starting a meditation practice
Valerie Burke, RN, MSN
wish to begin a meditation practice, the most important thing to remember
is to approach meditation with “relaxed effort” and
not be concerned about doing it “right” or about what is “supposed
to happen” when you meditate. Approaching meditation without expectations
opens the door to the many possible meditation experiences--all of which
are valuable. If you detach yourself from the outcome, your meditation
rewards will be greater.
One of the challenges faced by all meditators, especially beginners,
is becoming sleepy. Afternoons are the most common time to experience
this. If you have not been getting enough sleep at night, a post-meditation
nap can be very healing.
If you have been getting plenty of sleep at night and you still find
yourself nodding off during meditation, you might be releasing some deep-rooted
stress or “psychic/emotional” toxins. This can bring about
a tired feeling and should pass once the release is complete. In either
case, experiencing sleepiness during meditation does not mean you are
doing anything wrong. It is part of the gradual process of healing and
The principles of meditation are simple. In order to become aware, you
must focus. Focusing on your breathing is the most common point of focus
for beginning meditators. Eventually, you will be very aware of all the
senses... feelings, smells, sounds and what you “see” in
the mind’s eye. When your thoughts start to wander--and they will--gently
bring them back to the object of focus.
To give you a starting point,
the following method can be used:
• Choose a time when you are not likely to be disturbed.
• Choose a place with fresh air and a comfortable temperature. You might
choose to have some incense burning if you like that. Many people enjoy
listening to meditation music, softly playing in the background.
• Choose a sitting or lying position that is comfortable and that you
will be able to stay in for the duration of your meditation time. Your
spine should be straight and your feet and legs uncrossed. This is very
important. You must be completely comfortable if you are to relax.
• Begin by closing your eyes and focusing on something soothing. Many
people find that focusing on the breath is a good way to start. Or, you
might wish to focus on the flame of a candle.
• Simply be quiet and still and notice how your thoughts wander. Do not
attempt to control them. Observe them with detachment. As your mind wanders,
bring it back.
• In the beginning, meditate for a short time. Even five minutes might
be a challenge the first time. Within a few weeks, you will notice a
marked difference in your ability to focus.
While meditating, there should be no effort to control or impose anything
on the mind. If the mind is undisturbed, it is by nature perfectly blissful.
The more we quiet the mind, the more we will experience happiness, peace,
clarity, and creativity.
Remember that you are not competing with anyone nor are you demanding
perfection of yourself. A teacher once said, “Meditation is the
perfect exercise in self-forgiveness.”
The most important thing is being completely present and aware, not thinking
about doing it right, and not obsessing about yesterday or tomorrow.
All you have is NOW. And the more you can bring your awareness to the
present moment, the more peace you will experience in every moment of
Burke is a freelance writer and clay artist in Union, Washington.
She is an RN and has a Master’s Degree in Psychiatric / Mental
Health Nursing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. After twenty
years of practice as a nurse, she decided to turn her life in a different
and more creative direction with sculpture and writing. She lives
in a house overlooking Hood Canal with her husband Jon and 5 kitties.
She has a health blog called Panther
Speak and is a Reiki Master.