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You’ve heard that meditation and mindfulness can benefit your health and wellbeing, so you’ve decided to give it a try. But you’re not sure where to begin … how do you “quiet the mind?”
The key to learning how to meditate and developing a successful meditation practice is finding the right fit for you. There are so many different types of meditation to choose from – guided, unguided, insight (Vipassana), focused attention, loving kindess (metta), and more. In order to figure out what form of meditation works best for you, try a few different types and note which feels the most comfortable and doable. As a quick introduction to meditation, you can follow these six simple steps to begin one type of meditation technique called mantra meditation.
You can also download our app onto your phone and meditate from anywhere.
1. Choose your mantra.
A mantra is a word or phrase that you silently repeat to yourself during meditation. The purpose of the mantra is to give you something to put your attention on other than your thoughts. You may use any phrase you like. Some people like to use words like "Peace" or "Love". You may wish to use the So Hum mantra, a commonly used Sanskrit mantra, which translates to "I am." I like using the So Hum mantra because it is not in my native English language and does not trigger associative thoughts.
2. Find a comfortable place to sit.
It’s best to find a quiet location where you won't be disturbed. There is no need to sit cross-legged on the floor unless that is comfortable for you. You can sit on a chair or sofa or on the floor with your back against a wall. You may support yourself with cushions, pillows, or blankets. The goal is to sit as upright as possible while still remaining comfortable. We all have different anatomies and you want your meditation experience to be enjoyable, so make your comfort a priority. Lying on your back is usually not recommended because most people fall asleep in this position, but you can try it if sitting is uncomfortable for you. Meditation can be practiced anywhere, as long as you’re comfortable.
3. Gently close your eyes and begin by taking some deep breaths.
Try taking a few cleansing breaths by inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth. After a few cleansing breaths, continue breathing at a normal relaxed pace through your nose with your lips gently closed.
4. Begin repeating your mantra silently to yourself without moving your tongue or lips.
The repetition of your mantra is soft, gentle, and relaxed. There is no need to force it. The mantra does not need to correlate with the breath, though some people prefer to do so. For example, if using So Hum as your mantra, you could silently repeat So on your inhalation and Hum on your exhalation. As your meditation continues, allow the breath to fall away into its own rhythm. The repetition of your mantra should be almost effortless. Sometimes it is helpful to imagine that rather than repeating the mantra to yourself, you are actually listening to it being whispered in your ear.
5. Do not try and stop your thoughts or empty your mind.
As you continue with this meditative process, you will inevitably find that you drift away from the mantra. It is human nature and normal for the mind to wander. Do not try and stop your thoughts or "empty your mind." Whenever you become aware that your attention has drifted away from your mantra to thoughts or any other distractions while meditating, simply return to silently repeating the mantra.
6. Stop repeating the mantra.
After approximately 20 to 30 minutes, you may stop repeating your mantra and continue sitting with your eyes closed. Be sure to spend a few minutes relaxing with your eyes closed before resuming activity. You may use a timer with a very gentle, low-volume sound. Many people use their cell phones as meditation timers. You can download a meditation timer app on your smart phone or choose a soothing sound on your phone's built-in timer. Be sure to turn the volume down very low as you don't want to be startled out of your meditation.
If you find that 20 to 30 minutes is too long for you, start with whatever amount of time you can, and slowly build your way to 20 to 30 minutes. Even a few minutes of daily meditation is beneficial.
The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily. Ideally, meditation can be done first thing in the morning upon rising and then again at the end of the day, preferably prior to dinner. I like to start my day feeling centered and balanced after my morning meditation. And I often think of my evening meditation as a “release valve,” allowing any stress or tension from my day to simply drift away.