How to Meditate: What You Need to Know
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
So here's the deal. Starting a meditation practice is not easy. In fact, it's challenging because your expectations may be too high. But once you pass the initial stage of learning-as-you-go, the rewards for your efforts will soon pay off in a big way.
Starting a meditation practice is more like a marathon than a sprint and it's a life-long journey. The practice never stops. I say this not to discourage you, but to help prepare you for what's to come if you haven't already tried this mental exercise.
In order to begin a meditation practice you need the following:
time and patience
self-compassion and non-attachment
I'll touch on each requirement below, and remember to treat this meditation practice as mental conditioning like an athlete would condition the body.
Before you begin, you will most likely not feel the blissful results after your first phase of meditating, which will last for up to 3 months (if you practice 3 times a week). This is not an exact science, but the point is that you will need to give your body enough time to adjust to the effects of meditation.
Time and Patience
Before you begin your levels of stress hormones, cortisol, will most likely be dominant. Thus your cells will have receptors that cater to the large presence of stress hormones. When a hormone matches with a cell receptor, your body will receive the information and effect of the stress. When you start meditating, the levels of your 'feel good' hormones (dopamine and seratonin) increase, HOWEVER, the reason why it takes a while for you to start feeling good is because it takes time for your cells to develop the receptors to match the floating 'feel good' hormones created by your practice.
The cells produce receptors that match the shape of existing hormones. If there are lots of cortisol hormones, there are receptors for cortisol. If you consistently create an increased supply of floating 'feel good' hormones, your cells will respond by eventually providing the receptors to receive the information of feeling good.
That is why most beginners quit before feeling the positive effects of meditation.
Self-Compassion and Non-attachment
You are your worst critic. You will be hard on yourself. It is important to fight the urge to judge your results, rather observe without scrutiny. This requires the practice of non-attachment. Let go of what negative or positive results you had. Instead, just observe each session as they come. Be in the present. Resist the need to compare your results from yesterday or from an expectation even if it was a positive result.
People don't realize how much of the physical preparation comes into play when meditating. From stretching, posture, diet to breathing techniques. The yoga that most people know (as advertised in local gyms) is only one aspect of the entire lifestyle practice. It covers ethical, dietary, respiratory and physical conditioning for optimal meditation that leads to self-healing (inner peace if you will).
As a beginner, you must learn the basic breathing techniques and sitting positions to not only help you sit for the length of the meditation comfortably, but also promote blood and energy flow.
In addition to gaining more focus, meditaiton allows you to visualize. It is easier than you think. Try this visualization: Close your eyes and picture yourself in your bathroom getting ready for bed. Imagine yourself brushing your teeth. See your toothbrush in your hand. Look at the tube of toothpaste as your squeeze it onto your brush. Visualizations appear like memories. This is how things appear in your third eye or mind's eye.
The more you practice the easier it gets to create these images in your head. Before you are able to do this, you will need to have enough focus to hold that mental space. When starting out, you might get bombarded with thoughts and reminders of today's to-do list. It takes time to condition the monkey brain to filter out thoughts without judgment.
Just observe thoughts as they come in and just let them pass and return to your meditative practice. Some sessions may be better than others and that's ok. The point is that your are doing the work and every session will make your sharpen your mental skills and focus. Eventually the brief moments of thoughtlessness will lengthen over time. Once you reach that point, it gets a makes all the effort gratifying.
To get more helpful tips or guided meditations, join my free meditation group that enjoys pop-up session by invitation only. See you there!