Start a meditation practice today

Start a meditation practice today

Mindfulness for real life

It’s true: meditation can be difficult to prioritize and stick with. However, its retreat-like stillness and calm can be exactly what’s needed in our busy lives.

Meditation benefits

Meditation can help us let go of past and future, reactions and planning, fretting and ruminating.

Recent research also indicates that meditation may reduce stress, reduce high blood pressure, help with distress accompanying cancer diagnoses and treatments and alleviate menopausal discomforts.

What is meditation?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine and originator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program taught worldwide to help ease pain, anxiety and stress, describes mindful meditation as moment by moment, or breath by breath awareness.

Donald Eckler, Shambhala meditation instructor, depicts meditation as “the act of relating to life directly, as it is,” without overthinking, theorizing or judging. Meditation invites self-compassion and what Eckler calls “friendliness” toward ourselves.

Meditation usually involves a space with minimal distractions, a specific comfortable position, a particular focus of attention and an open attitude. Mindfulness—the awareness and acceptance of the present moment and the thoughts, feelings and sensations it contains—is at the heart of all types of meditation practices.

I’m convinced. How do I start?

Consider a teacher or group. While apps and online resources can be helpful, Eckler notes that someone new to meditating “is going to want to speak to a real person, someone they feel some trust in.”

Start small but consistently, even a few minutes a day, and then gradually extend the time.

Try it!

Basic mindfulness meditation

  • Consider setting a timer to let you know when your meditation time is complete (start with 5 minutes if you’re a newbie!).
  • Find a comfortable seated posture. You might use a cushion designed for meditation or sit in a chair.
  • Focus your attention on your breath and on how your body moves with your inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body while you breathe. Try not to control your breath. Instead, focus your attention on the act of breathing.
  • When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.

Focused attention meditation

  • Consider setting a timer to let you know when your meditation time is complete.
  • Find a comfortable seated posture.
  • Focus your attention on the act of breathing.
  • Once you have taken a few quiet breaths, bring your gaze onto one steady object. Any focus works. You could gaze at a tree swaying gently or waves lapping the shore. Tratak, or candle gazing, involves watching the constant yet ever-changing flame of a candle.

Meditation with mantra

  • Find a comfortable seated posture.
  • Take a few quiet breaths to begin.
  • Repeat words with each inhalation and exhalation. Here are some examples:
    • Inhale: I am … Exhale: present …
    • Inhale: Feeling … Exhale: this moment …
    • Inhale: Be … Exhale: compassion …
    • Inhale: Practice … Exhale: stillness …
    • Inhale: Invite … Exhale: softness …
    • Inhale: Inhale … Exhale: exhale …

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