Starting Your Meditation Practice

It took several years after I started teaching yoga to try to meditate. Here I am a yoga teacher and not meditating. It was sort of sacrilegious. I was well aware of the all the health benefits meditation has to offer and I understood deep down inside that it was a practice I needed, that it would help me and that I would come to at one point or another in my life. I could even envision myself sitting on the floor, comfortably crossed-legged sitting with eyes closed breathing. I just couldn’t get myself there. I felt guilty, self‐conscious and felt like a fraud.

So I enrolled in a four week meditation course at the Open Center. Excited by the possibilities and wanting to share in the experience, I asked a yogi friend of mine to take the class with me. I remember it was beginning of fall and still warm outside. The class room was packed, every seat taken, people sitting on folding chair placed close to one another and some students sitting on pillows on the floor. The windows were open with a cool breeze but the room was stifling. As excited as I was to start this new journey, I was feeling mentally and physically uncomfortable.

The teacher kept it very informal. He handed out mimeograph sheets explaining how the mind works when meditation begins. We started meditating in small increments of ten minutes and after meditating we discussed how we felt during the meditation process and the overall experience. For the final class, the “goal” was to meditate for approximately forty minutes. I was pleasantly surprised how easy mediating was for me – until the last class. I remember having difficultly sitting still for those forty minutes. I couldn’t find a comfortable position and it became intolerable. That experience was so unpleasant I didn’t return to meditation for years.

When I finally did return, I kept it simple. No class, just me. I found a comfortable place to sit, closed my eyes and began breathing.

So here’s what I’ve learned about the meditation process that I’d like to share….

  • Keep it simple
  • Find a comfortable place to sit on a chair or floor
  • Be comfortable in your seated position, keep the spine lengthened, soften the face
  • Use a timer (so that you don’t worry and think about time)
  • Start small, increasing in small increments, first try two minutes and increase to five then seven
  • Try to keep to a routine that works with your lifestyle – if mornings work better for you do it then, visa versa.
  • Accept that your mind will wander and it will, return your awareness to your breath
  • Be patient with yourself, it’s NOT easy
  • Most importantly—keep trying!