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The health benefits of a regular meditation practice are immense. From an improved sex life to better sleep, from a stronger immune system to having a more positive outlook on life – the list of meditation’s health benefits goes on and on. The practice can and will improve the quality of your life in so many ways – if only you let it.
Did you know that meditation has even been proven to reverse your body age by up to eight years? How’s that for motivation? If you’d like to reap the benefits of this ancient contemplative practice but don’t know where to start, here’s a nice and easy list of tips to help get you started.
When we’re very clear as to why we want to meditate, we’re more likely to actually follow through. Maybe you want to clear your mind of those racing, anxious thoughts. Perhaps you’d simply like to slow down and better appreciate the moments of your one precious life.
Maybe you want to sleep better or increase your libido. Writing down your own personal motivations behind why you want to begin meditating will help jumpstart your practice.
In fact, you can be very clear and note your intentions each day before sitting down to meditate, as your motivations may change from time to time.
Before you check your emails, before you make your breakfast, and after you use the restroom, get to your meditation cushion. Meditating first thing in the day ensures that you’ll get your practice in before the business and busyness of life takes over.
When you begin a new habit, it’s important to choose a goal that won’t overwhelm you. By starting with an incredibly short meditation practice – say 1-3 minutes – you’re sure to actually do it. Rather than say, “I’m going to meditate for 20-30 minutes every morning and every evening,” begin your practice with a chunk of time you can realistically swallow.
With time, you’ll increase the duration of your practice because you’ll find it feels so darn good. But, you’ll want to increase your time on the cushion in extremely small increments.
Studies show that a mere 1% improvement compounds over the long run. So, when you want to increase the length of your practice, simply add a minute or two here and there.
Breaking up your practice into small chunks throughout the day is really helpful. Let’s say you really want to practice meditating for 20 minutes every day.
Instead of doing it all at once, try breaking the 20 minutes into 4 sets of 5 minutes throughout the day. Just make it something you can easily commit to.
The more compassionate you are with yourself and the more patience you can cultivate for your practice, the more progress you’ll make over the long term.
Kindness and patience goes so, so far when you’re trying to integrate a new habit into your life. Know that you’re only human, and some days will be more difficult than others. Expect to skip a day here and there, and don’t be hard on yourself when you do.
As soon as you do find that you’ve skipped a day of practice, simply start over the next. Expect to “fail” every now and again. You can even plan for it, so that it will be easier to begin again as soon as possible.
You may even want to jot down some of the reasons you might skip your practice, and then outline a strategy as to how to bounce back after doing so.
With so many types of meditation, how do you choose? This is the fun part. You get to taste all the flavors until you find one that suits your contemplative palette.
Try them all – there’s mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation, mantra or Vedic meditation, guided visualization meditations, zen or zazen meditation, kundalini yoga meditations, and many more.
It’s super helpful not to take yourself too seriously. You really don’t need to be all serious or “spiritual” in order to meditate like a yogi. When you skip a day here or there, simply smile and say to yourself, “no worries – I’ll begin again tomorrow.”
Adopt a light-hearted attitude and approach to your meditation practice, and be like the Dalai Lama with his happy-go-lucky way of being. Just relax and go with the flow.
“I like to remind my students to practice gratitude in regards to their meditation practice,” says Craig Perkins, master yogi and founder of the Yandara Yoga Institute in Baja, Mexico.
“To be able to even do the practice means that you’re not fighting famine, being struck by the horrors of war – or any number of difficult life circumstances. Feeling grateful for the simple means to do the practice of meditation makes it easier to stick with it.”
Some of us need guidance as we begin a new keystone habit.
Meditation is a perfect example of a practice that can really benefit from the gentle guidance of a trained teacher. If you’re someone who needs a teacher to help you begin a regular practice, then by all means seek one out.
There are hundreds of wonderful meditation teachers out there looking for students to teach, and as the practice becomes more mainstream, the number of talented teachers is sure to grow.
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