9 Steps To Develop A Powerful Meditation Practice
The benefits of meditation are many, including reduced stress, improved concentration and focus, better clarity, enhanced mood, and the ability to find inner calm no matter what is happening around you. The physical, mental, and psychological benefits can only be enjoyed by regular practice. But where do you start? The simple answer is: right here.
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Step 1: Be Consistent
Consistency is key. Decide on a time and place that work well for you. Then, stick to it.
Train your body and mind to know that every morning at 6 a.m., you will retreat to your quiet corner and come to seated meditation for 30 minutes, for example. Early morning before the sun rises is the best time. This is the time of day when nature is calm and quiet. The earth consciousness is not yet agitated, and the world has not yet entered into its daily turmoil. It also helps to wake up early, when everything is quiet, so you are less likely to be disturbed while meditating.
Rise at the same time every day so that you become accustomed to rising on schedule and are more likely to wake up naturally. If the morning is not an option for you, sunset is the next best option.
The time of day, duration, and location are not as important as the consistency. Set aside this time for meditation only, and do not deviate from your practice.
Step 2: Prepare Your Body
If you choose to practice first thing in the morning, briefly wash your face and rinse your mouth. Brush your teeth with a minty or tea tree toothpaste.
Wear a color that reflects energy—either white or yellow. White represents purity, and yellow means energy or learning. Wearing a bright, happy color will make you more open to receiving the gifts of the universe.
Step 3: Find a Meditation Space Exclusively for Meditation Practice
Your space should be sacred. If you cannot dedicate an entire room for meditation, perhaps pick a corner of a room and separate it with a partition or curtain.
The space should be used for meditation only.
Place a comfortable cushion in your medication space and set an altar with images and symbols that are meaningful to you. This may be a mandala, or a picture of Jesus, or a statue of Buddha. Avoid personal pictures or things that attach you to this world.
This can distract from the purpose of meditation.
Face either north or east. Burn a candle that is unscented and made of natural ingredients like soy or beeswax. Do not burn incense or scented candles.
Step 4: Sit Down
Just as your time and place require consistency, so does your posture. Take sukhasana if you can (an easy pose), or another seated, crosslegged posture. Another option is to extend the legs out long in front of you or prop yourself up on a block to bring the knees lower than the hips. This can help if your hips are tight, which can be a distraction.
If you have knee issues, place a prop under your knee as well. Bring your hands to chin mudra, bringing your thumb and index finger together, palms up, hands resting on your knees, or your hands can be folded in your lap, left over right, palms up, like you are receiving a gift.
Sitting in a chair with your feet on the floor is also an option, although this is not ideal.
Whatever posture you choose, come to it every time. Your body will learn that this is a position of stillness. Avoid shifting your body, repositioning, or fidgeting, as this will distract you from finding a deeper place of meditation. Movement disrupts your progress. In order for the mind to be still, the body needs to be still first.
Once you are seated, lengthen your spine. Root down through the sacrum and lift the crown of the head to the sky. Relax your shoulders and soften your face. The jaw is soft and tongue resting comfortably away from the roof of the mouth. Close your eyes. You are now ready to calm the mind.
Step 5: Come to Your Breath, Find Focus
Be conscious of your breathing. The breath is full, continuous, and effortless. Inhale and exhale through the nose.
As you breathe, take your focus to your heart center if you are more emotional in nature, or the third eye if you are more intellectual in nature. Do not deviate from your point of focus. Notice your thoughts. When a thought comes into your mind, observe it and let it pass. Avoid attaching memory or emotion to your thoughts.
Become an observer of your mind.
Step 6: Recite a Mantra
If you have a japa mala practice, you can do this now. I prefer to repeat my personal mantra 108 times using japa beads before silent meditation. This calms and focuses the mind on a single object, making it easier for all other thoughts to fall away.
If you do not have a personal mantra, you can recite OM (AUM) or SO HAM (SO HUM), which are universal mantras.
Step 7: Be Still
Sit for 20 minutes. As you develop your daily routine, increase your time to 30 or 40 minutes.
Set a quiet bell alarm to alert you when your time is up.
Step 8: Come Back into the Room
Slowly bring your awareness back to your body.
Gradually wiggle your fingers, toes, neck, shoulders, arms, and legs. Gently stretch.
Finish with a large glass of water. This purifies the body, cleansing impurities away, and stimulates the kidneys.
Step 9: Repeat
When it is time to practice, you practice.
Just like anything else in life, meditation requires practice before it becomes a habit, and a habit takes repetition before it becomes part of our nature. It takes 21 days of doing something every day before it can be habit-forming.
But if it doesn’t stick at first, don’t get discouraged! It takes time.
Once established as part of your lifestyle, a meditation practice has many benefits that you will begin to experience immediately: a calm, more focused mind, the ability to look at problems more clearly, a balanced mood, and emotional wellbeing.
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