Top 10 Tips for Meditation

By Leah Larwood

If you’ve ever been curious about meditation before but you’re not quite sure how to approach it, what to expect or how to get started, then here are a few tips on how to get the ball rolling. 

How can meditation help?

Meditation is often something that’s taught as part of a spiritual practise. Mindfulness however, is taught in secular contexts. In fact, in recent years, the NHS has been offering mindfulness techniques as part of its services within mental health trusts across the country.

Adopting mindfulness techniques allows you to live in the moment, work with unwanted or charged thoughts and even cope with chronic illness. By simply paying more attention to your own thoughts and feelings, can have a huge impact on your life. Not only on your stress levels but your psychical health too.

What is mindfulness exactly?

The idea behind mindfulness is that, through closer inspection, you learn to become more aware of your thoughts and once you have that awareness you can discriminate. It will become easier to let go of unhelpful thoughts, work with unwanted feelings and be with challenging situations. Through practising this, difficult thoughts will gradually subside. It’s believed that a daily meditation practise of 40 minutes, sustained over a couple of months is enough for you to see a considerable change in your wellbeing. 

Here are 10 things to bear in mind before you get started:

1. Experiment with different meditations: There are a plethora of CDs, Apps, books and courses available these days. One of the most recognised approaches is by Breathworks, a reputable organisation who offer a 12-week mindfulness course nationwide. If you’re not ready to invest in a course, then start by buying a CD or downloading an App. Insight Timer or Headspace Apps offer a good selection of short guided meditations for beginners. Try out different ones until you find one that suits you.

2. Start paying attention to your breath: You will hear this a lot. Mindfulness all comes back to working with and listening to your breathing. Your breath will help to anchor you. Mindfulness of breathing is really useful to help you go underneath your thoughts, as it were, to the feelings and emotions, allow yourself to feel them fully. Where do we feel them in the body? You can try that now if you like. If you sit and allow yourself to feel, see if you can locate them in your body. 

3. Surrender. Learn how to ‘let go’: We can’t stop thoughts but we can let them go. Don’t worry if your mind wanders during meditation. That’s what minds do. The average person has thousands of thoughts a day. Many people think that meditation is about stopping thoughts or having a blank mind. It would be extremely difficult to stop our thoughts altogether, what we need to learn to do is work with our thoughts.  The key is to pay more attention to our body and breathe, and that way our thoughts will naturally slow down.

4. Allow background noise and sounds to be present: Can you hear the neighbour’s radio? Are there traffic noises outside? Someone making a cup of tea in the next room? Mmm, tea, that would be nice. Try not to get caught up in activity. Just allow all of the sounds to be present, just as they are, with things coming and going, other sounds may be permanently there. Don’t worry about trying to block them out. Just notice what you hear and then try your best to let it go. Try to be an impartial observer, allowing any sounds that arise to just be around you, without getting involved.

 

 

5. You don’t have to believe everything you think: Not everything we think is necessarily true. Our minds have a great way of creating ‘stories’ to distract us. Meditation is great at allowing us to notice your thoughts as they arise in your mind. It’s really helpful to realise that not everything we think is true or helpful – it makes it easier to let go of certain thoughts.

6. Expect resistance and use it: Our mind is very clever at trying to get us to do or not do something. When you sit down to meditate you may find that you start to develop reasons why you can’t meditate that particular day. This will happen. But you can make this part of your practice. What we resist tends to persist. So try to sit with any feelings of resistance, accept them and understand that you’re not alone – everyone will experience this.

7. Work with unwanted thoughts: These are thoughts that plague you or distract you from life. It’s easy to just ignore them, react to them or push them away. The idea is to learn how to be with that feeling, watching it and observing things, without getting as involved.

8. Don’t forget to let the good in: Did you know that humans absorb negative experiences instantly but it takes 12 whole seconds to fully take in a positive experience and for it to be part of our long-term memory? Take a few moments every day to focus on the good. It can be easy to be blind sighted by the negative in our day. But regardless of how much ‘good’ your day contains, make sure you take a moment to appreciate, acknowledge and bask in those good things. A beautiful sunrise, the colour and shape of some pleasing-looking fruit or a smile from a stranger.

9. Don’t worry, you’re not thinking more, you’re just more in tune: When you start meditating you may suddenly think – hang on, I’m thinking more than I usually do. That might not be true. It’s likely that because you’re paying more attention to your thoughts, you’re more aware of what you’re thinking. Awareness is key. This is often the first step to making progress.

10. Avoid judgements or being self-critical: There is often an expectation that you will either be good or bad at something. Try not to think this way about mindfulness. Everyone who starts to learn about mindfulness will find it tricky to quieten those thoughts. Some days will be easier than others. Try not to judge yourself. There is no right or wrong in mediation. It takes practice and the gentler you are with yourself, the easier it will come. 

Mindfulness Course Recommendation

Breath Works is a national institute set up by Gary Hennessey, a leading practitioner, author and trainer of mindfulness.  For more go to www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk 

Useful Mediation Apps

Insight Timer: www.insighttimer.com 

Headspace: www.headspace.com 

 

Leah is a freelance writer and published poet. She also blogs about quirky and vintage-inspired travel, local produce, independent eateries and alternative therapies.

Lifestyle blogger at www.rootsandtoots.com

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