Meditation. Where to start? If you don’t have a regular practice established in your life already, starting meditation can seem overwhelming. You may have heard some of the studies out there about how having a daily meditation practice can lengthen your life span, decrease risk of heart attack, and increase your capacity for feeling and finding happiness. Perhaps you even set a New Years resolution around it. Yet now it is February and you are still circling the idea of meditation and where it can fit into your life.
So to answer your question: where to start? Start simple. Here are a few suggestions to get you on the path.
Hit snooze. From the time of your first wake up call to your second, spend those five minutes in silent contemplation of your night of rest. Did you dream? Can you remember the dream, or the feeling the dream created in you? How does your body feel? Did you sleep in a position that created stiffness in one or more areas of your body or do you feel relaxed and rested?
Hit snooze again. Once you get comfortable spending five minutes with just yourself examining your immediate past (the snooze button is great for this because you don’t get to lay there and ruminate or have to look constantly at the clock) set your alarm for ten minutes before you really need to get up. After the first five minutes, alarm goes off, now you have five minutes to contemplate what lies ahead. Five minutes to fully, singularly focus on your day. Five minutes without the phone ringing, oatmeal boiling over, the crisis of running out of milk, or being needed by another member of your family (pets included!). Five minutes in the safety of your comforter, and the added benefit of your breath being soft and relaxed from sleep, and your mind not overfilled with outside stimuli. Five minutes to see clearly your day ahead and to let it organize itself.
Just eat. To save time or prevent boredom, many of us multi-task around eating. We conduct a mini meeting, we feed someone else, we catch up on e-mail, we post on Facebook, we write, we read, we fill in our calendar, we drive, we… you fill in the blank. Instead choose one meal each day where all you do is eat. Mindfully. Genuinely enjoy and appreciate what you are tasting and what is going into your body to nourish it. How does the food smell? Does it have a sound? If you use your hands to eat it what does the texture feel like? What parts of your tongue pick up the distinct flavor of your food? Is it salty, sweet, pungent, sour, astringent, or bitter? Which flavors do you prefer?
Give thanks. Spend one full, quiet minute, as you sit down to eat, in gratitude. A minute here, three times a day, can suddenly seem like a long time! However it allows the time and freedom to breakdown all the small things that we are truly grateful for. The sugar that sweetens your coffee, the heat that fills your kitchen, the clothes on your body, what a great smile your best friend has, the sound of a squirrel in a tree, the very air you breathe. As you make this practice routine it opens your senses during the day to keep you alert to all the things you appreciate.
These four ideas are wonderful practices on their own. They instill a practice of mindfulness that can seem foreign in the beginning. They allow you the freedom to hear your own voice clearly. These four ideas practiced together throughout your day provide you with twenty to thirty minutes of meditation that you may not have thought you had the time for, yet broken up becomes much more manageable.
Meditation is the art of being focused on one thing. Expecting ourselves to immediately be able to focus on just our breath, just our inner most being, just one word or mantra, or silence or nothing, can be intimidating. In a culture where we don’t regularly tune the world out and tune ourselves in, meditation can feel selfish and like a waste of time. So instead, start simple. Take the time to get comfortable spending a few minutes here and there throughout your day with just yourself. Then sitting down for 20 minutes to breathe won’t seem so unreasonable.
Tamara Millken began practicing yoga in 2003, and teaching in 2007. She trained and is 500 hour certified through the Shambhava School of Yoga. She currently teaches Yoga for Healing, Tibetan Heart Yoga, and meditation at the Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio and the Millwood Community Center.