A Humanist’s Guide to Meditation

In recent episodes I touched briefly on meditation, but never took the time to really explain how to do it. Several people have asked that I do a teaching on meditation, so I thought I would to do a short post to share a few ideas to help get you started.

It’s not my goal to help you become an expert at meditation. I’m not sure there is such a thing. However, if you are interested in beginning a meditation routine, this will get you started on the right foot.

Meditation is taking a few minutes a day to sit in silence and calm your mind and body. I often use meditation to focus on things I want to change or make better in my daily life. We live in such a fast-paced world, and it’s important to take the time to work on the most important person in your life – yourself.  Find comfortable, loose-fit clothing, and let’s get started.

Five simple steps to successfully start a meditation practice

Sit for just five minutes. One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that you must sit for hours. This is not true. When you’re starting out, it’s best to start small. I know five minutes a day doesn’t seem like much, but it’s very important to take it slow. Start with five minutes a day for seven days. If it goes well that first week, increase your time by one minute and do that for the next week. You will quickly build to sitting for 10 minutes. Remember to congratulate yourself each day for a job well done.

Designate the same time every day for meditation. I know that’s easier said than done. I recommend setting a reminder every day to sit in meditation. Something as simple as a sticky note on your computer monitor or an alert on your phone will do the job.  Overcome any desire to put it off. Dedicating yourself to developing a habit will make you more successful.

Set a timer.  At the beginning of each meditation session, set a gentle alarm for the amount of time you plan to sit. I usually put my phone on vibrate and place the phone under my leg. When I feel the vibration, I slowly open my eyes and take a few seconds to reflect and appreciate my accomplishment.

Don’t worry about whether or not you are doing it correctly.  Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, and what kind of cushion to use, but none of this is important to get started. It’s okay to start by sitting on a chair or on your couch if sitting cross-legged on the floor is too uncomfortable. What’s most important is sitting somewhere quiet and comfortable. You will experience many internal distractions when starting a new meditation practice. Don’t get discouraged. Try to eliminate as many outside distractions as possible.

Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. I place my focus on the air as it moves past my nostrils. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one. When your mind wanders (and it will), gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. It’s common to feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to lose focus; we all do it. Remember, it’s called a meditation practice. Be patient with yourself. The more you do it, the better you will get.

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