Meditation 101: A Guide for Beginners
My column last week, Meditation to Manage Stress, discussed why I started to practice meditation and mindfulness after being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. A naturopath recommended it after my diagnosis and, although hesitant at first, I researched the benefits and decided to try it out.
Practicing meditation was very difficult at first. Truthfully, I still have days where I find it hard. The days I need it the most are the days that I am least motivated to set the time aside. Some meditations are so challenging that I have found myself crying through them, but perhaps this was a way of letting out emotions I was avoiding dealing with.
I am not sharing this to discourage anyone, but rather to acknowledge that meditation can be challenging. If meditation is something you want to incorporate into your lifestyle, don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult at first. It does become easier. Even on the days I am least able to practice mindfulness well, I am still glad to take the time to unplug from the world, restore, and connect to myself.
Here are several types of meditation that I enjoy practicing, along with some tips you may find helpful.
Types of meditation
It is important that you find the right practice for you. Finding one that is comfortable to you will help make it easier to want to practice every day. Making time to meditate everyday, and taking the time to disconnect from the world and connect to yourself, is one of the ultimate goals of mindfulness.
Because there are dozens of different types of meditation, I will only be explaining three of my favorite. If none of these work well for you, you may want to look into some of the other practices used.
I found that guided meditation was really helpful when I first started. In this, you listen to someone else’s voice to help you. Think of it like having a coach or teacher! There are lots of great guided meditations out there that can help prepare for the day, let go of stress, get your mind ready for sleep, and take you through visualization practices, such as dealing with pain or illness. Many guided meditations are available online and can be found in app stores, music stores, and for free on different websites and YouTube.
Mindfulness of Breathing
This technique, often referred to as Zen, focuses on your breath. By focusing on inhalation and exhalation, you concentrate on the present moment. Another way to help focus on your breath is by counting each breath you take, up to the count of 10. Stay focused on your breath, count one for an inhale, two for exhale, three for inhale, and so on, up to your 10th breath. When you reach 10, simply start over again. If you lose count, just start over again at one.
Mantra meditation uses a mantra or a series of words in Sanskrit to help keep focus during meditation practice. In modern practice, an affirmation is sometimes used as well. One of the most common mantra’s used is “om,” which is said to be the sound of the earth.
Tips for Meditation
Start slow and increase
Start meditating for five minutes everyday, and increase the time every three to seven days. Try to work your way up to an allocated set amount of time that works well for you. You can also divide your times. (For example, you may want to meditate for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes before bed, if you find it helps you start and finish your day.) I meditate between 15-20 minutes a day, daily, but you can certainly do so for longer and more often! It is all about finding what feels right for you.
Be sure to set a timer for the allocated time you wish to meditate. This way you will not have to constantly look at the clock, and will be able to truly focus on mindfulness.
Do not disturb
If you live with other people, you may want to alert everyone that you will be meditating so they do not disturb you. I let my family know how long I will be meditating for, and often leave a little sign on my door that reads, “meditating.”
Create a special space for where you meditate. I have a meditation altar, which I find helpful to be in front of while sitting on a meditation cushion. What you choose to put at your altar is completely up to you. You will want to pick symbols and objects that you find soothing and joyful. You can include special rocks, crystals, statues, signs with affirmations, candles (I use a battery-powered fake candle!) and pictures. Mine is on a small fireplace in my room, and eye level when I sit in front of it.
Set the mood
What helps your mind get in the mood to meditate? If it’s safe for you to use scents, there are balms and oils that you can rub on your temples before meditation to help ease your mind. Candles, even battery-powered, can also help set the mood. You may want to ensure that you are wearing comfortable pants as you will be sitting for at least 10 minutes. If you are not using a guided meditation, you may want to play some ambient music made specifically for meditation.
What kind of meditation do you like to practice?
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.