How to Get Started With Meditation

Tips for Meditation

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Where Should I Meditate? You may wish to set aside a special corner of one room, your own private sanctuary, a calm, quiet and peaceful place. You might furnish the area with objects or icons that have spiritual meaning for you, developing a little altar or shrine. Use what will put you into a contemplative frame of mind. You may want to enlist the help of Mother Nature. Spend time at the ocean listening to the surf crashing upon the rocks...walk through a shaded forest trail with a cathedral of trees overhead...stand near a stream with water playing over the rocks or a waterfall...or watch the moon rise or birds fly overhead.
  • How Should I Sit When I Meditate?Although the classic posture is to sit with legs folded and hands resting quietly on the lap or the knees, the key is to find a way of sitting that is comfortable for you. And remember, you can meditate anytime, anywhere...even driving in your car.
  • Should My Eyes Be Open or Closed? Keep your eyes open if possible, to keep all of senses open. The goal is not to fall asleep, but to find yourself in a state of "relaxed alertness." Nor are you seeking a trancelike experience, or an altered state of consciousness. Keep your eyes "soft" — that is, do not focus on anything in particular — and your mouth slightly open.
  • How Long Should I Meditate? Many texts recommend 20 minutes, twice daily, but it's not how long you meditate; it's whether the practice "brings you to a certain state of mindfulness and presence, where you are a little open and able to connect with your heart essence," writes Sogyal Rinpoche in the "Tibetan Book of Living and Dying."

To begin, try short sessions of four to five minutes; then break for one minute. "It's often during the break that meditation actually happens!" writes Rinpoche. It may also be useful to get into the habit of setting aside the same times every day, be they for prayer or meditation. David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B., a Benedictine monk and author, recommends rising 15 minutes earlier than usual to give your day a "contemplative dimension." Without these precious moments, he says, "your whole day can slip away into a mad chase," but with them your entire day can be imbued with meaning and joy.