Tips for Meditation

Here are some things that have helped me to find peace in my meditation practice...

1. Go to the same place every time for your meditation practice.  Over time, just being in the right place helps you to fall more quickly into meditation.

2. Meditate at more or less the same time every day.  Mornings are best (your mind is much fresher, you won't fall asleep and it's great to start the day with a clear mind).  If you have a lie in at the weekend, but usually practice in the morning, go to your mat as soon as you are up, so that even though it's not at the same hour of day, it's still the first thing you do.

3. If you need to loosen up before you sit so that you can be comfortable, then do a few twists/forward bends/back bends/hip opening poses before you sit.  Whatever you feel your body needs.  Make it part of your meditation.

4. Be comfortable.  It's just no good if all you're thinking about is how much your hips ache and your legs hurt.  Use cushions, sit on a chair, lean against a wall, but be comfortable.

5. Once you've found a comfortable way to sit, try to keep still and resist the urge to fidget.  Only move if you are positively uncomfortable.

6. Find a path that works for you... you could bring a leaf or a beautiful stone to contemplate; you could use a mantra; you could meditate on your chakras or on your breath.  It's good to find something to help your mind grow steady - it's very difficult to find that steadiness without using some kind of prop.  However, try not to chop and change technique too often - try something for a week or so before leaving it aside and moving on to a new method. 

7. Let your family know that this is where you meditate and that you'll need some quiet time.  Very young children can't be expected to leave you alone, but older children can certainly do without you for 10 minutes or more and partners need to know to leave you alone if you are meditating.

8. Light candles and incense, wear a special shawl or jumper, sit on your favourite blanket or mat.  Make the whole experience of meditating pleasurable and restorative and create a positive atmosphere for yourself each time you come to practice.

9. Use CDs and YouTube for meditation scripts and inspiration.  There are lots of wonderful meditation teachers around and tons of resources to help you to deepen your experience of meditation and to help you on your way.

10. Be nice to yourself.  Your mind is going to think.  Your mind is not like a light bulb that can be turned off every time you come to meditate.  The fact that you are still thinking does not mean that you are failing.  Watch your mind move like you watch your breath move, then try to fall behind the thoughts at the top of your mind to see/feel/touch what lies within.  Watch what is; don't imagine what might be.  Like all yoga practice, meditation takes time, patience and perseverance.

11. Be patient.  Sometimes you won't like what your mind brings you; you might be feeling things that you would rather not think about.  When things are difficult, see if you can find a way to sit calmly through it.  See if you can wait and watch and perhaps find what is at the other side of a strong/painful/uncomfortable emotion or thought.  Think of it as a part of the process.

12. If you need to move (to talk to a child/free a fly from the room/answer the door) try to do so mindfully (don't instantly snap out of your practice and rush off).  When you have dealt with what has come up, return to your practice for however much of your allotted time you have left.  If you are agitated by whatever it was that disturbed you, notice that and see if you can watch and wait for the feeling to pass, or trace it to its source.

13. Have a notebook handy so that if you have any urgent thoughts (something you need to do, but might forget) you can make a note of it and leave it aside for the duration of your meditation.  A notebook is also handy for writing down any insights that might come to you during your practice.

14. Find a meaningful way to conclude your practice.  You might want to make a resolution for the rest of your day; you might bring your palms together in front of your heart and bow your head; you might take a moment to be grateful for the time you've had to practice or to thank the teachers that have helped to bring you on your way.

15. Don't rush back to the world when you are done.  Try to take your meditation with you as you move on through your day.

These are just some things that have worked for me.  They work just as well for asana practice too.

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