Setting up a Regular Meditation Practice

We’ve all heard about the amazing and well-documented benefits of meditation. Modern research findings point to all the great physical, emotional, social, neurological and even career benefits of meditation (check out this great article in Psychology Today if you’re curious about these benefits). And we all know that meditation in various forms has been practiced for centuries by cultures and religions across the globe.

I promise, it’s not hard. In case you’re wondering, no, you don’t have to empty your mind of all thoughts. And yes, it will take some effort, like anything else in life (totally worth it though). Anyone, no matter how busy you are or how hectic your work and/or home life may be, can find a way to fit in meditating.

This post is all about setting up a regular meditation practice for yourself, in a way that works for you. This post won’t include specific meditations, but will walk you through some steps to creating time and space that works for you. If you need ideas for Step 3, check out my post for a simple beginner’s meditation routine to get you started, and check out the references below.

Where I learned these tools

I learned how to set up a meditation practice by trial and error, and I did a lot of reading, listening and just trying out lots of meditation techniques to find what worked well for me.

Some resources that I found useful:

  • The Best Meditations on the Planet: 100 Techniques to Beat Stress, Improve Health, and Create Happiness In Just Minutes A Day, by Dr. Martin Hart and Skye Alexander
  • Self-Healing with Breathwork by Jack Angelo
  • “Karma Classes” on meditation at a local yoga studio

How to set up a regular meditation practice

There is lots of information out there about how to set up a meditation practice, and I encourage you to find what works for you. The approach in this post reflects my own experience and advice.

1. Decide how long you’ll meditate for

  • If you’re a beginner or haven’t meditated in awhile, I suggest setting a timer for 2 – 3 minutes to start. Build on more time every week.
  • If you’re using an app, choose a meditation that you know you can finish (if you start a 15 minute meditation and need to leave for work in 15 minutes, you’ll spend the whole time stressing about needing to leave for work).

2. Have a go-to space for meditating

Some people have a meditation altar that has special objects, plants, candles, incense and other items they use while meditating, but it’s not necessary unless you want those things. Just be distraction-free, comfortable and safe.

Some must-haves:

  1. Doesn’t matter where it is or what it looks like, but you need to be free from distractions during your meditation time (for however long you’re setting your timer for that week, if you’re using a timer).
    • Have a no-phone policy in your space (or Do Not Disturb mode if you’re using a meditation app/the timer on your phone)
    • Once you’ve got a solid practice going, you may find you’re able to meditate while out and about, walking, or on a crowded subway.
    • But while you’re first setting up a practice, find a space where you know you can have that head space.
  2. You should be physically comfortable while you meditate.
    • Sitting is generally a better idea than lying down, as you’re more likely to fall asleep if you’re lying down.
    • You can sit on a couch or chair, or on the floor. Play around with supporting yourself with cushions or blankets in different sitting positions (e.g. kneeling, cross-legged).
  3. Sounds obvious, but make sure you’re physically safe.
    • Don’t meditate while operating heavy machinery (e.g. a vehicle) or while using other sharp/hazardous objects (e.g. chopping vegetables).
    • If you’re going to use a candle, make sure it’s on a fireproof surface and is out of reach of children/animals or anything flammable.
    • If you’re using any incense or herbs, make sure you take the same flame-related precautions above and have fresh air intake in your space.

Examples of meditation spaces to get your ideas flowing

  • Your home office (before you open up your computer)
  • A corner of your bedroom or living room (keep the tv off)
  • The bathroom (especially for hectic households)
  • Your car, while parked (goes without saying, but make sure your ignition isn’t on if the garage door is closed!!)
  • A spare room or even a spare large closet
  • Dining table
  • A park bench

My meditation space

  • A small corner of my living room. I have a small metal side table that I purchased from Ikea for the purposes of holding my various meditation space items. The side table is just the right height, has a couple storage areas, and is fireproof (so I can use candles and burn herbs safely).
  • I like to have a beeswax candle, palo santo or cedar, a plant that I’ve grown from a clipping, and other items that are special to me.
  • I sit on a zabuton (a large flat, firm square meditation cushion) and a zafu (a cylindrical, firm cushion), but prior to having these, I used a couch cushion, a throw, and a bolster. My most comfortable position is to kneel on the zabuton with the zafu supporting my butt and hips. I frequently shift positions after a while to cross my legs when I’m doing a long meditation.

3. Just start

The most important step – just start meditating! Play around with different variations of similar meditation tools – experiment with different kinds of meditation and find what works for you. The beginner’s routine is a good place to start, but there are also lots of apps and online scripts and books out there that you can use.

Resources

Some great meditation resources to support your step 3 include:

  • The Best Meditations on the Planet: 100 Techniques to Beat Stress, Improve Health, and Create Happiness In Just Minutes A Day, by Dr. Martin Hart and Skye Alexander
  • Headspace app or other apps
  • Check out your local library for other books/audiobooks

I suggest that you do a little concentrative and a little contemplative as discussed in the beginner’s routine – think of it like a buffet or a bento box!

TL;DR

  1. Decide how long you’ll meditate for: start by setting a timer for 2 – 3 minutes. Build on more time every week.
  2. Have a go-to space for meditating that is distraction-free, comfortable and safe.
  3. Just start. Play around with different meditations and find what works for you.

Enjoy figuring out your practice set-up, and let me know in the comments how it goes!

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