Meditation Is Not What You Think: Meditation Practice Tips

meditation womanOften, when we take up meditation, yoga, or other mindfulness practices, we inadvertently create obstacles for ourselves. We fall into assumptions, believing there is a “right way” to meditate.

If you are struggling with meditation in any form, here are a few practice tips gathered over time that may help you.

1. Relax

When you are working with breathing awareness, relax. Just notice your breathing. Rigid determination and concentration on being aware only increases nervous tension. When you notice tension, gently relax and return your attention to your breath.

2. Get Comfortable

Depending on your body, you may feel comfortable when sitting in a position in which your head is comfortably balanced over your spine, or you may not. If this is not comfortable or helpful, find a comfortable posture and return to your breathing. Meditation is easier when you have cultivated a sense of ease and poise towards yourself.

3. Consider the Time of Day

Some people advise avoiding meditation immediately after eating. Their thinking is it may be more difficult as the body is busy digesting food. If meditation after eating is desirable due to your schedule or other needs, try it and see how it is for you. If you have a better experience meditating at another time of the day, then follow your experience.

4. Start Slow

Some people find they are very distracted in the early stages of meditation practice. Remember compassion for yourself. Gently returning your attention to the sensations of your breathing will slowly begin to deepen your capacity for mindful awareness. Sitting in the same place each day and having a regular short opening ritual (for instance: candle-lighting, blessing, bowing, short prayer, or spiritual reading) may help you transition from your daily activities and begin to focus.

5. Focus on Noticing Your Breath Rather than Controlling It

Breathe normally and notice your experience. Focusing on the experience of your breath coming in and out through the nostrils helps some people. Others prefer to follow the rising and falling of their bellies. There is no need to control your breathing or to deepen it. Meditation is not a breathing exercise, but a practice intended to help you become aware of each breath without any judgment.

6. Do Not Fight Or Surrender to Distractions

Whenever you become distracted, take a moment to notice that you are distracted, and then gently focus again on your breath. Let your attention resettle and once more let yourself be aware of each breath. Each time you actually notice your attention has wandered, and you return to the experience of breathing, you are increasing your capacity for concentration and awareness. In this way, begin again as many times as necessary.

7. End Slow

To conclude the practice, gently and gradually expand your attention to the space you are in and the present time.

8. Express Gratitude

Remember and allow yourself to have gratitude for the opportunity and circumstances of your experience to arise. As it fits you, express thanks (to God, to your good mind, to your cooperative body, for all that helps you, et cetera).

9. Take It With You

Prepare to carry the effects of mindfulness into everyday movement by gently stretching and rising. Tend to the surrounding space as appropriate—you may wish to bless yourself and the space where you sat, and extend these blessings to the place you are going next, whomever you might meet, and so on. Gently transition to the next realm of activity, assimilating the experience of the meditation practice.

Remember: meditation is not what you think!

  • Meditation is paying attention.
  • Meditation is “waking up,” also called “witnessing”.
  • Meditation is being present, right here, right now, moment to moment.
  • Meditation is noticing what you notice in each moment.

Check out these resources for mindfulness  or read more about how mindfulness and meditative practices can be used in therapy.

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About Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D., Dipl. PW

Cindy Trawinski is a licensed clinical psychologist, a Diplomate in Process-oriented Psychology (also known as Process Work) and a certified Imago Relationship Therapist. She is a founding partner of LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center and North Shore Psychotherapy Associates and has offices in Skokie, IL. Cindy is the former CEO of the Process Work Institute, in Portland, OR and a member of the International Association of Process-oriented Psychology (IAPOP), in Zurich, Switzerland. Cindy is a frequent speaker on topics including: Diversity and Multicultural Issues; Sex Positivity; Rank & Power; Therapist Bias; and Polyamory.