Meditation Practice Guidelines
By Mardi Rogers
Like any health and lifestyle program, meditation and mindfulness also have some practice guidelines – to help you get the most out of it. Of course it’s always about working with what you need, so whether you’re going to classes, or simply practicing at home or with a friend, here are some tips:
For a regular practice of meditation it all comes down to when and how long is best for you. Most people find mornings better as they can ‘slot’ it into their existing routine. Some find evenings/nights better, to release the stress of a busy day. Some find it better in a place eg. In the car before going into work, or coming home. The thing is, though, you will never just ‘find’ the time for meditation, you have to ‘make’ it. So schedule it in, and find what time works best for you.
When wondering how long to meditate for, when you’re beginning a good rule of thumb is to decide how long you’d like to meditate – and then halve it. Or even halve it again. For example if you’d like to meditate for 10 minutes, start with 5 – or even 3 minutes. Get yourself a shorter practice habitualised, then increase the time slowly and find your sweet spot. It’s better to do a little often rather than a longer one every now and then.
#1Turn off/silence your mobile phone – especially if you’re going to a class. If you’ve ever been the cause of a ringtone going off in a class you’ll know how much you just want to be swallowed up by the floor lol.
If you’re at home also be mindful of your TV, computer, radio or anything that might take you away from spending your time with you – unless it’s a mindfulness bell to remind you of your practice. Pets and other family members can also be distracting, so you might find it better to lock yourself (or them – if you dare lol) away, but sometimes this is easier said than done. Just do your best to find a nice quiet place where you won’t be disturbed – but prepare to be OK if you are. Life doesn’t stop when we say – so if you are distracted treat distractions as your friend.
Accessories & Clothes
While it’s not essential, there are meditation accessories you can invest in – I have a wooden meditation stool that I love. Not only does it bring comfort to my spine and legs, and my feet don’t go to sleep, but also, now whenever I sit on it it ‘anchors’ me into my practice. So while they aren’t necessary, it can be nice to have some of your own meditation props – for comfort and getting your body and mind trained into meditation. These can be firm cushions for under the sit bones or back, rolled up blankets or cushions for under the knees if you’re sitting on the floor, stools and mats, your favourite chair, a nice shall or light blanket to wrap around the shoulders. Some people like soft music playing. It can also be nice to have a little alter with maybe a candle/incense or items of significance to you.
However, even if you do have all these things – don’t make them a crutch of your practice – where if you don’t have them it’s an excuse to skip your meditation. You can pretty much meditate anywhere – so no excuses!
Don’t worry about what you’re wearing – you can meditate in anything from your pyjamas to work attire – so it’s good to play a bit of ‘anything goes’. Although if you are sitting on the floor sometimes skirts or pants can be restrictive – so it can be easier to sit on a chair, but you can always ‘pop’ the top button for comfort if needed. Also, it’s best not to be too warm, as that can make you sleepy. Having a blanket around the legs can help if it’s cold – leaving your top half a little cooler.
It’s best not to meditate with a full belly as it can be hard to focus the mind if the body is busy digesting. But it can also be distracting to meditate hungry – especially if you’re belly is growling lol. So aim for in between. I find sometimes a few nuts before my practice can help if I’m hungry but don’t want to have a meal. However, as a mindfulness practice eating is a great way of bringing yourself into the present moment – so meal time can become a meditation practise too.
Commitment and consistency is the key
Sometimes we can feel as if we’re not doing it right – or that our mind might be too busy to sit in stillness and meditate. For that reason it can be helpful to make yourself a challenge/commitment. For example if you’re just starting out maybe commit to 3- 5 minutes a day, 1st thing in the morning for 21 days (it is said that it takes 21 days to create a habit). Then once you’ve stuck with that – maybe increase to 5-7 mins. Regardless of if the meditation is going well or not, the ideal is to commit to stay in your meditation posture for your agreed time, then get up and go about your day. This will help train your body and mind that you are in control, and you decide how you’re going to spend your time.
I love Davidji’s saying – “If you’re doing it, you’re doing it right” it’s not really about whether your practise went well or not, right or not, it’s more about making the commitment to your own wellbeing. So aim to commit, but release any judgement about your practice, and just allow it to be whatever it is.
Classes, groups & instructors
While ultimately we want to be able to build a practice of our own it can be helpful to find classes or a group, and an instructor you connect with. When you meditate in a group there is a different energy, and it can be really supportive to hear about other’s experience, and questions. It can also help motivate you to have a group you meet with regularly as it’s easy to forget your practice when it’s just you, alone.
It’s also great to find an instructor you connect with – and don’t be afraid to look around. Like everything, meditation instruction is presented from the understanding and interpretation of the presenter – so even if they are offering the same message as another, how they present that will be from their personal understanding and experiences. Find one that ‘speaks your language’. You may find a Skillful MIND meditation leader in your area – or if not maybe become one yourself. Click here for more details.
Focusing the mind
Ultimately meditation and mindfulness are simply about focusing the mind to a chosen ‘object’ which might be your breath, your body, a mantra or sound, a movement or even a reflection or analytical consideration. Be gentle about this – the mind was made to think! So don’t be too hard on yourself if you mind is constantly dragged away to thoughts. The core of meditation and mindfulness is to soften the mind and release resistance – and allow it to settle where we want our mind to focus. If your mind is super busy that’s OK. When you notice the business, acknowledge it, allow the thoughts to float away, and gently invite (not force) the mind back to your meditation/mindfulness object. No judgments.
The effects of meditation and mindfulness are being recognised scientifically more and more, however these don’t happen overnight, so be patient. Many times the effects are so subtle that we don’t notice the effects ourselves, but it might be a family member or friend who asks what we’ve been doing differently.
Meditation and mindfulness are not really about what happens during our practice, but more about the flow through effect on the other twenty three hours and fifty minutes (or however long you practise) of your day. Over time you’ll start to notice you begin to have a different perspective on life and others. Be curious about the unfolding.
Make it your own
The simple practice of meditation and mindfulness are being evidenced more and more to create beneficial changes towards health and healing. And it’s a practice all of us have free access to. It’s about making time for you, and committing to your own happiness and wellbeing. What does this look like for you? Make it yours, and reap the benefits
Or head over to my calendar to see all Mardi MAY classes and events here