Meditation 101! Do you want to start a meditation practice but don’t know where to begin? Or maybe you have tried some meditation techniques, but just haven’t found “the one”? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people worldwide are turning to meditation to help relieve stress and find peace and meaning in their lives.
There are a plethora of different types of meditation techniques to choose from in today’s “spiritual marketplace”, so how do we choose the right one for us? In this post, you will learn how to develop a successful – and enjoyable – meditation practice in 10 simple steps.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the complete focus and absorption into the object of one’s meditation. For example, on the Bhakti path, the path of Love and Devotion, the object of meditation is the Divine Itself. In this practice, meditation is a necessary step to calm the mind so we can fully open the heart and experience Divine Love.
In other words, the love we have always been seeking is already within us. Meditation is one of the keys that unlocks the door to the heart and LETS IT OUT!
So, how do we begin a meditation practice and how do we keep it?
With these 10 tips, you will be on your way to a successful meditation practice in no time!
1. Set the Mood
Meditation should be enjoyable. Think of it as your 1:1 time with God, a time to feel and connect with the Divine within. A great meditation spot should reflect this intention, and will help make it easier to enjoy and go deep into your practice. To harness this intention, a good spot will be somewhere clean, comfortable, and as free from distractions as possible. In addition, you can even create your own altar to help create a sense of sacredness to your space.
Having a consistent spot for meditation will also train your mind to prepare for meditation. You will find that the more you use this spot, the easier it will be to go into a deep, relaxed, state of being.
The great outdoors is also a wonderful, natural place for meditation. A local or state park can provide a nice environment to go within, connect with the earth, and stay grounded.
HeartSong has many secluded outdoor spots for meditation that all guests are welcome to explore!
2. Make a date with the Divine
Another great way to “trick” the mind into going into a calm state is to meditate at the same time everyday. Just as the body gets used to waking up at the same time, or eating at the same time (when we have a routine), the mind gets used to settling down when we meditate at a consistent time every day.
Think of it as “date with the Divine.” When we see our meditation practice as time to be with God in the silence of the heart, having a routine time to meditate is a sweet way to “invite” the Divine to be with you. You can even use it as motivation to show up for your practice on time and to be accountable. Because if you make a date with the Divine, God will surely be there waiting for you. And you don’t want to keep Him (or Her) waiting!
3. Use a Mantra
Simply put, mantra meditation is the recitation of the Divine Names. People commonly use the term “mantra” to describe a kind of phrase that you repeat to yourself again and again, positive or negative. However, in this context, it is much deeper.
Often, there are two main problems people run into during their meditation practice – trouble concentrating or focusing and the mind chattering about useless things. Mantra meditation is effective for remedying both of these challenges. By giving your mind something to do, it makes it easier to focus, and by chanting the Divine Names, it takes that focus away from meaningless chatter and onto the Divine.
So, which Divine Name to chant? You can choose to chant whatever Name you feel closest to. A great mantra to start with is Om Namo Narayanaya. All other mantras are contained within this one mantra. Simply put, it means, “OM I bow/give respect to the One who is within everything and which everything is within.” Beautiful, right?
4. Grab a mala
A mala (aka japa mala) is a mantra meditation/prayer tool used in many different traditions including hinduism, buddhism, christianity (rosary) and more. Containing a total of 108 beads strung together, the mala acts as a tool to enhance concentration, as well as a counter to keep track of your mantra meditation.
For every bead, you chant one mantra. For example, Om Namo Narayanaya.
After the completion of one “round” you will have chanted Om Namo Narayanaya 108 times. The physical sensation of counting the beads helps to focus the mind on the mantra, and makes it easier to let go of thinking about how long or how much you have done.
TIPS FOR USING A MALA:
A mala should be held in the right hand, and one should refrain from touching the beads with the pointer finger, as it represents the ego. A mala is a sacred tool, so take care not to place it on the floor or take it into the bathroom! Malas can be made of many things, such as crystals, stones, sandalwood, rudraksha, and Tulsi. Tulsi malas however should only be used by vegetarians (including no eggs).
