A regular meditation practice can be challenging if you’re just getting started. Most people imagine meditation to be a practice reserved for ascetic yogis, Buddhist nuns, or Trappist monks. We know now, however, that meditation is accessible to each and every one of us; and for the modern-day spiritual warrior, it’s a must if we want to thrive in life.
The benefits of meditation are endless, ranging from greater physical health and well-being, to more mental clarity, a higher emotional IQ, to a faster evolution on the spiritual path. Regular meditators experience less stress when life gets tough, greater ease in times of uncertainty and more creativity due to improved functioning of the right brain. If you want to develop, evolve and/or deepen your personal meditation practice, here are five simple rules to consider.
Yes, meditation can be challenging, but if you have total openness and acceptance with yourself, and a radical compassion for your practice, then meditation becomes so much more lighthearted and joyous. When you take an attitude of compassion towards your daily practice, and towards the ever-changing nature of yourself, the practice comes naturally. It becomes less of a chore that you know is good for your health and more of a pleasure that feels good to your mind, body and soul. When you take time to nourish yourself with the practice of self-care, the practice will unfold effortlessly before you. Always remember to be radically compassionate during your time on and off the meditation cushion. In this way, you’ll be more apt to stick with the practice, but fall in love with it in the process!
(More on compassion in A Yogic Method for Creating a Compassionate Relationship With Anger.)
Get Super Comfy
One of the simplest yet most essential rules for every meditator is the need to feel comfortable during meditation. You won’t enjoy the practice if you aren’t super comfy. This means, if you can’t sit on a meditation cushion without experiencing an ache of your hips, or if your lower back issues don’t allow you to sit cross-legged, then find a nice couch or bed to spread out on. Your physical posture matters less to the practice — being comfortable is more important. If you need to lie in a hammock or sit in your favorite armchair to enjoy this precious, contemplative time, so be it. Allow yourself to rest in a position that feels easy depending upon the state of your body and mind on a given day.
(And if back pain is the issue, try these 10 Ways to Ease Back Pain Through Alignment, Asana and Ayurveda.)
Luckily, meditation practice helps us cultivate the art of patience because you’re gonna need it the more you sit on your cushion. Meditation is a practice that takes perseverance and discipline to evolve mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If you have patience for your practice, it will offer you gifts you’d never imagined were possible. So think of your practice as a little baby — one that needs coddling, lots of love and endless patience.
(Don't underestimate it, Patience Really Is a Virtue: One Yogini's Daily Struggle to Practice It More.)
Watch Your Breath
One of the core teachings of mindfulness meditation is that your breath is always showing you the present moment. If you think about it, it’s the breath that brought you into this world and your breath that will take you out. Your breath is at the core of any meditation practice — especially when you’re just getting started. If you can focus on your inhalation and exhalation, if you can connect to it as you sit, then you’ll be in a state of meditation. It’s a simple yet profound rule and one you’ll always want to remember when you feel that sense of struggle toward the practice come on.
Move Your Body
Do you know what the physical practice of yoga asana is for? Essentially, it’s to prep the body and mind to sit for long periods of time in meditation. It’s nearly impossible to sit still if there’s too much energy running through our pranic bodies. Most of us need to have done some vigorous physical activity or relaxing yoga asanas in order to deeply relax the body and mind. Yin yoga is perhaps the best type of yoga to get us into that state of deep relaxation in order to sit for long periods of time. When our bodies are in a state of calm, meditation becomes much easier. So, do whatever you need to do in order to release tension and physical holding in the body — whether it’s an hour of Yin yoga, 20 minutes of Burst training, or a hike in nature. Preparing the body to sit for meditation will support your practice in many, many ways.
(If this relaxing style of asana sounds good to you, learn more in Yin Yoga: 4 Benefits of Surrendering to Your Yoga Mat.)
We hope these simple rules to meditation help you begin a practice, or evolve your already established one!