Just Sit and Breathe: The Basics of Meditation

Many people we talk to, friends, clients, co-workers, express that they can’t meditate. We often hear “well, I tried, but my brain keeps going, I just can’t do it.” Others say “I meditate because it’s supposed to relieve stress, help me sleep better, increase my energy, etc. and it doesn’t do any of those things so I just stopped.” If you have thought or spoken these words we encourage you to read on, sitting, as we like to refer to our meditation practice is not as hard as you think, and like anything it just takes some practice.

Here are 5 mistakes that beginners often make and some tips to make meditation a regular part of your day:

#1: Just Sit and Breathe
The first thing that we share with clients when talking about meditation is that we don’t like to refer to it as meditation. It seems so overwhelming and it seems that there is so much to it that it would be easy to do wrong. Sitting, on the other hand, seems much more attainable, right? You can just sit. Meditation is simply just sitting and breathing. You don’t have to Ohm, like a lot of clients ask us. No chanting, just sitting and breathing.

#2: No Expectations
It is important not to have expectations of your sitting practice. The only expectation that we set forth is that we will sit every day. Some days for 2 minutes, some days for 10 or 15 minutes. When we have expectations of our practice we often fail to experience what is going on. To sit without expectation of what you want to accomplish makes the whole experience much more enjoyable and you will find that you get much more out of it. Some days you will sit and find that you have more energy, some days you will sit and find that you have more mental clarity, if we have expectation as to what should or shouldn’t happen, we fail to receive the gift of sitting that we were supposed to receive that day. Be open to whatever gift is being presented to you each day.

#3: Puppy Mind
This is a term that is often talked about in meditation; the puppy mind. This is the part of the brain that is making lists, thinking about your day, telling you that you should be doing something else, or any other chatter that may come up during your sit. The mind is like a puppy that wants to run and play and get into trouble whenever it can. It is up to us to train this puppy to sit and stay. There are many ways to train this puppy, these are just a few, play with these until you find one that works for you.

  • Counting your Breath: focusing only on your in and out breath. Counting in-2-3-4-5-6, out-2-3-4-5-6, in-2-3-3-4-5-6, out-2-3-4-5-6. Slow, deep inhalation and exhalation.
  • Mala Beads: this is just beads on a string, separated with a knot in between each bead. Traditional mala strands have 108 beads on them, but you can use anything with any number of beads. You can count the beads, count them with your breath or use them with a mantra. This is a great way to connect the external (mala beads) with the internal (your breath or mantra).
  • Mantra: a mantra is a simple affirmative statement that you can repeat with your breath. For example “I am strong, I am healthy, I am at peace” or “Everything I do, I do with joy and ease” Repeating this positive statements on each in and out breath.
  • External Focus: another useful tool is to focus on the flame of a candle or a picture that brings you great joy. This could be a diety or saint (Mother Theresa, Jesus, Buddha, etc.) or a picture of a peaceful scenery. Note: because your focus is now external (the breath, the mala beads and mantras are all internal) it may be easier for the mind to wander.

This is what is meant by focusing the mind. Giving your puppy mind enough to concentrate on so that it doesn’t run away. If you find that your mind does stray, do not judge the thought or the action, simply come back to your technique and continue with your sit. Remember, it takes a while to train a puppy, the same is true for your brain and your sitting practice. Be patient.

#4: 2 minutes a day
Your sit does not have to be long to be effective. Just as you wouldn’t expect to be able to train a puppy for hours on the first day, you should not expect the same of your brain. Begin with 2 minutes a day for a week, and then go to 3 minutes the following week. Each week adding a minute to your practice. Some days will be easier than others, know that some time is better than no time. Sit when it is best for you, there are no rules that you should sit in the morning or in the evening. Sit when it fits into your schedule best. Again, don’t judge the amount of time that you are able to sit. Just sit. That’s all you have to do.

#5: Practice
And finally….practice. Sitting daily for 2 minutes is more beneficial than sitting once a week for 15. Not to mention easier as well!!! Commit to a daily sitting practice for 30 days. The length of time is not as important as the regularity of your practice. Sit daily for 30 days and you will notice a profound change in your life.

The benefits of meditation are endless. With regular meditation you can:

  • Have more restful sleep
  • Lower your Blood Pressure
  • Improve long term and short term memory
  • Have better focus and clarity
  • Improve your productivity
  • Enjoy life more
  • Improve your overall mood
  • Feel more connected to yourself and the world around you

We hope that this short introduction to meditation has inspired you to sit for any length of time. Remember, there is nothing to accomplish, you don’t have to do anything but sit and breathe. No judgement of yourself, your thoughts or your perceived success. If you sit, you are already successful.

One more tip is to create a space to sit, somewhere inviting with pillows, cushions, maybe a candle. There are great gifts waiting for you if you take the time to sit and receive them.

As always feel free to post a comment here or email us at coaching@discovermassage.org with any questions about anything that you read on our blog posts.

Light and Love,

Sarah and Eli