Meditation is a widely-respected practice that helps reduce stress, improve mood, promote calm, and encourage emotional health. An estimated 200 million to 500 million people worldwide meditate, about 18 million of those in the United States. But it can be challenging to set up a meditation practice that feels effective.
Establishing a new meditation practice comes with a few stumbling blocks, but with a few good techniques, you can find a routine that works for you.
Read on to learn about some ways to deepen your meditation practice and increase your inner peace.
As with any practice, the key to setting up a consistent habit is to not dive into the deep end. It’s tempting to start in full-force while things are exciting and you’re motivated. But that’s also a great way to burn out and never get a solid habit established.
The key to establishing a good meditation practice is to start small–ideally with three to five minutes every day. This may seem small at first, but that way it won’t get overwhelming.
Getting some good meditation habits in short bursts can help you have a deeper meditation when you move to longer sessions.
Create a Space
One of the main keys to establishing a habit is to give your brain cues that it’s time to shift into another mode. These cues can be internal or external, but having a designated space for meditating can help you achieve deeper meditation. It tells your brain that it’s time to shift into a meditation mindset.
Some people prefer to set up a meditation altar with various religious icons or other meditative foci. If you don’t have the space to set up a full altar, or if you prefer not to, at least pick one spot where you always meditate. It should be comfortable and maybe include a few inspirations for your meditation focus.
On the subject of inspiration for your meditation focus, another great way to have a deeper meditation is to set an intention. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated or lofty. It should just be something you want to get out of your meditation or an idea you would like to focus on during your session.
Sit down at the beginning of each meditation session and decide on your intention. If you prefer, you can write it down before you begin your practice. Setting an intention like this will help you focus your meditation in constructive, guided ways.
Relax the Body
One of the major focuses of meditation and mindfulness practices is the connection between the mind and the body. Most meditation starts and ends with focusing on the sensations of the breath and the body. With that being said, trying to meditate when your body is tense can be very counterproductive.
A great way to have a better meditation practice is to try to relax your body before you begin your practice. You can do this through some gentle yoga stretches and poses if you like. Some light stretching and other relaxation techniques can also be good.
Come Back to the Breath
And while we’re on the subject of the connection between the breath and the body, the breath is one of the cores of meditation. It is the center of meditative practice and a great way to reconnect to your center when you need to. If you’re having trouble getting into your meditation, coming back to the breath is the best way to refocus.
Some days, you may have more on your mind, and you may find it hard to let certain thoughts go. If you find yourself distracted, focus back on your breath and the sensations associated with it. Keep focusing on the breath as long as you need to, and let it center you during your meditation.
Use a Mantra
If you’re having trouble focusing just on the breath, having a mantra you speak during your meditation can be a good way to keep your focus. It can also be a great way to incorporate your intention for the session into your practice.
A lot of people may think about the stereotypical “ohm” when it comes to meditation mantras, and while this can be a good one, you don’t have to limit yourself to that.
Choose a word or simple phrase that encapsulates your intention for the practice. This can be something like “peace,” “forgiveness,” or a self-affirmation such as “I am worthy.” Repeat this on each exhale of the breath, trying to stay in rhythm with your breathing.
Use a Mala
If you prefer to have a more physical focus for your meditation practice, you may want to look into getting a mala. Malas are prayer beads that are used to help count and focus during prayer and meditation. These can include rosary beads in the Catholic church, as well as beads used by the yogis in Hindu practices.
Malas can be a wonderful way to re-center your meditation practices. The largest sets come in necklaces that include 108 beads, and the idea is that you repeat a mantra or meditation cycle for each bead. You can also get these in small bracelet sizes that can help you bring your meditation practice with you into your daily life.
Let Go of Expectations
When you’re meditating, it can be easy for the little voice of insecurity to creep into your mind. There are certain expectations that go along with a meditation lifestyle: peace, graciousness, serenity, and other such qualities. So what happens if you aren’t exactly living up to those expectations?
An important part of having a deep, effective meditation practice is to let go of any expectations you have for your practice. If you spend the entire time you’re meditating focusing on what you think your session should be, you won’t be able to find that meditative state.
Relax and let go of any expectations before you begin meditating each time, and let your practice be what it is, as it is.
Be Kind to Yourself
Another part of letting go of expectations is to be kind to yourself. Our society teaches us to be harsh judges of ourselves, but that habit doesn’t mesh well with meditative practice. It’s hard to reach a state of inner peace if you spend the entire practice beating yourself up.
If you’re finding it hard to be kind to yourself, you may want to consider setting mantras and intentions for your practice that focus on saying positive things about yourself. If you’re having trouble focusing one day, recognize that each day is different, and your practice won’t always be easy. Be kind, and focus on the good things about your practice that day, even if it’s just that you showed up.
Use Alternate Methods
A lot of times, we tend to think meditation has to happen sitting cross-legged on a mat with your eyes closed and your hands on your knees. If you’re a restless person, you may find this particular form of meditation challenging. But meditation doesn’t have to just happen sitting down with your eyes closed.
A lot of people like to use moving meditation–in many cases, walking or running. Walking has a similar rhythm as breathing, giving you a focus for your meditative practice. You can also try cycling, swimming, or even knitting.
Bring Your Meditation Practice with You
Proponents of meditation say that it can promote peace, reduce anxiety, and lower stress levels in everyday life. But even if you meditate every day, you may not feel very peaceful when a pipe bursts and water starts pouring down your stairs.
When life happens, how can your few minutes of meditation every day help you handle those situations better?
A great way to help you have a more effective meditation practice is to bring your meditation with you into life. When something stressful is happening, pause and go through the first few steps of your meditation practice, whether that be focusing in on your breathing or starting to count on a mala. Your brain will shift into that peaceful mode, giving you the calm you need in the middle of the storm.
Meditate When You Can
Sometimes, life just gets busy; whether you have small children, a demanding job, or just a busy life, it can be difficult to carve out even ten minutes a day to meditate. Ironically, this can make meditation something of an additional cause of stress. It becomes another thing on the to-do list that never ends.
The key to avoiding this and to making meditation a deep part of your life is to meditate when you can. If you have a few extra minutes at the end of your lunch break, spend those minutes focusing in on your breathing. The same applies to extra time in the mornings or evenings, times between meetings, and the precious few minutes when your child is napping.
Take Better Care of Yourself
Meditation is a great practice for a whole variety of reasons. If you’re having trouble getting into a deep meditation practice, try a few of these techniques. With some trial and error, you can find a practice that brings peace to your life and balance to your breath.
If you’d like to learn more about ways to take care of yourself, visit the rest of our site at Humble Musings. We have articles on how to live a healthy lifestyle, getting motivated, and taking care of yourself. Check out our articles on popular musings today!