It seems like everyone I know has a meditation practice, or is talking about starting one, which is awesome. But what are those of us with very busy brains to do? I have tried to start and maintain a short daily practice so many times only to realize, I've gone days or weeks without a 5 minute morning meditation. Sound familiar?! Well I'm happy to tell you I've learned a better way, and I've been enjoying meditating every day for the past 5 weeks.
Starting a meditation practice is like learning any new skill, you need to start out small at a beginners level and work your way up to mastery. You wouldn't decide to take up running and go out for a 5 mile run on your first day, right? This is was what I was trying to do with my meditation practice–jump right in and expect my untrained, busy brain to suddenly be quiet and spacious.
Fortunately, I was given a very simple, step-by-step meditation practice to try by Dr. Van Deven, an Osteopath at the Osteopathic Group in our hometown of Pittsfield, Mass. You may have even heard a guided meditation similar to this at the end of a yoga class.
Consider these warm up exercises your brain needs to get into shape for meditating. Start with mini-meditations throughout the day and slowly work your way up to one 30 minute daily meditation. I've been following these steps for 5 weeks now, and so far, I'm meditating for 9 minutes a day.
Go at your own pace and know that you'll feel proud to say "I've meditated every day this month!"
Need some incentive? According to The Art of Living.org the health benefits of regular, daily Meditation are broad spectrum and pretty amazing:
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
- Decreases any tension-related pain, such as tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
- Improves the immune system
- Increases the energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy
- Anxiety decreases
- Emotional stability improves
- Creativity and Happiness increases
- Intuition develops
Sounds awesome, let's do this!
Step One: Make a commitment to doing the following exercises. Re-read the benefits of daily meditation for motivation:
Every time you meditate you'll sit or lie down so that you can completely relax your whole body. You can do this in bed, in a chair, in a car seat–but not recommended while driving! There are many ways to sneak in a quick mini-meditation!
- Get comfortable, close your eyes and take a big, deep breath.
- Start by focusing your breath and attention on your right arm.
- Take a deep, slow breath and tell yourself–"my right arm is heavy and warm. My right arm is melting and deeply relaxed." As you think these thoughts, focus on feeling your body relax.
- Feel your muscles grow soft, feel your bones grow heavy and sinking towards the earth. Feel all of your tension melting.
Do this 4 times a day for just 15 seconds or one complete slow, deep breath. That's it. Do this first step for seven days in a row.
If you did four 15 second meditations for seven days, then you are ready for the next step. If you missed a few, that's ok! Just try again for another 7 days. Once you get one step, you can advance to the next.
Step 2: This week you'll do four 30-second meditations. Try 2-3 slow, deep breaths while focusing on your right arm melting and relaxing as described above.
Step 3: This week you'll add your left arm to the meditation, four times a day, for a minute. Use a timer or just count three deep, relaxing breaths focusing on each arm and one breath at the end while breathing into both your arms.
Step 4: By now, you have been meditating throughout each day, for three weeks or more. It took me four weeks to get to step three. You'll begin to notice that it's easier to focus and calm your mind. You have been exercising your brain and are gaining new skills!
Now you are ready to do three, 3-minute meditations every day this week. Relax and melt your right arm, then left arm, both arms and then add your right leg. I use a meditation timer app on my cell phone; you'll be surprised how fast the three minutes goes by! Try once upon waking, once during the day and again at night before you go to bed.
Step 5: Same as above except you'll add your left leg and then at the end you'll focus on how deeply relaxed and warm your entire body feels. Increase to 6 minutes, twice a day. I meditate just after I wake up and before I go to bed, but find the best time for you and make a commitment!
Step 6: Same as above, increase to 10 minutes twice a day.
Step 7 and beyond: The goal is to get you to drop into your meditative state once a day for 30 minutes. Once you are up to two 15-minute, whole-body meditations every day for at least a week, switch to one 20-minute meditation and then slowly build up to 30 minutes day. Once you have relaxed your entire body, it's perfectly great to use a different mantra or try new techniques. This sequence is designed to train your brain to meditate. Once you've got the skills, have fun trying out different techniques, guided meditations and mantras.