How do I start Meditating?
Even though meditation is relaxing and good for us, it can be difficult to actually start practicing. We can get so addicted to the speed of everyday life that the thought of slowing down and doing nothing can be downright scary. However, once we put in a little effort to get on the cushion, we’ll start to see the benefits of practice which will bring us back for more.
Here are some steps to help you get started.
Before starting your practice it is important to understand that meditation is not about changing ourselves into some extra-special spiritual being. “The main thing the Buddha discovered was that he could be himself–one hundred percent, completely.” says, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. “We are not saying that our immediate situation is unworthy. What we’re saying is that the present situation is completely available and unbiased, and that we can see it that way through the practice of mindfulness.” The point is not to reach some higher level of mind by manipulating how we are feeling. Meditation is simply tuning in a little to our experience and discovering how we actually think and feel. Having an aggressive or tough approach to our practice won’t help us relax, and will only make sitting more difficult.
Choose an Approach
There so many resources available online to help us choose an approach that it can be overwhelming. However, while they differ in their methods, all traditions share basic principles about developing mindfulness awareness. The most important thing is to find out what technique works for you. If you try to use a technique that feels uncomfortable you will not practice often. We can trust in the fact that mindfulness practice techniques have been around for thousands of years. People have woken up using these simple techniques.
Here are some places to start:
(Link to videos we will post soon)
Schedule your practice times
Its important to plan out a meditation schedule and stick to it. Even if you only schedule 5 minutes in the morning, briefly tuning in can change your outlook for the day. Most teachers will tell you that consistency is more important than how long you practice. Committing to practice for a set amount of time is important because otherwise you will get up when you start to feel bored or uncomfortable. Staying on the cushion when you don’t feel like it is important for developing the discipline of meditation practice.
Its too easy to skip sessions, but the more you practice the more it will start to become a habit and you will feel like something is off when you miss a session. The less you practice, the more getting to the cushion will feel like a big event you have to psych yourself up to do.
Choose a Book as a practice guide
It can be a good idea to have a book to study alongside your meditation practice. Reading a few passages before or after a practice session deepens your relationship to meditation. Sometimes meditation can become routine that we forget why we began practicing in the first place. Reading can renew our inspiration. Depending on what tradition draws your interest, there are many books for beginners that can help guide you through practice: Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield, The Miracle of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Mind Beginners Mind by Suzuki Roshi, Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
Find a Community
Meditation is not always easy and having the support of fellow practitioners can help strengthen our commitment to practice. Buddhists call a community of practitioners a sangha. A sangha can be group a group friends who get together to practice or a bigger community that meets at a Buddhist center. Meditation centers often host talks by senior teachers, discussion groups and classes. Some centers will also help you find a meditation instructor who can guide you one on one in meditation practice and answer questions as they come up. “Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are three precious jewels in Buddhism, and the most important of these is Sangha.” Says Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Sangha contains the Buddha and the Dharma. A good teacher is important, but sisters and brothers in the practice are the main ingredient for success.” Practicing and studying with others is a great way to support our practice and develop deep spiritual friendships.