What do we need to know as we are starting to learn meditation?
Most people would say that they have good days and bad days. Our judgment of the day is usually based on the events that have happened. If you get a job promotion, it's a good day. If you get into a fight with your partner, it's a bad day. Really, though, what determines whether or not you had a good day is your mind. A relaxed, trained mind sets the groundwork for a phenomenal day, while a mind that is stressed and overwhelmed can result in a difficult day, regardless of the circumstances.
The most important thing that you can do to quiet your mind is to have a regular meditation practice. In The 10 Minute Mind, I teach that even ten minutes a day of meditation can profoundly impact your life. As you begin working with meditation, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Meditate In The Morning
Ideally, you're meditating first thing in the morning. This is the best time to establish meditation as a habit. You are much less likely to be distracted or waylaid before starting a busy day. Also, your mind is more relaxed first thing in the morning than as the day progresses.
I get up ten minutes before 5 a.m. every morning. Then I start meditating right at 5 a.m. I don't really think about that specific hour being my meditation time. It's not something I need to negotiate in my mind. It's just what I do. On top of that I encourage you to meditate at the same time each day so that it becomes a routine.
How long should you meditate for? The answer to that question is not that simple. You can read more about it in this article.
2. Good Posture
While I recommend meditating first thing, it's important that you get out of bed to practice, if possible. Your bed should be designated as your sleeping place. Preferably, you're sitting on a cushion with your legs crossed or you're sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
The only exception to this is if you're sick or have any sort of illness in which you can't sit upright. In that case, it's fine to lie down.
I like to think of meditation the same way I play the guitar. I need my strings to not be too loose or too tight to get a great sound. You want to be relaxed and alert at the same time. This is how your mind and body should be during your practice.
Don't stiffen up, and don't hold yourself tight. And you might want to imagine your back as though you have a pile of coins, one on top of the other.
Have your elbows just slightly out from your body, just a little like the wings of a bird. Don't rest them on anything, like the arms of a chair. This attentiveness to your position and posture will help your mind to also be alert and relaxed.
3. Consider Mushroom Coffee
Meditating first thing in the morning may mean that you are still sleepy. I understand that. In The 10 Minute Mind, I talk about a mushroom coffee that I drink right before meditation.
This particular coffee only has a third of the caffeine of a cup of regular coffee, but it makes me alert immediately. It helps me stay awake in my practice, and it also gives me a lot of energy for the rest of the day. It contains a particular mushroom that's very good for meditation that the Japanese monks have used for centuries. I swear by it too!
4. Try Open-Eye Meditation
You may think that meditating means that your eyes should be closed. Many people do. A closed-eye meditation is fine and may be what you learned or prefer. You get to choose. Personally, though, I do open-eye meditation. I look at about a 90-degree angle down my nose to the floor with a gentle gaze. If I get sleepy, I lift my gaze. If my mind is agitated, I lower my gaze.
I do open-eye meditation because I was taught that it's a way to keep from creating a separation between my meditation practice and my daily life. Adopting this practice was an essential part of my personal meditation journey. Meditation practice aims to bring what you are learning into your everyday life. What you do in your formal training is merely getting you set up for the day. Also, if you get sleepy when you meditate, opening your eyes can keep you awake. The whole purpose of meditation is to wake you up!
5. Pay Attention To Your Breath
Like open and closed eyes, there are two schools of thought on how to breathe during meditation. You can either breathe through your nose or your mouth. You may have learned to breathe through your nose if you do yoga. Keep in mind that meditation is not yoga. You can breathe through your nose if that is your choice, but you don't need to. Again, it's your choice.
I was taught to breathe through my mouth, with the mouth just ever so slightly open, gently breathing in and out. Interestingly, breathing through the mouth helps stop disruptive thoughts that can come from breathing through the nose.
When you are learning to meditate, the most important thing is that you learn from a qualified teacher. Meditation is something you need to be taught. Merely sitting quietly will not teach you how to train your mind. There are also a lot of people teaching with minimal experience. As with any skill you are learning, make sure you're learning from someone with a lot of experience. It will make a huge difference to your practice.