5. Use a mudra
Mudras are simple hand positions (aka hand yoga) that have the power to transform your life through changing your unconscious mind and balancing the elements in your body. There are mudras for everything – concentration, forgiveness, increasing intuition, healing the inner child, rising above drama, better vision, more energy, reducing anger, opening the heart, and so much more. Finding the right mudra can send you light years ahead in your practice with very minimal effort.
Two simple yet powerful mudras are the Hridaya mudra and Jnana mudra. The Hridaya mudra is for opening the spiritual heart, and the Jnana mudra is for increased concentration.
6. Start with an attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is not only important for material things, but also for the spiritual. The magic of gratitude is that it puts everything in perspective. We are less likely to take our practice (and life) for granted and more likely to enjoy it. This means we are more likely to continue it as well.
When we begin our practice by focusing on gratitude, we automatically go from our head to our heart. Try it. Think of something that you are grateful for. Close your eyes, and begin to feel the sense of gratitude. Did you feel the shift to a more heart-centered space? Cool, huh?
A truly grateful mind is a fully open mind and a fully opened heart. A grateful mind is a humble mind. If we are grateful, even by chanting the Name of God one time, we can receive everything.
7. Go veg
Studies (and thousands of years of vedic knowledge and yogic tradition) show that eating meat directly negatively affects your meditation practice. It agitates the mind, making it harder to calm and therefore makes it harder to meditate and to detach from the outside world. If you really want a successful practice, being vegetarian or vegan is a must.
Recent documentaries such as Game Changers show how a vegan diet can positively impact health and performance, but not eating animals is also good for your mind and spirituality.
The practice of ahimsa – or doing the least amount of harm possible – is a cornerstone of yogic tradition. Spiritually, when the body is fueled by plants, one is ensured they are doing less harm to animals, the environment and their bodies. There is less negativity, and the mind is calmer and less aggressive, making it easier to meditate.
8. Dont. move. a. muscle.
An often overlooked but extremely important part of successful meditation is being completely still. It is amazing to sit and start to meditate and watch as all of a sudden you have an itch on multiple parts of your body, your eye is twitching, and you are overcome with the feeling if you don’t move your left foot you might die. Ok, maybe not literally – but pretty close.
This is your subconscious mind tricking you to move. Once you move, your meditation is finished, because it means your mind is very active. Because of the body-mind connection, when you force the body to be still, the mind will also become still. You just have to push through. I know. Intense! But it is worth it if you want to experience a truly deep meditation.
9. Get support, find a teacher
When I was first introduced to mantra meditation, having a teacher to help guide me along and hold me accountable, as well as give a structured way to develop a consistent practice was critical to my success. And it took me a. long. time. But it was worth it.
Where to find a mantra meditation teacher? One powerful option is Project Mantra. Project Mantra is a 40-day free guided program that connects you with a teacher who will provide on- going support, encouragement, and answer any questions you may have as you slowly build up a successful mantra meditation practice. For me, it was a truly indispensable, and life changing resource.
We have many great teachers here at HeartSong. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find the perfect teacher for you.
10. Let go of expectations, just love.
When it comes down to it, the success of our meditation practice isn’t in the quantity but the quality. It’s about the love we experience and how much we are transformed by our practice itself. When we chant with love and no expectations, we set ourselves up for success because we let go of the mind automatically.
Having no expectations allows the infinite potential of the practice to unfold. Rather than thinking the results of your practice should be a certain way, it opens up for authentic spiritual experiences and transformation to happen while also limiting disappointment and self judgment that can stop your practice in its tracks.
Whether we sit with a perfectly straight spine, unmoving and say our mantra with exquisite pronunciation is not as important as doing it with Love. Remember, when we do something with love, it is automatically perfect. So be easy on yourself, and keep going!
Contact Us to get hooked up with an awesome mantra meditation teacher 🙂
We hope you found this helpful! Let us know how your mediation practice is going, and any other tips you want to share in the comments! Happy meditation!