When it comes to meditation, we all start out as rookies. There are so many different ways to get started and it can certainly be confusing with all the noise on this topic right now. Different teachers, styles, studios, apps, courses, workshops, and retreats can make the choice on how or where to begin overwhelming.
People come to meditation for a variety of reasons. Some want to sleep better. Some have an unexpected health challenge they’re dealing with. Some are stressed or anxious about work, home, or school. We all feel off-balance at different times in our lives, and meditation can be a source of comfort and clarity.
Meditation is one of the greatest tools you can have in your toolbox when life-changing events happen, or if you simply need help dealing with everyday triggers. It not only helps to calm the nervous system, but it influences all sorts of benefits like better sleep, increased focus, lower blood pressure, greater self-awareness—the list goes on.
For example, meditation has helped me become more aware and mindful of my reactions when I’m angry or frustrated. Instead of reacting with a knee-jerk response, I take a deep breath and pause—this gives me the space to respond to a trigger in a more thoughtful way. I’m not always perfect at it, but my meditation practice has been a big help. It’s important to remember, meditation isn’t an Olympic sport; we’re not meditating to become great meditators, nor do we meditate to compare ourselves to others. We meditate to become more mindful, compassionate, kind, and balanced in our lives. It’s a practice.
A good place to start is with a beginner’s course with a trusted teacher. Meditation Studio App has an essentials course, which gives you a great introduction to meditation. Using an app with an intro course and guided meditations is a great way to kick-start your practice, with the added benefit of being able to take it with you.
If you’re someone who prefers learning with a group and an in-person teacher, another option is to seek out a meditation group in your community. Check the teacher’s credentials, ask for references, see if they have any online videos you can explore, and ask to meet with them before you start the class.
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You’ll want to find a teacher whose teaching style you like and trust. You’ll find that teachers come from all different backgrounds: MBSR, Buddhist, Vedic, and a host of other lineages, so finding the style that is right for you is important. Over the years, I’ve collected wisdom from some of the best meditation teachers in the world on how to integrate meditation into your daily life. Here are their top five tips:
1. Treat meditation like interval training. It’s easier to create a habit with short daily sessions rather than one long session once a week. Start small and build your meditation muscle over time.
2. Create a consistent space in your home, one that feels safe and inviting. Make sure there are minimal distractions and that you’re comfortable; meditation doesn’t require you to sit in lotus position on a mountaintop.
3. Make it work for your schedule. Many choose to meditate when they wake up in the morning. Whatever time of day you choose to practice, make it a habit.
4. Find a community or teacher to guide you along the way. Having a group of friends or a skilled mentor can help motivate you and be a sounding board for any questions you have as your practice develops.
5. Know and accept that there will be difficulties. You’ll fall asleep, you’ll feel overwhelmed by your thoughts, you’ll get bored, time will creep along, you’ll feel antsy, you’ll get hungry, you’ll get fidgety. Whatever comes up, just sit with it. Remember, striving for perfection is the enemy of meditation—be patient with yourself.
There are plenty of resources in addition to the Meditation Studio app, that can help guide you as you begin exploring your own personal practice. Here are some suggestions.
Popular Books: Dan Harris, 10% Happier. Pema Chodron, Fearlessness in Difficult Times. Elisha Goldstein, Uncovering Happiness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life
Popular Teachers: Lodro Rinzler, Michael Apollo, Lisa Limburger, Pamela Stokes Eggleston, Julie Campilio
Popular Retreat Centers: Insight Meditation Center (Barre, MA), Spirit Rock (Woodacre, CA), Omega (Rhinebeck, NY)
Popular Studios: MNDFL (NYC), PATH (NYC), Unplugged (LA)
Patricia Karpas the co-creator of the Meditation Studio App and has executive produced more than 200 meditations and three courses.