A couple months ago I began posting a series of “Meditation Tips” on social media, but realizing that not all yogis are on social media, I’m posting them here as well. If you have questions or want to get together to chat more on this topic, let me know. I’m also thinking about creating a regular meditation group where we can meditate, discuss challenges and observations etcetera, so we can grow as a community together. I hope you enjoy!
Ever since I learned to meditate, I have wanted to create a community where we can ask questions, share experiences and help each other on this path. In the past month during my yoga teachings I have spoken about meditation in detail and as a result, have received a number of questions. What do I do if I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work? How did you start meditating? Can you recommend any books? As a result, like my handstand tips, I’d like to begin a series of “meditation tips” in the hopes of answering questions and starting a discussion to support each other on this path to finding further clarity, calm, enlightenment. Tip #1: Set up an altar or space where you can meditate so that when you look at it or sit, you are reminded of why you meditate. It’s easy to google “Buddhist altar” to get ideas for what you can include in yours. Here’s mine: a statue of the Buddha, prayer flags, mala beads, a quote, an item from my childhood that has special meaning, and gifts from my kids- my biggest reason for meditating, so I can set an example and be my best self for them.
Meditation Tip #2: Meditate every day. No different than wanting to build body strength, if you want to grow mind strength, the practice needs to be regular and disciplined. It may seem, at least at first, like another ‘to do’ on your daily list. However, once you start to notice benefits and changes in your daily life and find those moments of complete peace and calm within your meditation, it becomes worth it and doesn’t remain an annoying “to do” for long (at least on most days ). What benefits have you noticed after beginning a regular meditation practice? For me, within 3-months of meditating daily, my mom, grandma, sister and partner- all around the same time- commented independently that I seemed calmer and yelled less (shit, did I really yell that much??).
Meditation Tip #3: Start a meditation practice when life is easy. This meditation tip is one of the best that my teacher Kevan Gale gave me. During hard times, your mind spins uncontrollably. You’ll never find success in your meditation practice if you start during hard times. Start during easy times, find success, and start building the strength of your mind so that you have those skills and training for when hard times hit.
Meditation Tip #4: Find what works for you. In meditating every day, you’ll likely start to notice what works and what doesn’t, for you. I don’t meditate before bed- it makes me sleepy. Meditation will help your sleep (it’s an awesome side effect), but I find I get too tired and my practice is lost if I meditate before bed. I try to meditate in the morning after having completed a few “to do’s,” before the afternoon lag sets in.
This is less a meditation “tip”, than a reason to meditate: happiness. I have just started reading “Happiness” by Matthieu Ricard: “I have come to understand that although some people are naturally happier than others, their happiness is still vulnerable and incomplete, and that achieving durable happiness as a way of being is a skill.” For happiness to move from external events (which are out of our control and fragile) to an internal way of being, we need to build it.
Meditation Tip #5: Meditate daily for 15-min when you first begin. This was recommended by my teacher. It worked for me, as when I first started meditating, it could take me up to eleven or twelve minutes to find complete stillness in my mind, the space that is so effing fantastic I don’t want to get up, I just want to stay there forever. It is so peaceful. If I never found that space, I’m not sure I would have known it existed and that I could find it. 15-minutes also didn’t feel like too long of a time commitment. I started to meditate for longer periods when I felt ready.
One of my students who began meditating relatively recently, but began with shorter periods of meditation and often at night, was struggling with her practice. When I suggested trying to meditate earlier in the day when she was more awake and for 15-minutes, she also noticed a difference. As in tip #4, it’s about finding what works for you.