Put these eight tips for meditation into action and enjoy a more fruitful practice.
Just as your digestive system benefits from regular meal times, your mind benefits from a regular meditation schedule. Make meditation stick by incorporating it into your daily routine. Treat it like a good habit—something that you always do before breakfast or always do before bed.
Devote a quiet area of your house to meditation. If possible, make it a spot where nothing else happens—no work, no eating, and no sleeping. Keep it clean and uncluttered. There are two main reasons for meditating in the same place every day. For one, you’ll begin to associate this spot with meditation and nothing else, making it easier to sit and focus. The other reason is that, through meditation, this area will become subtly charged with positive vibrations for an improved practice.
Find a posture that feels good because if you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to focus. There are lots of different yogic meditation postures to try—no need to force yourself into the stereotypical lotus. Try sitting on the edge of a folded blanket, placing blankets under your knees or in between your ankles, or sitting in a chair. You can even lie down, but try not to fall asleep!
Practice a few minutes of nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) before you begin meditation. This breathing technique creates a sense of calm by balancing the left and right brain, and eases the transition between the demands of daily life and a tranquil meditation session.
Try a few minutes of japa before you begin meditation. While mantra is a form of meditation in its own right, it can also be used to clear the mental field before moving on to your main meditation technique. In his book Ayurveda and the Mind, David Frawley teaches that “mantra-prepared meditation is easier, safer and more powerful than trying to meditate directly.” Try quietly or silently chanting rounds of om. Count each om on a string of mala beads to help you focus.
New meditators often make a common error: they fidget. After practicing pranayama or japa, and before you begin your favorite method of meditation, make a silent commitment not to move. Your body needs to be still for your mind to focus. Resist temptations to scratch an itch or needlessly swallow. You can train your mind to detach itself from these sensations by recognizing that they come and go.
Food has the power to affect the energy of your mind. Sattvic (sentient) foods have a peace-promoting quality; rajasic (stimulant) foods have an agitating or energizing influence; and tamasic (sedative) foods have a dulling effect. Make the majority of your diet wholesome, sattvic foods eaten in the right proportions. This will positively affect your meditation practice; and with time, you’ll even prefer a sattvic diet.
Our minds don’t all work alike, which is why there are so many different meditation techniques. The goal is to find the technique that most quickly brings you to a state of meditation. Just don’t jump around too often—give each technique a chance, trying it out for a few weeks before moving on to the next.
As we’ve all experienced, getting the mind to a meditative state is no easy task. Follow these eight tips for meditation, and you’ll find it easier to focus for a practice that sticks.