I had almost no experience in meditation when I vowed to spend 10 days in silence at a Vipassana meditation course back in 2011. Although I would do it all over again, it was far from easy. The silence came without too much difficulty, but sitting still for 5 hours a day without practice is not only mentally challenging but also very physically challenging! After almost 5 years of intermittent phases of practice since then, meditation still feels fairly new to me. I’ve tried different techniques, done a little more research and started fresh with a more modest approach. I felt that if I wanted this to be a practice that I can sustain for the rest of my life I should slowly build it rather than dive in with unrealistic expectations. The act of being quiet and still is something that there is not nearly enough of in today’s world. For me, meditation has brought a steadier breath in moments of anxiety and strength when I feel stressed and overworked. Meditation has become a ritual I look forward to when I wake up in the morning! Like anything new in life, it takes time to create a routine that works for you. I’ve created a small list of simple ways to start a daily meditation practice that have worked for me. I hope this may inspire you to find more peaceful moments in your life
1. Start Small.
This is the opposite of how I initially started (50 hours of meditation in 10 days, ha!) but it’s how I re-started my practice after I found my initial goals unrealistic. Think about how much time in a day you are truly quiet (no screens, no distractions, silence in solitude). For most people it is very little time, maybe none. When I decided to make meditation a daily practice I gave myself an achievable goal – just 5 minutes a day when I wake up. This could even be accomplished sipping a tea in silence or taking a solo walk outside in nature. Once 5 minutes becomes easy and part of your daily routine you can slowly increase the amount of time you spend meditating – go from 5 minutes to 7 minutes, eventually to 15 or 20 and see where it takes you… you will start to crave more!
2. Choose a technique that works for you.
There are so many different styles and techniques for meditating. A simple practice is to close your eyes and follow your breath – noticing each inhale and exhale passing through your nostrils and filling up your body. As you become more aware of the breath it will naturally start to lengthen and become more full, settling the mind. If you are more of a visual person you could focus on an image in your mind, perhaps of something from Nature or a Teacher or Diety whose energy you’d like to invoke. If you have trouble letting go of distracting thoughts, silent mantra repetition is another great tool used for meditation, as well as calming music or guided meditations. I like to use different techniques at different times, and I think it is a great idea to try many until you find what works best for you. There are endless resources online and in books that you can use to find inspiration and direction in your practice. My favourite book thus far has been Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton, she offers a variety of practical techniques and guided meditations to try along with a meditation plan at the end of the book.
3. Create a Sacred Space for Meditation.
Creating a dedicated space for practice can sometimes make all the difference. This can especially help when you are first establishing your practice, having a spot set up that you don’t have to think about, that is always there waiting for you will make it that much easier. The space does not have to be big and it can be as simple or as ornate as you would like. From a pillow or cushion in the corner of your room to an altar topped with candles, photos and incense – any kind of space that you find comfortable and inviting. I have a meditation cushion and a candle always out, I look forward to my morning meditation as it has become a daily ritual.
4. Invite a friend to start meditating with you!
Having a friend or someone to hold you accountable is always a good thing when starting a new venture. Invite them along to a meditation class or workshop, get together weekly and share your insights and challenges. Even if you don’t have a friend who is interested in started a meditation practice, there are usually meditation groups or communities where you can ask questions and get support from, try your local Yoga Studio.
5. Keep a journal.
Although it is hard to track your ‘progress’ in meditation as there is no real end goal, it can be helpful to keep a journal. If you are just starting your meditation practice, try to set some intentions for your practice; what do you hope that meditation will bring to your life, and how much time are you willing to commit to this practice? This is a good way to hold yourself accountable. Write down what you find challenging, different approaches that you’ve tried and what works vs. what doesn’t work for you. If you’ve come up against a challenge, brainstorm creative ways in which you can overcome it. It’s always interesting to look back on things that you’ve written in the past and notice what has changed and what has stayed the same. For some, meditation can inspire the creative imagination, if this is the case for you then have a sketchbook handy after meditation to let your creative energy flow!
My journey of Yoga began in 2009 as a Student in Toronto where I found Yoga to be a very grounding and calming practice in a place full of stimulation and distraction. My practice grew when I moved to Tofino the next Summer and it opened up a whole new level of personal transformation for me. This led me to a desire to learn more about the ancient practice and I took my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in Spring 2013 with Natalie Rousseau. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to teach amongst an inspiring community with Coastal Bliss Yoga in beautiful Tofino, BC. Read more about Jacky…