3 Rules for Beginners of Meditation

Meditation is a mental practice which focusses on the sensations of the breath or a mantra for a certain window of time. Many people learn to meditate by beginning with less than 5 minute sessions and eventually extend their practice. Meditation promotes focus, self-acceptance, and reduced stress, but it isn’t just an attempt to completely clear your mind. Instead, think of it as a way to channel your thinking toward one specific thing – your breathing – and let every other thought fall away. If you think you could benefit from a clearer, more focused mind, give meditation a try and see how you like it. Here are three rules to structure your own meditation practice.

1. Don’t look at the clock.

Set a timer for the time you’d like to meditate and don’t stop to check how much time has passed. Try a 3-5 minute per day meditation until you feel comfortable increasing the time. At first, 5 minutes will seem long and boring, but as you learn to focus on your breathing, you’ll realize the session passes by quickly and breathing deeply will make you feel refreshed.

In a world where we’re constantly running from one thing to the next, pausing to breathe for 5 minutes is grounding. Soak it up. Remember not to pull yourself out of the moment by reaching for your phone to check the time. Just let the minutes pass and take note of how you feel afterward.

2. Don’t criticize your wandering mind.

If you’re having a hard time focusing on your breath, just take a moment and direct your mind back to your practice. There’s no need to feel angry or annoyed - your mind will inevitably wander. That’s okay! Just say, “Thanks, Brain.” And resume focus on your breathing. Try not to be harsh with yourself if you make a mistake. You’re exercising your brain, and your mind hasn’t developed the muscle memory yet. Just keep moving forward.

If focusing on your breath is a confusing concept for you, think of it in terms of feeling your body move as you breathe. Does your stomach move up and down? Is the air in your nostrils cool or does it carry a smell? Are there other sensations like an itch on your foot or your hair moving around your face as you breathe? Notice those things but try not to pass any judgement about them. Practice being aware of them but not ruminating on them. If you like, you can keep a notebook near you during your practice, so if something important comes to mind you can write it down. Then get back to focusing on the breath.

3. Make yourself comfortable so you can look forward to meditating.

Don’t buy into the idea that your meditation must look a certain way – hands on the knees, palms up, back unnaturally straight. The important thing is that you build a practice that is sustainable. That means it needs to be comfortable, meet your needs, and be just challenging enough that you don’t get bored doing it every day. For some people, comfortable means crossed legged on the floor, for others it means lying in bed or sitting outside in the grass. To prevent boredom, experiment with different environments and change up the way you sit during your mediation. If you make meditation pleasant and change up your environment occasionally, you’ll look forward to your practice as a relaxing time for growth and self-development.

In today’s world, we could all benefit from reducing our stress, but there are other benefits to meditation as well. If you choose to start a practice, you may find that it helps you focus at work or helps you fall asleep faster at night. As you start out, remember that it’s called a meditation practice for a reason – no one does it perfectly the first time. Remember to smile and refrain from passing judgment on yourself. You’re still learning! Anyone can learn how to do it over time, and if you start your practice by following the three suggestions in this article, you’ll avoid beginner mistakes. 

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