New to meditation? Here is your gateway to starting

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Twenty years ago, I undertook a small research study to look at the benefits of meditation for parents caring for their very sick children at home. At that time, there was a growing body of evidence as to the benefits of meditation.

Now, the powerful benefits are undeniable. This time-tested practice has been scientifically proven to have numerous health and wellness benefits including:

• Downregulation of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight, flight, freeze part of your brain) and accessing more readily the parasympathetic nervous system (the easeful, relaxed part of your brain).

• Reducing or eliminating stress and stress-related illnesses.

• Lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

• Increasing your connection to yourself, coming back to your natural state of balance in life, which is lightness and ease because we endlessly are renewed in the present moment.

• Shifting from reacting (and being on automatic pilot) to responding (when we respond, we make wiser choices) and therefore, cultivating and maintaining healthier relationships with others.

• Being more fully who you are and experiencing a life lived more fully.

If you haven’t already experimented with a meditation practice, now is the time to do so. During unsteady and unknown times such as these, it’s incredibly helpful (if not imperative) to your mental and emotional health to have a practice that grounds you, that has you feel steady and that brings you back to your center.

Be prepared for your mind to want to justify why you don’t need to meditate and why it’s a waste of time. You might even feel some grief or resentment for what you “could” or “should” be doing instead of seemingly “doing nothing” by simply sitting and being. If you keep a journal, you will remember the moments of grace where you felt free and grateful and how that impacted your day.

10 tips for meditation

Here is a beginner’s guide to starting your meditation practice:

1 When to meditate: Find a time that consistently works for you. It’s best to practice at roughly the same time each day to create a strong pattern and expectation in your brain. If you find you nod off to sleep, change the time that you practice.

2 Where to meditate: Find a place where you can be undisturbed.

3 Set a timer: This will free your mind from wondering about the time. Start small, maybe 5 to 10 minutes, and gradually build the time maybe to 15 to 20 minutes. Anything is better than nothing.

4 Get comfortable: Sit in a position with the knees lower than the hips to prevent pull on the hips and lower back. Use a well-supported upright chair, a blanket on the floor under your buttocks or a specially designed meditation cushion. Keeping the spine upright, in alignment, will keep you awake.

5Close your eyes: Bring your attention inward.

6 Check in: Take a mental inventory of how you are feeling in that very moment.

7 Create a judgment-free zone: Be kind and gentle with yourself. There is no need to judge your racing mind. Just pay attention.

8 Bring your awareness to your breath: Of course, your mind will wander. That’s the nature of the mind. When it does, bring your awareness back to your breath. Use your breath as your anchor to the present moment.

9 At the end of your meditation: Keep a journal of what you’re noticing — any subtle shifts, helpful adjustments, etc.

10 Repeat: Make a commitment to yourself to practice every day for 30 days. Give yourself this time, and notice how you feel. Read back over your journal to remind yourself. Hopefully, you will have established a daily lifelong practice at the end of those 30 days.

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