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Get Past the Awkwardness and Start Meditating for Real

The following is an excerpt from Just Sit. It was written by Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz and reprinted with permission.

So, you’ve decided that you want to start meditating. Maybe someone told you how great it is, that it would change your life. Maybe you’ve tried it in the past and it didn’t go so well — after 60 seconds you started to feel like you were doing it wrong, or the timing was off, or that there was something more important you just had to attend to, like bleaching the bathtub. Or maybe it just felt too awkward or uncomfortable.

Guess what? That’s normal. Every single person we know who has tried meditation confronts resistance to it.

Before most of us even get to step one — the actual sitting — we come up with all the reasons why we can’t or won’t do it: it’s boring, we’re too busy, we’re too unholy or too inflexible or too hairy. Or we agree that it’s great stuff… for other people.

How to Start With Meditation

The big non-secret with meditation is that it can and usually does feel stupid, pointless, and counterproductive in the beginning. Starting something new and unknown isn’t easy. It can make you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable; it can also bring up all sorts of insecurities you’d just rather not deal with. Which is why, as adults, when we try something new, we so often quit before we give it a real chance.

The challenge isn’t over once you do manage to take that first step. Showing up and being consistent can be even trickier. Instead of enduring the wobbly, exposed, why-on-earth-am-I-doing-this phase, we fall back into making excuses: we’ve given it a go, but it’s too hard, it’s a waste of time, it’s not for me. Or we blame something outside of ourselves, like our schedule or our family — or we blame ourselves.

There’s not a soul on the planet who couldn’t benefit from meditation. It’s probably the best gift you can give yourself, you just won’t know that until you experience it. Then you’ll ask yourself, Why did I wait so long? Not to worry — you can start right now.

How to Start Meditating for Beginners

Perhaps you’ve already done a lot of thinking about meditation: You’ve read articles, downloaded guided sessions and apps, talked about it with friends, or even recommended it without actually knowing that much about it. During that time you haven’t actually been meditating, but all of that effort has been more helpful than you think. It’s a way of planting the seeds, of laying the groundwork. The problem is that this preparation and planning phase is a little too comfortable. It’s very easy to move here and retire. That is where we come in: to wake you up and help you get from the couch to the cushion, out of the prepping phase and into the actual meditating phase — for real.

Meditation is a way of training your mind to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter that’s going on in your head. It is a workout for the mind, which means that it takes work, practice, and discipline in the same way that working out takes work, practice, and discipline. And, like working out, results do not come overnight. Results come after time and effort and consistency. You might feel better after your first day back in spin class, but a one-off probably won’t help you to lose that stubborn belly weight.. It’s the same with meditation.

Just like a new exercise program, you have to start, jump in, just do it. Enough with the procrastination, the talking about it, the thinking about it, the avoiding it. You already know how to meditate. It’s in you.

So try it for 2 minutes. Set a timer right now and give it a shot. In the next section you will find simple instructions for sitting. After that, the next 7 chapters will help you to turn those 2 minutes into a lifetime of practice.

How to Start With Simple Meditation at Home

1. Sit

The specifics don’t matter — sit in a chair, cross-legged on the floor, in a tree. Just sit.

2. Position your arms and hands.

Relax and rest your hands on your thighs.

3. Set a timer.

Your phone is great. Just don’t forget to put it on airplane mode. Start with 2 minutes and increase the time from there.

4. Take a moment.

Pay attention to the thoughts that are racing around. Things like: I don’t have time for this right now. I should be saving the seals. This is stupid. All of the chatter is normal and will probably intensify as you sit.

5. Close your eyes.

Or, if you prefer to keep them open, give them something to softly focus on, such as a candle or a spot on the wall.

6. Position your legs and feet.

Keep a straight spine: If you are in a chair, keep your feet on the floor. If you’re on a cushion, keep your knees below your hips.

7. Warm up.

Note what’s going on in your body. How does your back feel? What about your legs? Take 10 deep breaths. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, like warming up pre-workout.

This is excerpted from the book JUST SIT: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don’t by Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz (copyright 2017). Published on December 26, 2017 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

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