This blog post was written by Erin Malan, Meditation Facilitator at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit." – Fabienne Fredrickson
You’ve heard about the amazing benefits of a regular meditation practice, and you are interested in reaping those benefits. But the when, where, and how of fitting meditation into your busy life is daunting. If this resonates, you are not alone. Starting any habit, especially one that seems a bit nonsensical (sitting still and doing nothing) is hard!
This article will explore effective strategies for creating an at-home meditation practice, including information about mantra meditation – a personal practice you can do easily on your own.
Figure Out a Schedule That Works for You
First off, do not create a schedule that overwhelms you! Consider shorter meditation sessions in the beginning. Five minutes once a day is a great place to start.
If you do have more time to devote to your practice, I recommend meditating for 15 minutes, twice each day. The optimal timeframe for the first session is in the morning, soon after you wake up. The second session is best done in the late afternoon, when many people experience a slump in energy. Taking a break to meditate around 4 or 5pm can help you maintain calm and focus moving into the evening hours.
Be flexible and consider what will work in your daily life. While I try to meditate twice each day, I rarely get a second session in before 9 or 10pm. At this stage of life, my late afternoons are made up of driving kids to various activities and preparing dinner for my family, so I have adapted to meditate as part of my bedtime routine rather than at 5pm. Don’t worry if your meditation plan isn’t picture perfect–it isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. A meditation plan should not bring more stress to your life!
Figure Out What Type(s) of Meditation Work for You
When you meditate, you utilize an anchor–or a focal point–which you rest your attention on. When you notice your mind wander from the anchor, you gently bring your focus back. This process occurs over and over again during meditation. Each time you draw your attention back to your focal point, you enhance your ability to be mindful and present.
What do you think is the best anchor for you? There are several types of meditations that offer different options. If you like a teacher’s verbal guidance, then a class, podcast, video, or app should work well for you. If connecting to your body helps you focus, then breathing meditations or body scans are a good choice. Words or phrases can also serve as an anchor, which is what the popular at-home practice of mantra meditation uses. Explore to see what works for you and don’t be afraid to switch it up sometimes.
How to Practice Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation is like the bread and butter of meditating: it is personal and simple to practice on your own. Mantra is a Sanskrit term meaning “mind protection” because the practice focuses on and stabilizes the mind, protecting it from unwanted distractions.
To experiment with a mantra, you can choose a word or phrase with personal or even spiritual meaning for you. Ideas include: “Loving presence,” “Peace,” “This moment is whole,” “I am filled with gratitude for this moment,” “I accept.” Don’t worry about choosing a perfect mantra. The act of focusing on whatever word or phrase you choose, and bringing your attention back to it when you notice that your mind has wandered, is really what it’s about.
If nothing is emerging naturally, a Sanskrit phrase may be a good option. The term “Ham Sa” is a Sanskrit articulation of the breath and is commonly used.
After you have decided on your mantra, come to a comfortable seat. Feel length in your spine. Take a few deep breaths. Let yourself settle in and let go of worries and concerns. Trust that taking the time to be quiet and meditate will help you live your day more fully and clearly when you return to it.
Bring your mantra to mind, whether you are using “Ham Sa” or something else. Rest in the word or phrase. Repeat it in your mind— the speed does not matter. If you are using “Ham Sa”, think “Ham” as you inhale and “Sa” as you exhale. You will get distracted during this meditation, and that’s ok. Just return to your syllable, your word.
As other thoughts come, see if you can let them float by. Your awareness can be compared to the vast sky, and your thoughts to clouds that come and go. You are not your thoughts and you have the agency to attach to them or let them pass by.
Continue to focus on your mantra for a few minutes, or up to 15 minutes. Eventually, you will let your mantra float away as well. Allow yourself to sit for another one to two minutes, soaking in the energy your mantra meditation has created.
Create Cues to Establish a Meditation Habit
“A habit happens when a context cue is sufficiently associated with a rewarded response.” - Wendy Wood, Author of Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick
My youngest is almost two years old. She is adorable and loves her pacifier! I love when she sleeps well, and have intentionally positioned her pacifier to be a cue for her to fall asleep. The pacifier stays in her crib, and she has learned that she only gets it when it is sleep time. This setup has served as a great cue for her little body and mind to know when it is time to rest.
Cues can help us build habits, including meditation practice. One effective cue is to have a specific area in your home where you go when you meditate.
How to Create a Physical Space for Meditating at Home
First, think about how you want to feel when you meditate. Maybe it’s grounded, peaceful, inspired, energized, loved, or relaxed. As you consider the following steps, be mindful of what physical cues can help cultivate those feelings for you.
1. Choose your spot: Look for a space in your home that can be private and free from distractions during your few minutes of meditation. This could be a spare room, a corner of your bedroom, or even a closet.
2. Consider lighting: If you want natural lighting, then select a space that has windows. You can also choose an area with soft lighting or use candles or a lamp to create a calming atmosphere.
3. Declutter: Clear out any unnecessary stuff that may distract you during your practice.
4. Decorate: Consider decorating your meditation space with items that help you to feel a certain way. It could be an inspiring picture, books that ground you and help you remember what is most important in life, or plants or candles that inspire relaxation and tranquility.
5. Get comfortable: Choose a comfortable cushion or chair that allows you to sit with good posture. You may also want to have a blanket or shawl close by to keep you warm during meditation.
6. Sounds: Some people enjoy meditating in silence, while others find that calming music or nature sounds help them relax and focus. Once you figure out what works best for you, have the appropriate devices nearby.
Prioritize what is most comfortable and inviting to you, and don’t get hung up on making your space picture-perfect. One wonderful thing about meditating is that the act will bring its own positive energy to whatever space you are in.
Link a Reward to the Practice
Eventually, meditating will be its own reward, but as you are building the habit, it can be a good idea to link an incentive to your practice. Maybe you don’t get your morning cup of coffee or hot shower until after you have meditated. Perhaps you put off watching a favorite TV show until you have meditated in the evening.
Stick With It
Long-term meditation practice helps you create new connections with your mind. You become less controlled by your thoughts and impulses as you allow them to come and go while remaining still and avoiding a reaction. Observing your mind in this way leads to a deeper understanding and helps you make more intentional and clear decisions. Give it a try! See if the studies are true that meditation can help you live a healthier, fuller life.
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