- Dr. Kate Whimster, Toronto Naturopathic Doctor - https://www.wavelengthwellness.com -

Quick start guide to meditation

100 day meditation challenge update!

As of today, I am 18 days into my 100 day meditation challenge and I am proud to say that so far, I have meditated every day!  For my first blog on this topic, check out How to defeat stress in 10 minutes

Some days have been harder, like when it’s 11:45pm and I realize that I have to meditate NOW in order to get it in for the day…  Or when I’m in the car and realize I won’t be home by midnight, in which case I’ve put on my headphones, turn on my nature sounds, and meditate right there!  Not ideal, but it works!

However, I am finding that the more I meditate, the easier it becomes.  And simply committing (publicly) to doing 100 days of meditation has made it easier to stick with it!  The 10 minutes per day that I’ve been doing makes a HUGE difference!  I am more relaxed most of the time, it is easier to focus and get work done, I am sleeping great, and feel more rested even when I’m short on sleep (as I am today).

Today I’m providing you more more information on the basics of meditation to help you get started.

What is meditation?

What is your definition of meditation?  Not so easy to explain, right?  We all know what we think meditation is – sitting quietly, eyes closed, a Zen-like person sitting cross-legged and peaceful, chanting, etc.  But when it comes to doing it, it’s easy to feel lost and unsure.

Good definitions of meditation:

My definition would be: a practice of cultivating relaxation, stillness, and focus.  Putting aside time every day to do this, even for just 5 minutes, counts as a meditation practice to me.

How to meditate

Now that we have a better idea of what meditation is, how do we do it, exactly?  A lot of people will explain that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to meditate and this is absolutely true!  But there are some simple guidelines that can help you create a meditation practice that suits you.

1. Space:

Find yourself some space where you can be alone and undisturbed.  Enlist the help of your family to allow you this time for yourself.  If you think you can’t get this, even for 10 minutes per day, something needs to change there!  Your health and self-care are important!  Make them a priority.

2. Sound:

Try to find a quiet place, but also accept the fact that it will sometimes be impossible to have a perfect environment for meditation.  Meditation is about learning to quiet your mind and focus DESPITE all that is going on around you.

If you like total silence, great!  If you prefer, try using gentle music, nature sounds, or white noise during meditation.  You can also use guided meditations if you find that helpful.  Here is a good source of some free guided meditations that you can also download to your computer.

3. Breathing:

A major part of meditation is learning to slow down, deepen, and enrich your breathing.  There are many, many, many breathing techniques you can try for different purposes, but a good place to start is with learning to breathe slower, deeper, and more consciously.  In fact, you can meditate simply by spending some time each day breathing deeply.  Aim for at least 10 deep breaths each time you focus on breathing and repeat this to reach at least 100 deep breaths per day.  This small change will instantly reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety and ensure your all-important brain and vital organs are receiving much-needed oxygen.

Deep breathing:

  1. Sit comfortably with legs crossed or both feet on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Inhale through your nose for 4 counts, expanding your lungs and belly.
  4. Hold for 4 counts.
  5. Exhale through your nose for 4 counts, completely emptying your lungs.
  6. Hold out for 4 counts

Start by doing this exercise in sets of 10 breaths, several times a day.  Aim for a minimum 100 deep breaths per day.

4. Mantra:

A mantra is a sound or phrase repeated out loud or silently while meditating.  When repeated out loud, mantras have an effect via vibration which can affect the brain and stimulate endocrine glands in the head and neck, such as the thyroid and pituitary glands (1).

When people start meditating, having a mantra can lend a structure to their practice, along with using specific breathing exercises.  You don’t have to use a mantra, but I find it can help give your mind something to focus on and come back to if you get distracted.

Some good mantras:

You can also use mantras in other languages, such as Sanskrit.  Many yogic exercises use such mantras and you’ll encounter one a little later in this post.

5. Mudra:

A mudra is a physical posture and hand/finger positions you can use while you meditate.  Mudras, like mantras, can have a profound effect on the brain (1).

Again, you don’t have to use a mudra, but if you are figety, it can help give you something to do with your body/hands to help keep your focus.

Some simple mudras:

Meditation for Energy

Lately I’ve been enjoying a simple meditation exercise to boost energy.  Here is my version of the 4/4 breath for energy from the book Meditation as Medicine (al) by Dharma Singh Khalsa.  It is a great exercise to do at the start of your day.

  1. Sit comfortably with legs crossed or both feet on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Place your palms together and hold your hands at the centre of your chest, fingers pointing up.  This is the mudra for this exercise.
  4. Inhale through your nose, breaking your breath into 4 distinct parts or “sniffs” so that after 4 parts your lungs are full.  Pulse your navel with each part.
  5. Exhale through your nose, breaking your breath into 4 parts again, this time emptying your lungs by the 4th part.  Pulse your navel with each part.
  6. Use the mantra “Sa Ta Na Ma” along with the 4 parts of each inhale and exhale.  This means “Infinity Life Death Rebirth.”

References:

  1. Khalsa, Dharma Singh. Meditation as Medicine. Fireside, 2001.