Congratulations on making the decision to begin meditation practice. There are many benefits to meditating regularly: calming the mind and body, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep, reducing stress and anxiety to mention just a few.
It can be a challenge to sit quietly and focus on your breath in a world that is dependent on multi-tasking and filled with constant noise from traffic, music and phone conversations. If you're just starting meditating you might find it helpful to learn what others have done to begin.
1. Choose a time of day when you have the few distractions. For many it's first thing in the morning or in the evening, but not just before bed as you may fall sleep. Find a time that works for you – it may even be during your lunch break.
2. Sit comfortably or lie down. You do not need to sit cross-legged on the floor unless you find that a relaxing position. Keep your body erect – no slouching. And if you lie down, try not to fall sleep.
3. You can close your eyes, but keeping you eyes opened and focused on an object or spot on the wall will help keep you awake if you're afraid you'll fall sleep.
4. Set a timer so you do not have to keep looking at a clock or wondering if you've meditated long enough. Aim for 15 minutes to start, but do not worry if you can only sit for 6-8 minutes at the beginning. Just keep practicing and eventually the 15 minutes will stretch to 30 or more.
5. Begin by focusing on your breath: inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Try counting to 4 as you breathe in and 5 as you breathe out. If you can, breathe deep into your belly.
6. Whenever you find your mind wandering, refocus on your breathing.
7. Make meditating a regular habit, like brushing your teeth.
It's easy to start meditating by generating little moments of “awareness” during your day. Just breathe in and out slowly and pay attention to the breathing rather than what's going on around you – you can even do this at a stop light while driving. This momentary break in your routine can help reduce stress and improve your outlook. I'm sure you've heard, “Just stop and take a deep breath.” as advice when things are hectic. The more you do this, the calmer you'll become and your meditation practice will improve.
Do not get frustrated and stressed that you're not doing it right. Like anything new, it takes time to become familiar with a new routine. You might find it helps to join a group or do meditation with a friend. Even read meditation books or get a CD to guide you.
Just remember that you're a beginner and you will not know everything or “do it perfectly” the first time. Like riding a bike, it takes practice until you're effortlessly sitting quietly and meditating for what looks like no time at all, even though your timer goes off after 15 minutes.