The first few minutes of any meditation session are usually the most challenging. Why? Because when we first sit down to meditate our out-of-control noggins are usually racing faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona Speedway. Here are seven tips to get you through the first minutes of your meditation session.
Tip #1: Do Nothing For the First 15-30 Seconds
So you’re sitting in your chair and you’ve just closed your eyes. What’s the first thing you should do? Nothing. Yes, you read that right. By ‘do nothing’, I mean that right after closing your eyes I don’t want you to place your attention on anything. Let your thoughts go. Let your body go. Let everything just be exactly as it is. Let it all hang out. Why do I suggest this? Because I find the simple act of closing my eyes and sitting in silence to be a bit jarring. So to ease into any session it helps to just sit there with your eyes closed for several seconds and do absolutely nothing. The only thing you’re “doing” is getting used to sitting with your eyes closed.
After roughly fifteen to thirty seconds of this, gently transition into trying one of the following four tips, whichever most resonates with you.
Tip #2: Say “Slow Down” to Yourself
On an inhale say the word “slow.” On the exhale say “down.” It’s amazing what that can do. Try doing it five times. Much of meditation is about “slowing down” your mind so that you can place attention on what’s happening in the present moment.
Tip #3: Four Count Breathing
This is a simple breathing practice that is incredibly effective at calming the mind and body. All you do is inhale for a count of four, then hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Try repeating this four times. This one is a no-brainer that works for just about everybody in getting the mind and body to relax and slow down.
Tip #4: Place Attention on the physical sensations of the present moment
What physical sensations? Feel your feet pressing against the floor. Feel your butt and upper thighs pressing against your chair. Also, acknowledge any tightness or aches or pains you’re feeling. Why is this helpful? Because all of these sensations are happening in the now. Placing your attention on those sensations will facilitate bringing you into the now.
Tip #5: Acknowledge How You’re Feeling
For most people this will mean acknowledging that your mind is racing and you don’t feel the least bit zen or calm. Your kid may have just gotten your blood boiling by saying he’s tired of eating Cheerios for breakfast. “A good dad would make me pancakes!” Whatever it is, just acknowledge how you feel in that moment. Say it to yourself in your head. “I feel uptight.” “I feel upset because of the snide remark my boyfriend just made.” “I feel a bit lethargic and tired because I didn’t sleep well last night.” “I absolutely don’t feel like meditating right now.” Whatever it is, acknowledge the truth of how you feel in the moment. And don’t try to change it or fix it. Just acknowledge it.
If after trying one of these five pointers you still feel a bit unsettled and antsy and not ready to start following your breathing, try one of these two tips.
Tip #6: “Not Trying To Get Anywhere”
This one I learned from an excellent meditation teacher named Peter Russell. He advises saying to yourself something along the lines of, “You’re not trying to get to some special spiritual place. You’re not trying to achieve anything. You’re just sitting here, fully accepting anything and everything that’s happening in the present moment.” This works great when my do, do, do gear is revved up and I’m trying to get somewhere awesome and other-worldly in my session. When I say Peter’s words in my head, it helps me get to the place where meditation resides – simply being.
Tip #7: Relax Your Brain
This one also comes from the Peter Russell playbook. It is just as it sounds. Inhale. Then on the exhale, visualize your brain relaxing. Do this for five breaths and I guarantee that your mind will calm down significantly. One caveat: You don’t want to get so relaxed that you become sleepy. That’s not what meditation is about. You want to become relaxed but in the service of feeling more awake and energized.
After you’ve put some of these tips to use your mind should have calmed down enough that you can move on to following your breathing or whatever you have chosen to place attention on.
Finally, be sure to sign up to receive my free regular meditation program. It’s simple, doable and designed to help regular people develop a practice. I should know: I created the program for myself in 2012 when I wanted to start practicing regularly. Six years later I’m still going strong, meditating fifteen minutes a day. The program is eight-weeks and starts off with meditating for two minutes a day then building gradually from there. Come on, you can do anything for two minutes! Access my plan by signing up below to receive my free articles (like this one). Then I’ll send you, for free, my plan. This is a no-brainer. Do it!