You’ve heard about the benefits of meditation and decided to see what all the hype is about. Perhaps you’re starting a new morning meditation practice at home, or you signed up for a meditation class or event. Maybe you’re headed to a weekly group meditation in your community. No matter how or where you meditate, here are a few dos and don’ts to help make your first experience a positive one.
Do ease your mind by knowing what to expect. Expect thoughts. Many beginners believe that meditation is the absence of thoughts, when in fact that isn’t the goal at all. What we will come to experience are pauses in our thoughts, known as “the gap,” where you can connect with your personal soul. The gap manifests in different ways for different people. If, outside of meditation, you experience peace, synchronicity, coincidences, creativity, abundance, or joy then you are spending time in the gap.
Also, know that experiences in meditation provide exactly what you need. Some people feel physical sensations, see colors or have emotional swells. You might even fall asleep during meditation, which is your body’s warning sign that perhaps you need to get to bed earlier.
Do find a quiet space. In your home this means a place you can go to be alone without interruptions. If you’re going to a guided meditation or a group session, this might mean sitting in a place where you aren’t distracted by things like cold breezes, noises, or sitting somewhere physically uncomfortable.
Do have a timer. If you’re on your own, make sure you have a timer to signal the end of your meditation. The Insight Timer app is designed for meditation and chimes gently at the designated time. Startling out of a meditative state to an oven timer or peeking at your watch every few minutes may not give you the peace you need. If a timer isn’t available to you, you can certainly open your eyes to check the time once in a while if you don’t find it disruptive to your practice.
Do avoid interruptions. Turn off your cell phone and your home phone. Pick a time when there are the least number of people home, especially children. Tell your family or roommates what you’re doing—and why—and give them the information they need to avoid interrupting you. For example: “When the door to my office is closed in the morning that means I’m meditating. It helps me to have a peaceful day. If you open the door and see me sitting with my eyes closed, please don’t talk to me.”
Do stay seated. Your body equates the position of lying down with sleep. To help your body to recognize that meditation and sleep are different, you should find a comfortable seated position for meditating. Use pillows and blankets or lean against a wall if that helps your comfort level. If you have a physical limitation that makes seated meditation impossible, meditate in whatever position works for you.
Don’t judge your experience. You are always given exactly what you need in each meditation. One day you may feel a total stress release and the next day you might feel irritation or disappointment. Instead of judging your meditation, practice gratitude for the experience you got and be curious as to why things may have been different.
Don’t worry if you get interrupted. Releasing control of outcome is a big part of the meditation process. When you expect to have a quiet and uninterrupted meditation and instead you get a UPS delivery and two phone calls, don’t sweat it. You’re learning to go with the flow. Next time you might want to unplug the phone or put a note on your door. But for this time, be glad you got a chance to practice how to get back into the meditative mindset multiple times in one sitting. This probably isn’t what you wanted, but it was perhaps just what you needed.
Don’t compare your experience to others. As they say, “comparison is the thief of joy.” If you ask others about their experiences, you run the risk of comparing it with yours. Meditation is different for each person. Some will see colors, experience profound thoughts, and have physical sensations, while others will feel distracted and fall asleep. None of this has anything to do with your meditation, so avoid comparisons. In fact, don’t even compare this meditation to your own prior experiences. Trust that you will always get what you need from every session.
Remember that these are just guidelines to help you get started. Once you get into a routine with your meditations, you’ll be able to figure out what works best for your personal practice.