How to meditate
Setting aside time for formal meditation is an important way to establish a routine and get comfortable with the practice. Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference.
“Some people complain about taking time out of their day,” said Atman Smith, who teaches meditation to underserved communities in Baltimore. “Practice is important though. It’s a tool you can use to bring yourself back to the present in stressful situations.”
Mindfulness meditation isn’t about letting your thoughts wander. But it isn’t about trying to empty your mind, either. Instead, the practice involves paying close attention to the present moment — especially our own thoughts, emotions and sensations — whatever it is that’s happening.
In addition to basic meditation instructions, we’ve compiled guided meditations for a few popular exercises including the body scan, walking meditation and mindful eating. “Each of the applied mindfulness practices brings alive an experience that might otherwise be more automatic,” said Ms. Brach.
Though meditating on your own is an essential part of a complete practice, the steady guidance of an experienced teacher can be invaluable, especially as you’re getting started. Our minds wander so easily, and the clear instructions of a teacher can help bring us back to the present moment.
When the Mind Wanders
It’s inevitable: During meditation, your mind will roam. You may notice other sensations in the body, things happening around you, or just get lost in thought, daydreaming about the past or present, possibly judging yourself or others.
thinking is just as natural as breathing. “It’s the natural conditioning of the mind to wander,” said Ms. Brach.
When this happens, simply notice what it is you were thinking about or what was distracting you, then take a moment and pause.
You don’t need to pull your attention right back to the breath. Instead, let go of whatever it was you were thinking about, reopen your attention, then gently return your awareness to the breath, being present for each inhalation and exhalation.
Mindfulness Meditation Practices
You can practice mindfulness meditation on your own anytime and anywhere. But listening to basic guided meditations can also be helpful, especially when getting started. Instructions from an experienced teacher can help remind us to come back to the present moment, let go of distracting thoughts and not be so hard on ourselves.
Here are four guided meditations you can listen to that will help you remain in the present moment. Choose the one that’s the right length for you: One minute is a great place to start but also good if you simply don’t have a lot of time. If you’re more experienced or ready for an extended mindfulness session, try the 10- or 15-minute sessions. You can download these tracks and listen to them when you’re ready to meditate.
Instead of training your attention on the breath, as is the case in basic mindfulness meditation, the body scan involves systematically focusing on different sensations and areas, from the head to the toes.
Start at the top of your head. Slowly and deliberately, bring your attention to the surface of your skin, one inch at a time. See if you can feel your scalp, your ears, your eyelids and your nose. Continue in this manner, moving across the face, over the ears, down the neck and shoulders and all the way down to your toes.