For many people today, meditation still has a connotation of being an onerous practice—something that’s difficult to do or too elusive to understand how to do it “correctly.” When I first began meditating thirty years ago, I used to think like this, too. After decades of practice, it has become my life’s work—my passion, really—to demystify this transformational practice by explaining it in this way:
For me, meditation is about sitting down some place quiet with my head, neck, and spine in alignment and connecting with myself within. I let go of expectations like I have to do this right or I have to do it this way or that way. It is really just a process of sitting there, letting my thoughts come and go, and being receptive to whatever occurs during this time. I like to refer to meditation as “sitting with myself.”
Life is moving so fast; can you contemplate for a moment what it might be like for you to stop and take a few precious moments every day to spend time with YOU? When I say it this way, it seems almost absurd to think that we all aren’t already doing this! How can we really know what we want in life—what our passions and deep desires are—without turning our attention inward and listening to the whisperings of our hearts?
This “sitting with yourself” is something anyone can do for a few minutes each day and even be incredibly excited about it. To begin meditating regularly, the following steps can help you get started:
- Decide to become the boss of your own life.
Meditation is a process of cultivating, or “training,” our minds by reining in our thoughts. This is how we start getting control of our lives from the inside out. Of course, the mind’s job is to think, and we want it to think. It is a phenomenal instrument. So meditation isn’t about getting the mind to stop thinking. It is about becoming in charge of what we think and being able to let go of any negative or self-deprecating thoughts without getting caught up in them.
- Let go of expectations regarding meditation.
Having expectations of a meditation practice can lead to thoughts like, If it’s not happening the way I think it should, I’m going to quit or give up. When it comes to meditation, I don’t believe there are any shoulds or specific ways it has to happen. You just sit with yourself. It is as uncomplicated as that.
- Choose a time and place to meditate.
After many years of practice, I know that how I start my day sets the tone for my entire day. When I start my day grounded within myself, connected within—even if it is just for five minutes—it makes all the difference in the world. That’s why I choose to meditate first thing in the morning. In my book The Practice, I describe the “Waking Up” part of the day in detail. This part of the book also includes advice on designating a space for your practice.
You may find a different time of day works better for you. Play around with it a bit, and once you decide on a good time for you, make an intention to sit with yourself every day at that time. Do the same with your meditation space. See where you feel most comfortable and can sit quietly without being disturbed.
- Decide upon a length of time.
Whether you sit for five, ten, fifteen minutes or more, it is totally up to you. When you are first beginning, try five minutes of meditation. Set a gentle alarm to keep track of the time for you.
- Choose an object.
An object can be your breath, a mantra, a prayer, an image, and so on. When you are sitting quietly, the idea is to focus on your object. When the mind begins its dialogue (and it will), you acknowledge that the thought is there, and then you let the thought go by returning your focused attention back to the object. If you notice that you are engaging the thought, that’s okay. Just keep brining your mind back to the object.
- Sit with yourself.
Sit in a comfortable position at the time and in the place you have chosen. Keep your head, neck, and spine in alignment. Close your eyes and breathe. Set a firm intention to remain sitting with yourself until your gentle reminder signals that the time is up. Allow whatever happens to happen without engaging the thoughts or having any expectations.
Sitting with yourself is a beautiful practice. You will develop a deep connectedness to the quiet place inside you—that place of love, compassion, and kindness. As Deepak Chopra says, “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”
After decades of beginning my day with meditation, I have a loving, compassionate relationship with myself and others. In the Preface of my book The Practice, I talk about my younger days as an insecure, lonely, unhappy girl and how I grew into the confident, loving, compassionate, and strong 57-year-old woman I am today. I attribute this growth to my practice. That’s why I am on a mission to implore every human being to meditate—beginning today!