5 Essential Meditation Tips for Beginners


“The whole of meditation practice can be essentialized into these 3 crucial points: Bring your mind home. Release. And relax!”  
Sogyal Rinpoche

When my brain starts getting a little frazzled, I can usually trace it back to not meditating enough (aka I've been a lazy bum that day and pressed snooze instead). Therefore, whenever my friends and loved ones are stressed, my suggestions usually involve a little meditation to recenter themselves.

However, sometimes they express a little hesitation at the idea for a variety of reasons, like they are intimidated, unsure how, or believe that it is solely religious based. To which I say: Don't be silly! Meditation is for everyone, regardless of experience or religion. Studies have shown the positive effect meditation can have on your life, so there is no time like the present to begin!

If you don't know where to start, take a peek at these suggestions:

1 - Carve out a little time. Set aside a specific time everyday to sit and meditate. Whether it is 5 minutes in the morning before work, or 20 minutes after dinner every night, honor it as a time for meditation and nothing else.

2 - Establish a ritual. Light a candle. Create a meditation corner that you can retreat to. Acknowledge the positive change you are bringing to your life, and make it a special moment.

3 - Start out easy. In the same way that you wouldn't run a marathon without any training, you shouldn't begin meditating and sit for two hours. Meditation is mental training, and nobody gets monk-like meditation power overnight. Start off with 5 minutes (or even lower if needed) and work your way up over time.

4 - Focus on your breath. Allow it to come naturally and feel your body relax further with each inhale and exhale.

5 - Experiment. There is no wrong way to meditate, and what works for one person might not for another. There are numerous techniques you can try. Adopt a mantra and use a mala to keep track. (Learn how to use a mala here.) Use an app to take you through a guided meditation (I like Headspace). Go into nature and find a quiet place to listen to the calm rustle of the trees and the hum of the life around you. Listen to a singing bowl CD. Attend a local meditation group. Anything works!

Do you have any meditation techniques or routines that you follow?

Create Your Own Mala


Lately, I have felt a pull towards meditating with a mala. As discussed in my previous post, it can really help you stay focused and keep track of mantra repetition. After looking at a few to purchase, I realized the one I desired didn't exist yet, and it was up to me to create it!

Creating this mala was a great project (and not terribly difficult), so I thought it would be fun to share with you how to make your own!

During its creation, keep a general thought of well-being or your personal mantra in mind. It can help to set your intent while creating your mala, and can become a meditation in and of itself!

What you will need: wood/seed beads and/or gemstone beads, a larger "guru" bead, a strong nylon string, and embroidery floss. If mixing types of beads, try to keep them a similar size as to keep meditation as seamless as possible. In addition, I found a beading needle to be extremely helpful with threading (which can be found at your local craft store).

Begin by counting out 108 beads (not including your guru bead). For my personal mala, I chose to have 94 wooden beads, and 7 rose quartz beads on each side. I incorporated rose quartz into my mala since my mantra focuses opening up my heart chakra, and rose quartz has a soft, compassionate energy that encourages unconditional love, dissolves emotional wounds, and offers inner peace.
 


Now comes the time consuming, yet oddly satisfying, part. Leaving at least 6 inches of extra thread on the end, create a knot so your beads will not slide off. Since I wanted to have mirroring rose quartz on either side of the guru bead, I started with my first 7 rose quartz beads, then went on to add the 94 wooden beads, then the remaining rose quartz beads. If you have the time (and the patience), place a knot after each bead to create a small space between them (which not only helps in meditation, but also keeps beads from going everywhere in case it breaks).


Time to make the tassel! Take your embroidery floss (I used a single packet that had transitioning colors) and separate at least 8 inches from the main group, but do not cut it off (just place it out of the way to the side). Then, tie your extra nylon string coming from the bottom of the guru bead around the floss and knot on the bottom of the bundle to attach it to your mala. Fold over the embroidery floss to hide your knot, and wrap the 'set aside' floss around the top multiple times. Once satisfied, loop your remaining thread through the tassel to create a knot. Cut the end of the tassel to eliminate loops or uneven edges, and you're done!



 Congratulations! You are now the proud owner and creator of a beautiful mala!

Malas: Focus Better During Meditation

My wood and rose quartz mala.

First off, what is a mala?

A mala is a necklace created to aid in meditation. They are typically made from wood, seeds, or gemstones. The number of beads on a mala can vary, but commonly mala necklaces have 108 beads and bracelets contain 27 (which can be used during mediation 4 times to achieve 108). In addition to the main beads, most malas contain a larger "guru" bead and sometimes smaller divider beads (to help you keep track).

When meditating with a mantra, it is important to keep focus. Malas are used as tools to keep count of how many times you have recited your manta, along with serving as a tangible and interactive object to help restless minds and bodies remain fully present during meditation practice.

Mantras are very personal matters, determined on where you are in life, what you need to reaffirm, and/or what you need to learn. Some are popular and freely shared (such as "Om"). Some you can only learn from a teacher or spiritual guide, and should be kept private and use as per instruction (with the accompanying lessons and empowerment). Some may simply flow freely and intuitively to you, and that is the one you should use (until it has served it's purpose). They can take the form of Sanskrit ("Om Tara" speaks to the goddess Tara which encourages compassion, healing, and strength), or English ("I am love").

Regardless of source, all mantras should possess a compassionate message towards yourself and/or others. For example, say you have a strained relationship with one of your coworkers. Although a part of you may wish you did not have to interact with them on such a frequent basis, your mantra cannot be "My coworker will quit.", as tempting as it may seem some times! Taking a compassionate stance on the issue, look within. Maybe it is from a place of jealousy that you butt heads with your coworker. A reaffirming mantra such as "I am enough" can help encourage you to realize your own personal value, and break the cycle of comparing yourself with your coworker.

Once you have discovered your mantra, it is time to settle down and meditate.

Ideally, find a quiet space where you can meditate without being disturbed.  Clear your mind of stray thoughts, and breathe deeply. Feel the grounding pull of the earth, and center yourself. Once you feel connected and grounded, begin your practice. Hold the mala gently and respectively in your left hand, with the beads between your index finger and thumb. Beginning with the first bead after the guru bead, count a bead for each completed recitation of your mantra. When you finish your journey around the whole mala, do not count the guru bead. If you wish to continue, flip the mala around (with as much grace as you can manage) and begin again the other direction.

In future posts, we'll explore potential mantras, other meditation techniques, and even a tutorial on how to construct your own mala!

What are your meditation habits? Do you have a mala to assist in meditation?