Starting a home meditation practice can be challenging, but the rewards are well worth the effort it takes. While attending a meditation center or a retreat is a great option for some, for many, the convenience of a home practice means that they are more likely to meditate consistently. Even a few minutes a day can be beneficial—you will reap more rewards from this than sporadically practicing for longer stretches.
Here are 5 tips for setting up your own home practice.
- Find a Regular Time for Practice
It is all too easy to think that you will find time at some point in the day to meditate, only to find that you have reached the end of your day and feel too tired to do one more thing. Identify a time when you are least likely to be interrupted and are feeling alert. Mornings have long been thought to be the best time to mediate and many seasoned meditators make it a regular part of their morning routine. A morning practice has the added benefit of setting a mindful tone for the day.
- Create a Special Space
Create a space that is free of clutter and reminders of responsibilities. Turn off cell phones and anything else that could distract you from your practice. Let family members, or anyone else who shares your space, know that you will be meditating and do not want to be disturbed.
Experiment with pillows or cushions until you find the height that allows you to sit comfortably. It is okay to sit on a chair if you can’t sit comfortably on a cushion or pillow. If possible, keep your meditation space free of other activities. Simply seeing your space will remind you of your intention to practice stillness. You can rest your gaze or close your eyes.
- Start with a Breathing Meditation
There are many types of meditations and it is important to find one that works for you. A good starting point is mindful breathing. Start by simply feeling your breath in your body.
- Be sure to follow the breath through the full duration of the in-breath and out-breath. Feel your belly rising and falling with the breath.
- Notice if you are holding tension anywhere in your body. As you focus on the breath, tension will naturally dissipate.
- Notice where you feel the breath in the body—your chest, your nostrils, your belly— and remain focused wherever the breath feels most vivid.
- Manage Your Thoughts with Non-Judgment
While focusing on the physical sensation of your breath, you will eventually notice that the mind has wandered. This is normal. When you notice this has happened, make note of where it went (“thinking”, “planning”) and gently bring your attention back to the breath. There is no need to judge or analyze your thoughts. Instead, try to bring curiosity and acceptance to your experience. You are simply noticing with curiosity when you get distracted, and then guiding your attention back to your breath. You are not failing at meditation when thoughts enter your mind; you are simply learning what is asking for your attention in that moment and training yourself to notice without judgment and then return your focus to your breath. This awareness and the conscious decision to return to the breath is the practice. At times, you may be caught up in thought for a while before noticing that your attention has drifted off the breath. You can simply tune into your breath upon noticing you left.
- Start Small
Start with just a few minutes and build up over time. Thirty minutes of daily meditation has been shown to reduce low-level anxiety and depression as effectively as anti-depressants. Remember though, that there are benefits from shorter practices as well, such as feeling more centered and less reactive, so that you can make more effective and balanced choices in your life. In short, you will feel more alive, more awake to your internal experiences and the world around you; your concentration and focus will improve and you will learn to connect with a deep stillness that resides below the chatter of the mind. Once you establish a regular meditation practice you may find yourself looking forward to this nurturing part of your day.