The next time you sit down to meditate, these are 6 tips to guide you during your meditation sessions.
- Count your breaths
Having a task at hand relieves the mind of its hectic nature. Exercises that involve breathing can help the body relax while keeping the mind engaged. You can simply count your breaths, starting at 1 and going up to 20. When you reach 20, return to step 1 and repeat. Start again at 1 when your attention wanders and you realize you have lost track of the number.
- Drawing shapes with your breath
Try different breathing techniques, such as “drawing” a triangle with your breath (inhale-exhale-hold or inhale-hold-exhale). Try “drawing” a square in your mind to calm yourself (inhale-exhale-hold). Instead of just counting breaths, sometimes your mind can be guided by a visual element. Try out what works best for you.
- Using guided meditation
The practice of meditation can be done in any way. One way is to meditate in silence, but guided meditation is also a useful method. When you are guided by another person’s voice and given visualization exercises, your mind is usually occupied with the images, so your thoughts have less room to wander. Try different meditation podcasts for advice on guided meditation; there are many excellent free resources that start at 10 minutes per meditation.
- Create mental images
When you meditate silently, welcome your thoughts instead of fighting them. When you accept your thoughts, you gain more freedom, because often the things we resist persist. You can think of your mind as a blue sky, and the clouds represent your thoughts. You let them run free, come, and go. You are not influenced by your thoughts, dependent on them, or emotionally attached to them. Just observe them as they pass by in the blue sky.
- Write down your thoughts
If you have a lot going through your mind, it can be helpful to write down your thoughts before meditating. Without analyzing them or pausing to consider whether you are putting everything in the right order, write down any thoughts that come to mind. Just get everything down on paper and write it all down until you feel relieved. As you prepare to meditate, take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Now your thoughts should be much clearer.
- Consistent practice
Your mind will feel more comfortable if you meditate at the same time and place every day. Since the mind is not conditioned to stand still, it will resist being suddenly asked to stop what it normally does. We should not ask our mind to stop thinking during meditation, just as we should not ask our heart to stop beating.
Only with consistent practice can we train the mind to become quieter and leave more space between thoughts. It is important to start with short meditation sessions and gradually increase, being patient and kind to yourself.
When we meditate, we must be aware that the degree of ease will vary. There will be times when it feels very easy and purposeful, and other times when it feels like an internal struggle. It is also wise to keep in mind that in a 15-minute meditation, you may only spend a few minutes in quiet, focused thought. The rest of the time will be challenging and distracting.
That’s okay, though, because that’s how meditation is really done. We pay attention, practice patience, and gradually allow ourselves the gift of space.