​​​7 tips to develop your own meditation practice


Much like there are different people in the world, there are quite a few forms of meditation. Some call it mindfulness, others breathing, some call it centering. Some like to meditate on movement (walking, dancing, moving mindfully), some prefer to chant, some like to do japa (silent repetition of a mantra), others prefer to simply sit quietly. Whatever your meditation practice happens to be, there are a few simple steps to ensure you keep your practice going.

Establish a ritual

If you think of anyone who is trustworthy, you will notice that they are consistent. We are creatures of habit and much of our brain functions and mental patterns are based on repetition. (In fact, the whole process of learning a subject involves repeating concepts over and over, until we feel that we know it.)
In the same way, establishing a ritual (any ritual) can be incredibly helpful to train our brains to understand (and believe) that it is time to meditate. Rituals can mean anything: from a simple candle lighting, to waving some incense or some palo santo stick, to playing your favorite meditative music or repeating a mantra (specific sound currents or words that creat a direct impact in the brain). If you do this over and over, at some point your brain will understand and know that it is time for meditation, and it will actually support you in achieving a meditative state much quicker.

Create a physical space for meditation

There are plenty of articles that tell you that you can meditate anywhere, even on your bed, or in the car. In “emergency situations” (on vacation, or when sleeping over at someone’s house) these options are OK – as they might be your only choice. But for the same reasons explained above, our brains like constancy and consistency, and choosing a specific, designated space for meditation will help to create that sense. It is not necessary to have a separate room for meditation, but any corner of your living room/ bedroom/ garage can be transformed into a meditation space. Make sure that the space is always clean and beautiful. You might want to place some inspiring articles there – photos of your teacher or nature, crystals, plants, mandalas, etc. Our minds are attracted to pretty things and a messy space can encourage cloudy, chaotic thoughts. Dedicating a space at your home just for meditation will also ensure that energetically the space is ready to support your practice.

Prepare your body to go into meditation

Gently stretching the body before meditating is a great way to prepare for the practice. Simple stretches such as the cat/cow movement, making circles with your neck and shoulders, or raising arms over head a few times are examples. Take long, deep breaths. If you’re meditating in the morning and don’t have time to bathe, make sure to at least wash your face with cold water. Remember, you are teaching your brain to understand that it is time to go into meditation (not to fall back asleep).

Notice your posture

Some recent studies are starting to prove the connection between our postures and our mental states. (Think of a depressed person. How does their posture look like?) One of the most ancient yoga texts defines a “comfortable sitting posture” as one of the first pillars of yoga. Some even say that sitting quietly in a good posture, is meditation. When meditating, pay attention to your posture, no matter which technique you are using for meditation (chanting, moving, simply sitting quietly). Become aware of how your body behaves in space.

If possible, meditate first thing in the morning

According to recent wellness articles, several successful people (from Apple CEO Tim Cook, to Oprah) start their days quite early in the morning. Science is also proving that the brain is calmer and more focused in the early hours of the day. Yogis and meditators have known this for quite some time, and most ancient traditions contend that a meditation practice is more effective in the early mornings, in between 4:00 and 7:00 am. Yes, early! This doesn’t mean that from now on you must wake up at 4:00 am, but if you do, you will notice your day flowing quite differently. For one, you will experience a sense of accomplishment and victory over time. 

Find a meditation coach or take a meditation class

Though eventually you want to practice meditation on your own while developing self discipline, connecting with a meditation coach or taking meditation classes on a regular basis will prevent pitfalls that could hinder your practice. A meditation teacher will help you to overcome inner blocks and tendencies that could sabotage not only your meditation practice, but your personal growth. Taking classes and workshops is also an excellent way of staying inspired, while making connections with like-minded individuals.  

If you miss a day, don’t stress out. Just start over on the following day.

Some people quit meditation because they think that meditation only “works” if they do it every day. Though it is helpful to be consistent for all the reasons mentioned above, if you miss a day, don’t stress out and declare yourself a “quitter”. There should be no guilt involved in your process of developing a meditation practice. Just start again on the following day!
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Creating your Meditation space

As creatures of habit (though some more than others), our minds are attracted to repetition. Familiarity with a process, thought, or feeling makes it much more likely that we will accept it and carry it on. Designating a specific space for meditation can be incredibly helpful to train our brains to understand and accept that it is time to meditate. 
 
 
There are plenty of articles that tell you that you can meditate anywhere, even on your bed, or in the car. In “emergency situations” (on vacation, or when sleeping over at someone’s house) these options are OK – as they might be your only choice. But because much of our brain functions and mental patterns are based on repetition, establishing a familiar space will ensure that our brain understands it is time for meditation, creating much less resistance to the process. Ultimately you will get into that state much quicker.

The concept of a comfortable space can be personal (think of temperature, setting, décor). But there are a few tips and pointers that can be helpful to anyone.

Make sure the space is clean and clutter free

A chaotic space can interfere with your focus; your mind can get distracted by an object on the floor, or you might feel inclined to come out of meditation to organize things. The mind will try to find all sorts of excuses to take you out of meditation; don’t give in to distractions.
 
Find a comfortable Asana or chair

In addition to “posture”, the word Asana can also mean the actual surface (mat, carpet, chair) that you sit on for meditation. Your body should feel at ease, and a comfortable Asana is most helpful. If you want to sit quietly but your legs hurt, or if you have knee issues, sit on a chair. If you want to sit cross legged on the floor, use a blanket or cushion under your buttocks. Your knees should be lower than the front hip bones. This will ensure that your spine elongates, keeping an optimal posture for meditation.
A few tips are to use pure cotton or wool blankets, or sheepskin – all recommended by sacred Yoga texts.

Inspiring articles

Particularly if you are a visual person you might want to add some inspiring articles to your meditation corner. Examples: photos of your teachers or inspiring persons, photos of nature, mandalas and other sacred geometric shapes, crystals. You can think of the objects as reminders to keep the mind focused on higher thoughts and meditation.

If possible, keep a space designated only for meditation

Avoid using that space for other activities, such as eating, talking, welcoming guests, etc. If this is impossible (if your room is small), at least remove your Asana (yoga mat, blanket, or cushion), from the area when you are not using it for meditation. This will not only preserve the energy of the space (or surface), but it will also remind your brain that in that space only meditation occurs - no chit chat, no worries. This creates the sense of familiarity (or repetition) discussed above.