The 6 Essential Steps to a Successful Meditation Session
There has been many a time when a regular student, finally comfortable enough with me to bare the truth, asks “What exactly is meditation, and how the hell do I do it?!” This is a fair question, folks! And it’s a question many, many students ask. That’s why we’ve outlined the process in six simple steps for you to get started.
Follow these six steps for a successful meditation session:
Step 1: Don’t worry about clearing your mind
Yes, clearing your mind is meditation – but it is advanced meditation. This concept of clearing the mind can be intimidating, and can result in a lot of frustration for someone just starting their meditation practice.
So just let it go for the moment. You don’t have to clear your mind. You don’t have to get angry at yourself for thinking. There, feel better?
Step 2: Do away with distractions
Distractions come in all forms, whether it’s the clock going tick-tock, an email you need to send, or the dirty dishes still sitting in the sink. When you are starting your meditation practice, these distractions still have power to draw your attention away from the task at hand.
So do what you need to do before you sit down. Clean your dishes, send the email, put earplugs in. Sigh with relief. Eventually you will be able to meditate even with the upstairs neighbor’s children screaming, but today may not that day.
Step 3: Create a relaxing environment
Being relaxed in a space is easier for some people than others. Some might simply need to go to another room and close the door behind them, or move to an outdoor space. Others are very sensitive to their surroundings, and will need to be more diligent in creating their meditation environment.
Make sure the temperature of the room is just right, so you don’t feel freezing cold or way too hot. If smells help you relax, use your favorite scent in the room – incense, a scented candle, a room spray, or diffusing essential oils. And tidy up a bit. Not only is a tidy space more relaxing, but the act of tidying will help settle any fidgety energy.
Step 4: Get comfortable – but not too comfortable
Yes, you do want to find a comfortable seat or reclined position, however, you also want to avoid the temptation to take a nap. Wherever you have chosen to sit or lay down should feel supported. Use cushions or bolsters to sit on, so that your hips are above your knees if you are seated (this applies for kneeling as well as cross legged positions).
If you are lying down, you can put pillows or a bolster underneath your knees to help the spine relax. You can also use a thin blanket in both cases, as sometimes a little weight on the body gives us a sense of comfort.
Step 5: Stay physically still
Before you start worrying about your mental stillness, start with your physical body. I’ve met many a fidgeter, and this part of meditation is a big challenge in itself. So if you’ve got ants in your pants, this is where you start. Sit or lay down and stay absolutely still for five minutes. No picking your nose or adjusting your clothes.
Acknowledge your need to fidget, but just breathe instead of giving in to it. When you feel comfortable with five minutes, bump it up to ten. If this is excruciatingly difficult for you, try it with your eyes open, then moved to closed eyes when you feel ready.
Step 6: Choose your thoughts
Once you’ve got the ants out of your pants, you can start your journey down the meditation technique rabbit hole. This is where you consciously choose your thoughts, rather than letting them run amok. My two favorite techniques are using mantra and body awareness.
A mantra is something you say silently to yourself repeatedly. A two syllable mantra is helpful so that you can repeat the first syllable on the inhale the second on the exhale. Try this with the words “Let Go.” When the mind wanders (it always does), bring it back to those words.
Body awareness means focusing on one part of the body – it can be your belly rising and falling as you breathe, the feeling of your body against your mat, or your right big toe. Whatever catches your attention.
The world of meditation is big and vast, and these are ways to dip your toe into that world. There are many meditation teachers from different traditions that have different techniques to share, and I would recommend exploring as many of them as you can when you begin your journey.
Just know that we are all human and we all have monkey-minds that go a bit bananas sometimes. Have fun with your meditation journey, because it is just that – a journey to explore, enjoy, and ultimately – deepen.