So that’s the general concept of meditation. The next question is: how do you start adopting it into your routine and making it a part of your life?
Because this is the part a lot of people will struggle with. In fact, there’s a better than average chance that you’ve already tried to get into the habit of meditating, only to find yourself giving up quickly because ‘nothing is happening’.
This time, we’re going to get it right.
For most people, starting with mindfulness, Zazen or transcendental/mantra meditation is advised. These are perhaps the simplest methods you can use when you’re just learning and will help you to get a great start to your day every morning.
I also recommend approaching this using a process known as ‘kaizen’.
Kaizen essentially means ‘lots of small changes, that add up to offer big benefits’. The idea is that you don’t try and make massive, large-scale changes in your life, but instead make tiny changes and then gradually start building on those.
For instance, trying to go to the gym five times a week, for an hour at a time, is often an up-hill struggle and is something a lot of people will struggle to stick at.
Going for an extra 5 minute walk or doing some sit-ups every other day though? These are things you can much more likely stick with. And once you start doing that, it will be much easier to throw in some press ups, or to extend that walk to 10 minutes.
So this is the best way to start gradually introducing meditation into your regime: with very small and easy chunks of time.
Start with Zazen – sitting meditation. Take 5 minutes every morning to just sit and relax with your eyes closed. No goal, no stress and no trouble. You might find you can even do this while your partner is in the shower, or by waking up five minutes earlier. Almost all of us can find some time in the day for five minutes of quiet.
Aim to do this for 2 weeks with no other goal than to sit quietly every morning for that amount of time. Don’t expect anything to happen and don’t expect to ‘feel’ anything.
From there, you may want to progress to actually having a goal. You can aim to make this goal a better awareness of yourself (by using mindfulness) or you can aim to quiet your mind and learn to block out stressful thoughts (by using transcendental meditation).
I recommend aiming for both. Perhaps try increasing your time to 10 minutes and spending 5 minutes on mindfulness and 5 minutes on transcendental.
I personally find looking at a candle flame to be incredibly helpful when practicing transcendental meditation. However, it is entirely up to you how you do it.
Just know that even when you’re aiming to quiet your mind, you should never be ‘punitive’ and you should never punish yourself for not managing to achieve your goals. If you find that your thoughts are wondering or you’re being distracted, just notice that it has happened and let yourself be calm again.
The reason it is so important not to have a strict aim or to reprimand yourself for getting it wrong, is that this introduces stress to what should be an innately calming activity.
At this point though, you’re now starting to enjoy meditation as part of your everyday life and that means you should have formed the positive habit (remember, it takes 30 days to form or break a habit). Now you can see what works for you and start learning more/experimenting.
Using Tools and Getting Help
Still struggling to get into the swing of things? Another option is to try guided meditation. Guided meditation means that you’ll be following a set of instructions that will be spoken verbally. You can get these as a sound file or as a video and the idea is that you listen to them and follow the instructions in order to clear your mind/observe your thoughts.
Because this gives you something external to guide you, it makes it much easier not to let your mind wander. A great place to look for guided meditation is on YouTube – but you can also try the excellent ‘Headspace’ app.
Another option is to get help from someone who knows what they’re doing. An easy way to do this is to go to a class such as yoga or Tai Chi, where you will likely have some guided meditation at the end of sessions.