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Welcome to the new version of my website! Isn’t she gorgeous? I wanted to make it easier to find information about my coaching, yoga, and writing services. Therefore, consider yourself invited to the digital housewarming party which is happening right now! I invite you to have a look around and let me know what you think. To celebrate the launch of the new site during this time of social distancing, I’m offering online yoga classes via Zoom and a free 5-minute Metta (loving-kindness) meditation. Coronavirus has changed everyone’s lives so substantially and as my friend Kimmy said: “No one has the life they thought they would be having right now. Literally no one.” Faced with uncertainty, many people are asking how to start and sustain a meditation practice. To serve you in our collective time of need, let’s dive into the basics of meditation and a 30-day meditation practice challenge.

Meditation Basics

Fortunately, meditation doesn’t require special equipment – you likely already have most of what you need in your home. Since meditation is generally a seated practice (and sometimes a moving or walking practice; more on that later), you will need clothing, cushions, blankets, or blocks to keep you comfortable. A time-keeping device is also helpful such as the timer feature on your mobile phone or a smartphone app specifically designed for timing meditation sessions.

Clothing

Rachel starting and sustaining her meditation practice in Gili Aire, Lombok, Indonesia

What you wear for meditation depends on the season and the region where you live. Generally, in the colder months, more layers of clothing are necessary to stay warm, and in the warmer months, fewer layers of clothing are necessary to stay cool. I’m generally quite cold when I’m not moving, so in the winter months sometimes I’ll often wear a hat and a lovely scarf to wrap around myself to keep warm and cozy. If you find yourself in a tropical location, bring a beach wrap to keep the bugs away.

Cushions, Blankets, and Blocks

blue meditation cushion

Buy Seat of Your Soul Meditation Cushion

There are meditation-specific cushions, blankets, and blocks that can support your meditation practice, but to get started I recommend two or three blankets and a floor cushion if you have one. Having a cushion or a rolled-up blanket makes it easier to for your hips to be higher than your knees and makes for a more comfortable seated position.

Apps for Meditation

Several apps support meditation practice and the one I use is called Zenso. It’s free and has a simple interface, nice sounds, offers interval chimes, and records to the Apple Health app that I’ve meditated for the day. If downloading an app doesn’t appeal to you, the timer feature on your phone works too. A travel alarm clock is another idea for those who prefer a full analog meditation experience. If you aren’t concerned with keeping time or an anchor to the rest of the world, you can omit the app or countdown timer altogether.

How to Sit in for Meditation

First and foremost, the instructions I’ve been taught by my teachers are: be comfortable. You can sit with a wall behind you or on the couch with your feet on the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor, consider placing a cushion underneath your feet. You can lie back in a reclined position or on the floor, but take care to not fall asleep. If a cross-legged seated position is uncomfortable for you, use blankets or cushions under the outsides of your knees or anywhere else that requires more padding.

  1. Find a comfortable seated position in a quiet place. Sit up straight and tall.
  2. Turn off distractions and if you live with others, ask the people in your house to not disturb you while you meditate.
  3. Breathe deeply and steadily.
  4. Play the 5-minute Metta (loving-kindness) meditation (enter your name and email address above to download the free meditation!)
  5. Thank yourself for practicing mindfulness and go about the rest of your day.
  6. Notice how (if at all) meditation is affecting you in your daily life.

Metta Meditation Phrases

Next, if you start sitting for five minutes and want to start sitting for longer periods of time, congratulations! Follow the steps above for how to sit in meditation and begin saying the phrases in your head to yourself as a mantra:

May I be:

    • happy and peaceful.
    • healthy and strong.
    • safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
    • filled with ease

How to Sustain a Meditation Practice

Although meditation is credited by many as an effective mindfulness tool, many people also struggle to sustain a meditation practice. After all, meditation requires us to be still, clear our minds, or stay focused on certain phrases (like with the four Metta sentences above). Many people, myself included, become distracted with other thoughts during meditation. Here are some of the common reasons people struggle to sustain a meditation practice and how to overcome them.

Too Many Distracting Thoughts

Noticing our own distraction in meditation is expected and normal. The key is to notice the distracted thoughts without judgment and bring our awareness back to our predetermined objects of sound or mental focus.

No Time

Having trouble remembering to meditate? Try scheduling it in your calendar or build it into your daily routine. In the past, have struggled to stay focused and meditate for more than five minutes a day. I would even begrudgingly sit quietly for five minutes at the end of the day and rather than dropping into relaxation, I felt annoyed and obligated to check off meditation as another thing on my to-do list. After starting my day with meditation every day in yoga teacher training, I got used to the habit. Now I begin every day with a 20-minute meditation which I’ll write about in greater detail soon.

Physical Discomfort

The be comfortable advice is simple and strong: make yourself comfortable. Lean against a couch or a wall if you need to. I’ve also noticed that sitting in cold weather is far less comfortable than sitting in warm weather. If you are truly uncomfortable, I encourage you to find a way to find comfort and be still as you sit.

No Community

I’ll admit: it’s way easier for me to meditate in a group than it is by myself. While solo meditation is valuable, there’s real value in finding a group. Most yoga studios have meditation classes. The studio I teach at in Memphis Delta Groove Yoga is offering a free noon meditation daily on Zoom and my meditation teacher Samantha Akers also offers workshops and online meditation classes through her website TheraYoga Method. Search around and find group meditation classes in-person or online to find a community of meditators.

No Quiet Time or Space

As someone who shares a small one-bedroom space with another human, I empathize with those who feel like they have no quiet time or space to themselves. In my current one-bedroom place, I claimed the space behind the couch as my meditation space. I also told my partner about my early morning meditation routine and my desire to not be interrupted and he lovingly obliges my request. Other ideas for taking time and space meditation: your car, office, bedroom, living room, a closet or even the bathroom if necessary.

30-Day Meditation Practice Challenge

Now more than ever we need to make time to return to the truth of our inner wisdom. There is no improvement or striving in meditation, just sitting and being still and noticing what arises. Since the United States has been advised to continue to practice social distancing for the next 30 days, let’s rise to the occasion and dedicate ourselves to mindfulness with a 30-day meditation practice challenge.

So what’s the 30-day meditation practice challenge? Practice meditation every day for 30 days or every day in the month of April. One minute counts. Five minutes of seated meditation count as does ten or 20 minutes. Do your best and notice how establishing a daily meditation practice makes you feel. Noticing sounds like this: “I am enjoying meditation” or “It was hard to keep my posture straight in meditation today”. Judging sounds like this: “I am the worst at meditating” or “I can’t meditate”. Stay with the noticing. Discard the judgment. Be still and say the Metta phrases to yourself in your head:

May I be:

  • happy and peaceful.
  • healthy and strong.
  • safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
  • filled with ease

Join the 30-Day Meditation Practice Challenge!

If you want to join the challenge, sign up to get your free meditation below. I’ll send you weekly emails to check in with how your meditation practice is going, plus offer guidance on how to keep going, and where to share your meditation wins and challenges with an online meditation community.

Sign up above and commit to a more peaceful and productive April with the 30-day meditation practice challenge!

So now I want to hear from you. Are you a seasoned meditator? Do you want to know how to start and sustain a meditation practice? If you have any tips or advice, please leave a comment below and share your inner wisdom.

Breathe and believe, beauties.