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5 Steps to Beginning Meditation

Stretch Chi
Most people think meditation is for monks in Tibet, not for everyday people, and I’m going to have to agree with them.  Meditating for hours trying to empty your mind and become enlightened is most likely not going to serve you in your everyday life.  On the other hand, taking 15-30 minutes a day to listen to or help guide your thoughts is an incredibly valuable experience.
I spend as much time as possible with my thoughts because that’s when I learn the most about myself, reflect on my feelings and dream about the future.  It’s quite possibly the only time I really get to just hang out with myself - and I'm awesome (and so are you) - so it’s time to give yourself a little bit of time with your mind.
The hardest part about meditation is just sitting still.  As our minds run, we think of all the things we have to do right now. Panic sets in. You think, what the heck and I doing sitting here when I have SO much to do! Taking a second to just calm down and focus on your thoughts, you'll realize that there's a lot that you miss because you are so focused on what's next. We are all guilty of it - if you are thinking about ice cream when you're finishing work, by the time you get to the ice cream, you'll be thinking about all the work you need to finish. Real life happens in the present moment. Meditation trains us to pay attention - to the work at your desk and the ice cream at the table (instead of the other way around). 

Step 1:  Prepare the Space

Find a quiet, comfortable place in your home or office.  It's important to be very comfortable during your meditation time.  Be sure to have blankets and pillows to support your body and keep you comfortable.  You don't need incense or candles or buddah statues.  The atmosphere is helpful to remind you to relax, but the beauty you'll experience is in your mind with your eyes closed, so you do not need to decorate this space.  What you do need is a timer and a stopwatch (both you probably have on your cell phone), a notepad and pen.  

Step 2:  Schedule the Time 

It's so easy to forget to meditate or let the day get away from you.  To be successful, you'll need to find a time when you can sit without being interupted.  Ask yourself some important questions.  
  • When am I least likely to fall asleep if I close my eyes?  It might be smarter to meditate before lunch than with a full belly, or in the morning after your coffee instead of before.  Meditating can help you fall asleep, but you'l miss the benefits if you always fall asleep during meditation.
  • What time am I surely not going to be interupted?  I meditate in the early morning before getting in the shower, no one else is awake.  There is absolutely no risk that I will fill this time with anything else except sleeping in.  When is that time for you?  

Step 3:  Set Yourself Up for a Habit Change 

A new behavior takes 21 days to become a habit.  To ensure that you get to a that place, you'll need to be a bit diliegent about meditation.  Once you've decided on the time that works best for you, manually put it in your calendar for the next 21 days.  On your phone, set a reoccuring alarm to remind you ten minutes before so you can wrap up what you're working on.  Set another reoccuring alarm to ring when it's time to start meditation.  Finally, set a reoccuring alarm to ring 30 minutes after you begin meditation.  Scheduling reoccuring alams will keep you accountable.  If you struggle with setting and keeping obligations for yourself, find a friend to do this challenge with.  Keep each other accountable, by texting when you start and finish meditating for the day.  

Step 4:  Time to Meditate

For the actual meditation exercise, try to sit still for up to 30 minutes. Do not lounge or lay down. Sit in a comfortable chair - you don't need to be in a lotus pose with incense and candles. Eyes can be open or closed. Just sit in silence for as long as you can stand it.   Let your mind wander all it wants, don’t try to contain your thoughts, just listen to them.  Allow your inner dialog to go wherever it wants.  The only challenge here is to stay seated.  
At the top of your note book write:
Day ___  ❐  ❐  ❐  ❐  ❐  Time _________
Set your stop watch. Every time you feel the need to get up, check one box and go back to the meditation.  After 5 checks, mark your time and end the exercise even if it's only been a short time. If you make it to 30 minutes before checking all the boxes, congratulate yourself and get up. The only point of this exercise is to train your body to sit still.  Your alarm is already set to go off after 30 minutes. Repeat this every day for 21 days.

Step 5:  Reflect and Record

Take a few minutes to record any thoughts, challenges or insights that came up during the meditation.  Some things to consider:
  • What does your body feel like when you sit?  
  • What thoughts consistently are in the front of your mind?  
  • What emotions do your feel around those thoughts?
  • What insights have you gained during these exercises?
Good luck and enjoy!!  
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