Through Vipassana retreats, readings, mentors, and self-practice our HealthOne team has learned several strategies to improve the quality and quantity of meditation sessions.
We strongly believe that through dedicating yourself to a regular meditation practice, you can not only reduce stress and anxiety, but build mental strength and resilience.
Here are a few of our favourite tips for improving your meditative or contemplative practice.
After sitting down to meditate, remind yourself why you have chosen to meditate. Maybe you are meditating to overcome anxiety, improve mental clarity, or find a sense of inner calm.
Remind yourself of this goal so that you can get through some of the challenges ahead. Also commit to really focusing and trying hard for your entire practice – it is much easier to sit and daydream!
Be determined to practice.
One of the most helpful tips we have ever learned is to set a specific intention before each meditation session. It can be as simple as, “today I will be patient with myself and not give up for 15 minutes”. As you become more advanced in your practice, choose something that you have been struggling with recently, such as staying in complete stillness, or battling drowsiness.
There are many different types of meditation practices. Vipassana is a type of meditation that involves observing different sensations in the body through scanning techniques.
There are also methods that involve following the breath, counting, repeating mantras, visualizations, or listening to guided recordings.
Listening to guided meditations can be a great way to learn techniques and get started with a daily practice.
One of our favourite apps for this is called Insight Timer, which has thousands of free recordings from popular meditation teachers in different lengths and styles.
A mentor shared with us that 25 minutes is the “minimum effective dose” when it comes to having lasting benefits from daily meditation.
However, do not expect to start with a time like this on the first day! Start with 5 to 10 minutes and very gradually aim to increase the length of your practice over time.
Pick a time of day that works for you and stick to it. Many people have personal preferences for morning, afternoon, or evening sessions. Choose what works with your schedule.
No one establishes a new habit in his or her “spare” time. You need to determine the time to practice and commit to keeping the appointment with yourself.
Sitting cross-legged is not for everyone. Find a position for meditation that meets your physical needs.
During long meditations some people feel discomfort in their lower back while sitting, so switching to a meditation stool is a great option.
However, if you have bad knees sitting in a chair might be the best option. We would recommend against lying down, unless practicing yoga nidra before bed. It’s almost impossible not to fall asleep!
It takes strong determination not to move or fidget during a meditation practice.
However, opening your eyes or scratching your nose can really take you out of the practice. Try hard to sit completely still without moving for the time you have chosen.
Choose a place in your home that feels comfortable and quiet. Make this your designated area and do all of your meditations in the same spot.
You may want to bring some objects to the area that hold spiritual significance to you, or that support your practice.
Also run through a list of potential distractions before you begin, maybe someone is making noise in another room, or you have been upset about something specific that day. Commit to being present in this setting, and not focusing on these distractions.
9. Movement Practices
It is absolutely possible to change-up your seated meditation routine with a movement practice.
Examples of this type of practice include walking, stretching, yoga, daily routines such as cooking or showering, and qi-gong. During these movement practices the goal might be to continue observing the breath, focus on sensations in the body, or practice mindfulness by being completely present.
There are many new technologies coming out that can help provide feedback in real time while you are meditating.
This can speed up your progress towards getting that “in the zone” feeling.
At HealthOne, we have partnered with Muse®. Muse® is an EEG device that uses the science of neurofeedback to help guide your meditation practice.
Muse monitors brainwave activity to give actionable feedback in real-time.
When your mind is calm and settled, you hear peaceful weather. As your focus drifts, you’ll hear stormy weather that cues you to bring your attention back to your breath.
One of the most helpful things we’ve learned is to use positive self-talk.
For example, when your mind wanders off during your meditation and you catch yourself say, “wow, I’m amazing!
It’s so great that I caught myself and now here I go following my breath again”. Make a dedicated effort not to be impatient with yourself.
The most important thing to remember is never to get discouraged and keep trying! We believe in you ☺
Have an inspired day!
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