The usual image of the meditator is a yogi, sitting cross-legged on the floor, for hours on end, chanting "Om" with a serene look on his face. You don't have to know yoga to meditate, and meditation is used by a variety of religions, as well as in the secular realm. In fact, many drug rehab programs use individual, guided, and group meditation as part of the recovery process.
To the beginner, the thought of starting a meditation practices could be daunting, but here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Forget About Time
You don't have to meditate for hours to see positive results; and if you are just starting out just one minute can feel like an hour. Instead of worrying about time, consider giving yourself visualization for each session. For example, you can visualize making the coming day as successful as possible, and then spend as much time as you need to explore that visualization. If you want, you can set a time to alert you when it's time to stop, especially if you are meditating before work, but you can stop meditating before the timer goes off.
2. Don't Try to Clear Your Mind
Perhaps the biggest fallacy about meditation is that you have to make your mind blank for it to work. Even seasoned meditators have issues with unwanted thoughts. The key is not to clear your mind, but to let your mind wander…then reel it back in. For example, if you are in the middle of your daily meditation and you suddenly start thinking about what you want for breakfast, let your mind explore your breakfast options, and then lead it back to the visualization.
You should also pay attention when thoughts intrude, because if you keep having issues with the same thought hijacking your mediation, it's probably something you need to explore more deeply.
3. Enjoy the Silence…Or, Not
If you like sitting in silence, then go for it. But if the sound of silence leaves you cold, then feel free to listen to music that you enjoy, or turn on a white noise machine, or even open the windows to the sound of traffic. The only thing you might want to avoid is listening to music that you can sing along to, or to the television or radio talk shows—any of these things can distract you from the meditation.
4. Be Still… But Only if You Want To
Meditation isn't about what your body is doing, but your mind. Lying, or siting, still might work for some people, and others might need movement to help them focus. If sitting still makes you uncomfortable, consider going for a walk with your headphones on, or dancing, or washing the dishes.
5. Be Flexible and Forgiving
You might have a goal of meditating every morning before work, or every night before bed. While that is an admirable goal, take care that you don't adopt an all-or-nothing attitude. There will be days when you wake up too late, or fall asleep to early, and you don't get to meditate. Understand that this is ok, and the even the most dedicated meditator misses a session, or five. You don't want to stress over not meditating! Because you can do meditation almost anywhere, you can try to grab a few moments of peace on the bus to work, or on your lunch break. But understand that, if you can't, that every tomorrow is an opportunity to improve on today.