developed a meditation practice. The visual reminder has been very helpful to honor my intention by honoring this space. Nothing belongs there that isn’t related to the meditative space, like my candle, some crystals, and a picture of my teachers. I don’t even set things down there temporarily, a mindfulness exercise or discipline to reinforce how important the space is to me.
3 Do some vigorous activity before meditating
Vigorous for me is jumping around for a while, trying to move every part of my body at least once, and then doing a bunch of jumping jacks. Throw in some jaw movements and sounding, too.
I always appreciate when others remind me to do this, because I clearly see the sense of “stuckness” in my body that was making me resist it. It’s like I’ve activated the meditation, like when that tidiness expert Marie Kondo taps all of the books to wake them up. Moving always brings me into my body, makes me more joyous and light and awake…which is kind of the point.
So, yes, break any of that physical resistance to joy and silliness, and start the meditation in a good state with some vigorous movement.
4 Remove distractions
Your meditation is not something you want to interrupt for any reason, once you’ve decided to sit for a certain time. Your intention is everything, so being open to being interrupted sends a message to the depth that you’re not serious:
While avoiding distractions in the digital age seems to be harder and harder, there are specific things we can do. Of course, it’s normal if one’s mind wanders while meditating. What I mean is to get rid of unnecessary distractions. Put the phone on silent mode and ideally in another room if you don’t need it there (I use mine to time my sits using an app called Insight Timer).
If you decide you’re meditating, tell your family or housemates how long you’ll be unavailable. Make a mental note that any messages or tasks can wait until after you sit, so you’re not tempted to worry about them. In other words, carve out the time and space for what it’s intended – meditating.
So now that you have a time and a place and all this good stuff happening with your meditation practice:
What is good to avoid when you’re meditating?
1 Don’t grab onto good feelings or push away bad experiences.
The way we experience our meditations varies from good to bad. These are just labels. Sometimes it hurts to meditate, especially early on while getting used to sitting posture. It can also be relaxing and blissful as you let go of the stress of the day and build calm.
Build the skill over time of simply being with the good or the bad. It will take practice in noticing what the mind favors and is attracted to or what it abhors or is averse to. For each of us, it is an individual exploration.
It’s fascinating as it unfolds. Get interested in boredom and it changes. Go into pain and you’ll see that it is not static, it morphs and even goes away.
2 Avoid expecting meditation to give a certain result
Many think meditation simply leads to a feeling of peacefulness. It can, and it can lead to peacefulness in one’s outlook in life, too.
But not every meditation leads to peace, each time. Recognizing this, we can be open to the experiences that arise. We need not cling to or dismiss any experience, as long as we recognize each experience for what it is.
3 Don’t judge experiences as “good” or “bad”
Naming things as good or bad is really adding layers of our own unacknowledged views and preferences. This is because the first layer is often unconscious, and in fact we’re constantly labeling things as pleasant or unpleasant as soon as we experience them.
Various thoughts and feelings both mentally and in the body can and will arise in meditation. One way we review our meditation practice, then is to name, objectively, whether the experience was pleasant or unpleasant. (You can see an example of this in the review section of our guided meditation video).
If we don’t pass judgment on these arisings they take care of themselves. We are more open to what is happening in the (next) moment because we are not stuck in the echo of that previous moment. That skill leads to very useful things in life. Am I more accepting of what my boss says and less reactive? Am I more spontaneously compassionate and helpful? Do negative emotions pass through more quickly?
We hope there was something useful to you here. Look out for more meditation articles, videos, and other resources from us soon.
Contributors: Maureen Smith, Dan O’Brien, Geoffrey Haynes, and Richard Nathaniel
Edited by Andrew Rogers