The first episode in a 12 part series on how to get started with your own meditation practice, regardless if you’ve ever tried or not.

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Today is Saturday, October 23, and we’re going to start talking about getting started with a meditation practice.

This is going to be the first in a whole new multipart series on beginning a meditation practice. Right now I have 12 episodes planned, but that could expand.

A few months ago I did a podcast episode recommending meditation apps for beginners, but app or no app there are a few things a beginner to a meditation practice can do to make it worth their while. 

A lot of us KNOW that we SHOULD be meditating, but the idea of getting started with something that seems so exotic and mystical can be intimidating. What even is meditation, anyway? What’s it do? What’s it for? How’s it done? What’s it like? Questions and uncertainties can hang over our heads and prevent us from getting started and just doing it. 

So what even is meditation? Well, meditation can be a lot of things, and there are countless meditation traditions, some with religious affiliations, but what they all have in common is meditation is simply the practice of becoming intentionally aware of your thoughts and feelings and focused on how your mind is working. It’s basically watching what’s going on in your mind. So to what end? What good is watching my thoughts? 

Well, it seems counterintuitive to think so, but we’re actually usually not very aware of what’s going on in our heads at any given moment. We’re not very focused on our focus! Modern American society is extremely fast paced and our attention is often split in a hundred different directions at once. It’s difficult to keep up with all of the things popping in and out of your conscious mind at all times. But this computer that we call our brain is constantly rewiring itself. The things popping in and out of our conscious mind are also affecting our subconscious mind. Connections are being made between ideas and sensations we have no control over, and this can lead us to mental anguish when we can’t get to the bottom of what’s bothering us. 

There are many ways to unpack traumas and triggers, and conquer them, like good talk therapy. But a lot of people can also find a lot of relief through what’s become known as mindfulness meditation and other forms of mind-quieting meditation. It’s not a replacement for talk therapy but can do a lot of good for us in between sessions.

So how do you get from knowing that meditation can be helpful for you to conquering your monkey-mind with it? Well, lots of practice of course, and that practice starts with jumping into meditation now, regardless of whether or not you have any experience with it. 

I’ve been meditating regularly — almost every day and sometimes several times a day — since early 2019 now, and I’ve seen a massive change in the way I handle situations that previously exacerbated my general anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. Like me, you don’t have to have any formal training in meditation to get started — you just need time and patience. This week, I just want to encourage you to try out meditation and commit to doing it regularly. 

To get started with meditation, you will need to find a quiet spot with minimal distractions and you should set aside at least 15 minutes at first. The idea is to quiet your mind for a bit, so the more you can minimize distracting sounds and scents, and keep lights at a calming level, the better. We call this set and setting. The deeper into your practice you get, the more you will learn what works best for you for set and setting, but start with these minimums today. More on set and setting in the next episode.

Next, you’re going to need to get your body ready. The idea of a meditation pose may conjure ideas of legs folded in pretzels and the like. But when you’re getting started with meditation, you’re going to want to get comfortable. Not so comfortable that you might fall asleep, but you don’t want cramps, pins-and-needles or pain to distract you. The best position to start with is usually sitting in a solid, comfortable, straight backed chair that allows you to keep your feet firmly, flat on the floor. More on poses in future episodes.

Let’s start with some deep breaths. During the meditation it’s okay to both inhale and exhale through just your nose — all your inhales are going to be through your nose — but for these initial deep breaths, open your mouth slightly. Using your nose, slowly breathe in deep and even, letting your lower belly expand. Let this in breath last for a slow easy count of six. Now hold that breath in for four, before using your nose to slowly, easy and evenly exhale out of your mouth for a count of eight. Hold that empty feeling for a count of two. Now repeat. More on breathing in future episodes.

Return to breathing normally, and set a timer on your cell phone or watch or even a kitchen timer to at least 15 minutes. With our eyes closed, let’s pay attention to our breath. Whenever we get distracted by what’s happening in our brains, or an external sound or scent, let’s go back to paying attention to the sensation of our breath, in and out through the nose. When thoughts come into our brain — and they will — don’t give too much energy to that thought. Just let it come and go out of your mind, and try to watch it from a distance. More on this in a future episode. 

Keep this up, with your body still, your eyes closed, your breathing regular until the timer goes off. You probably won’t be feeling zen and refreshed after this session. That’s okay. It takes time and patience to build a practice, and over the next 11 episodes I’m going to give you a few pieces to build on this basic routine to get more out of your meditation. But for now, congratulations, it may not have been perfect, but you just dipped your toe into meditating. 

Over the next few weeks, as we expand our practice together, try to find 15 or more minutes a day where you can set aside time to meditate. Whether in the morning, middle of the day, right after work if you’re working right now, or at night. Schedule the time ahead of schedule, and commit to it. If you really want to feel the benefits of meditating, you’re going to have to practice, practice, practice, every single day.


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