Meditation, particularly mindful meditation, has become popular over the last few years. While meditation can be effortless, there are several common mistakes and misconceptions about meditation that you’ll want to avoid if you’re new to the practice.
Getting started on the right foot increases the odds of maintaining your meditation practice and getting the most benefits from it.
Use these tips to avoid mindful meditation pitfalls:
1. Sit up straight. Slouching may be comfortable for a few minutes, but it takes more strength than you expect to support poor posture. Sit up straight and let your skeleton help your weight.
2. Start slowly. Only a few minutes is enough to start. There are two good reasons for this. It’s easier to be compliant when you only have to sit for three minutes at a time, and it’s also challenging to meditate for an extended period if you’re not experienced.
3. Meditate multiple times each day. By sitting for only a few minutes, you should have time to sit for various sessions. You might want to try meditating for a few minutes each hour.
4. It’s all about being mindful of breath. Your breath connects you to the moment and helps keep your mind focused. The breath isn’t something to focus on intensely. Instead, it acts as an anchor to maintain awareness of the present.
5. Count if necessary. If you’re struggling to maintain awareness of your breath, count your breaths. Count each inhalation until you’ve reached five, and then start over.
6. Keep your eyes open slightly. It’s easier for your mind to wander from the present if your eyes are closed. Keep your gaze lowered and soft.
7. Acknowledge mindful thoughts, but avoid dwelling on them. It would be best if you treated all thoughts the same, and they’re simply phenomena passing through. Let them go and return your attention to the breath.
8. Be patient. It seems natural to concentrate for a few minutes, but the mind likes to stay busy, and it’s a challenging habit to break. Be patient.
9. Sit comfortably. It’s unnecessary to sit with your legs folded up like a pretzel, and any position you can hold comfortably for the planned time is good enough.
10. Use a timer. Without a timer, you’ll worry about the time and continue to peek at the clock. Set a reliable timer and you won’t be as preoccupied with the time.
11. Increase your meditation time by 5 minutes each week. Avoid the temptation to progress too quickly. Ideally, you’ll look forward to your meditation sessions. Moving too fast causes restlessness and agitation.
12. Consider getting expert assistance. There are many free opportunities to do mindful meditation with others, search for local meetups, or contact your local Buddhist temple. With so many people meditating, you’re bound to find an expert willing to help.
13. Take every opportunity to meditate. Meditating at home under perfect conditions is excellent practice, but the ultimate goal is to meditate anywhere. A skilled meditator can meditate on a 99-degree packed, loud, smelly subway.
14. Be persistent. If you’re meditating each day with the full intention of improving, you’ll eventually become a skilled meditator.
15. Stretch first. Your meditation position should be comfortable and relaxed. If your position feels like a stretch, you won’t be comfortable. Stretch first.
16. There’s no reason to worry about your hands. Place your hands comfortably on your lap. Allowing your hands to be lower can eventually pull down on the shoulders and become uncomfortable.
Mindful meditation can bring both mental and physical benefits. Use these tips when beginning to meditate, and you’ll quickly become skilled at a practice you can enjoy for the rest of your life.
Still need more mindful meditation assistance? Listen to the most recent Meditation NOT Medicine Podcast with my special guest, Brandt Passalacqua, creator of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, where we discussed Meditation, Breathwork and Yoga as a path to healing.