I can’t believe that almost exactly one year ago I wrote my first blog for the Purposeful Living Healing Center here in Reno, NV. Since then I have seen podcasts, blogs and even local mindful news magazines spreading the message about meditation and its ability to change lives!
Now that I have officially put myself out there in the world as a meditation teacher, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is…
“What does your practice look like?”
Why I don’t share
Now usually I find myself hesitant to share my practice with these people because I know everyone’s meditation journey is personal and tailored specifically to fit their own psychological framework.
So what works for me, probably ain’t going to work for you!
On top of that, the last thing I want to do is discourage anyone who just started a practice. Or even worse, anyone who is thinking about starting a meditation practice.
I know from personal experience that it can be incredibly disheartening to compare your practice to that of another.
Thus, it’s definitely true what they say in that, “Those who compare, despair.”
So with that word of caution in mind, let’s talk about how I meditate because in some ways, I do see the value in sharing my practice with others.
As long as people see that my practice isn’t THE way, but rather, ONE way, I am more than happy to share my process…
Who knows, maybe something in my practice will give someone an idea to help them take their meditation journey to the next level!!!
Let’s start with the nitty gritty…
As it stands today, I meditate every Monday through Friday for roughly 30 minutes each session.
Sometimes if I feel like I need it, I will throw in another 20 minutes at the end of the day before I go to bed.
Now why did I choose 5 days a week for 30 minutes?
To be honest… I don’t know.
Regardless, after months and months of iterations I’ve found that 5 days a week is the sweet spot for me because anything more takes away from the joy of meditating and turns it into a chore, while anything less leaves me feeling strung out and in need of a meditation.
As for how long you should meditate…. I’ll leave that up to you. In my head, the right amount of time to meditate is the actual amount of time you can commit to the practice.
For me, I started with just 6 minutes and I eventually worked my way up to 30 minutes. For others, even one-minute sounds strenuous.
If you’re one of those people, that’s ok!
Start with 30 seconds or whatever amount of time feels right. The point is to separate yourself from all guilt and make a commitment to sit – even if it’s only for a brief amount of time.
The beauty of meditation is that it’s self-rewarding and the more you do it, the more motivated you become–not the other way around.
Even if you start with one minute just once a week, as long as you stay committed to that one minute you will see positive impacts in your life that will encourage you to increase the durations of your practice. Stick with it, trust the process, and the practice will become easier over time.
Posture is definitely important but for beginners, it’s really not.
I believe it’s best to wait until you’ve nailed the fundamentals of a formal meditation practice before you start tinkering with your posture because posture is something you can perfect over time.
In the meantime however, it’s all about the fundamentals and the fundamentals of meditation are to observe the mind–not get in the perfect posture.
It wasn’t until about 6 months into my meditation journey that I actually started paying attention to how I was sitting.
Over time, I’ve found that sitting upright with a small pillow behind my back while keeping my spine upright at a 90-degree angle works best for me.
Most of the time my hands are resting on my lap facing towards the sky while my feet rest softly and evenly on the floor. The posture might look goofy but it’s effective and has worked for me over the last 3 years.
No matter what posture you choose, you’re simply trying to find what works best for you.
So if it feels best to lay down, do that.
If it’s easier at first to do a walking meditation, then do that.
Remember, there is no “right” way to meditate.
Once I find my posture I bring my attention to my intention.
For my practice, I use intentions as another way to get in the right mindset and hone in on the task at hand.
Often my intentions sound like the following, “May I learn something during this session and not simply get through it,” or, “May I greet each thing that arises in me with kindness and love,” or, “When I see my mind wandering, I will be kind to myself and hold myself with compassion.”
Other times my intentions are to remember all the people who benefit from my meditation practice. Said differently, other than myself who am I really meditating for?
Remembering that your meditation practice has far reaching impacts that aren’t reserved for just you is a powerful motivator to keep you going on those inevitable days when you really don’t want to sit for your practice.
After setting my intentions for the meditation, I take 5 deep breaths to slow my mind. On my fifth exhale, I close my eyes and settle into my surroundings.
Once I’m settled in, I then bring my attention to the feeling of my body.
To do this, I like to begin with a complete body scan starting at the top of my head and then work my way down towards my toes.
During this part of the meditation, I’m trying my best to focus my attention on all the sensations that arise and NOT what I think about how the sensation feels.
Once I separate myself from any narratives in my head about the feelings I’m experiencing and make my way all the way down to my toes, the body scan is over.
On a mindful day, I can knock out an entire body scan in under 10 minutes. But on mindless days, it can take as long as 15-20 minutes just to get through the scan from head to toe. It really just depends on how many times I get distracted.
After my body scan I move to what I like to call the “meat and potatoes” of my practice.
For this part of my meditation, I use a technique called “noting” to help observe my mind.
Similar to a body scan, the goal is to simply see what arises with complete objectivity.
To get started I first establish an anchor, like my breath, a particular noise in the background, or a place where I can focus my attention.
Then every time my mind wanders away from my focal point, I simply make a small “note” of it and bring my attention back to my anchor. It’s that easy…
The key with noting however, is that we watch out for the “second arrow.” (Read this previous blog post to see what I mean!)
It’s all too easy to start beating ourselves up when we notice we aren’t aware of our anchor but if we can hold ourselves with compassion and leave the moment behind us, we can create tremendous space between our thoughts and emotions.
Ultimately, the end of my meditations are just the reverse order of the beginning of my practice (mind, body, outside world) and by the time my timer goes off I’m ready to ease my way into the day ahead.
To close the meditation, I simply take my attention away from my anchor or breath and bring it back to my body and ultimately, back to the outside world.
Finally, I open my eyes and take in the experience I just had as well as the surrounding environment.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my meditation practice. By now, I hope you can see that there is no right or wrong way to start your own practice. Whatever works best for you is what will help you the most with your meditation practice.
The goal is to tailor your meditation experience to fit your own personal needs.
Lastly, learning how to meditate is a personal experience but it doesn’t have to be an individual proposition. So, if you have any other suggestions or would like to share your meditation practice with us please leave a comment below!
You never know, your insights might inspire someone to take positive action in their own lives.