Find a meditation approach that you enjoy
“This idea that meditation is hard work and takes a long time to master is not correct,” says Jillian Lavender, co-founder of the London Meditation Centre. The trick is to find an approach (such as classes, online tutorials, books or apps) and a practice (from mindfulness to transcendental meditation) you enjoy. “If you’re putting yourself through some torturous process because ‘That’s what I should be doing’, then it isn’t easy or enjoyable, and most likely you won’t stick with it.”
Dan Harris, a US newscaster and the author of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, advises abandoning the idea of lengthy practices when you are starting out. Instead opt for more manageable chunks that you can slot into daily life. Just five to 10 minutes’ meditation a day can be enough to feel the benefits, Harris told NPR – even one minute a day is worthwhile.
Make yourself comfortable
It is more important that you feel comfortable than it is to be straining to maintain a certain posture, says Lavender. From sitting on the floor in a full lotus position to using a cushion or chair, choose what feels best.
Work with your daily schedule
Lavender, a Vedic meditation teacher, tells her students: “Anywhere you can sit down, you can meditate.” Developing that ease around it means there is a higher chance of fitting it in, she says. Start by finding somewhere you feel warm, comfortable and not too self-conscious.
Give an app a go
While some say using an app to meditate misses the point, others find them to be a useful and accessible resource. Headspace and Calm are two of the best-known offerings, but they charge to unlock more content. Insight Timer brings together 15,000 free guided meditations, while Smiling Mind was designed with children and teenagers in mind. Buddhify and Simple Habit deliver nuggets for specific moments such as before a big meeting or winding down for bedtime.
Stopping and starting is part of the process of learning to meditate. Harris says trying to refocus your attention when it has wandered is like a “biceps curl for the brain”. Just pick yourself up again, says Lavender. “Dipping in for a few minutes will make a difference. If you have a moment on the train and you take the moment to sit, give yourself a breather and close your eyes, great.”
Explore available resources
As with any new technique that you are trying to learn, it is worth investing some time researching about meditation. If you are after a cheap and easy taster before committing to a course or retreat, the NHS offers a bedtime meditation video, while some local councils offer free weekly meditation classes. Have a look online to see what’s on offer in your area. The charities Mind and Age UK also provide guides on mindfulness.