Joyously Balanced offers private instruction and group classes for meditation. Learn techniques and gain confidence with your evolving practice. Please contact us directly for more information.

Along with proper nutrition and exercise, meditation is as an integral part of your wellness journey. Through developing a consistent practice, you can learn to be less reactive, more responsive, compassionate, and more mindfully present for your life. If questionable food choices and/or addictive behavioral impulses arise, or if you find yourself at a choice point (to listen or defend yourself) in an argument, you’ll be more able to see it in real-time and potentially choose a different path. By learning to operate outside of your default mode, off of autopilot, you are in a much better position to take charge and make healthier choices for all aspects of your life.

When I first learned to meditate in 2012, I was more than overwhelmed with the abundance of terms, definitions, and fancy brand names out there for something that should be very simple to get started with. I found it was much less difficult, and not as stressful, to just let go and meditate, knowledge comes.

It’s not to suggest that you should ignore all the rich history, culture, and insight that has come before us, not at all, it’s just that you do not have to do that first in order to experience all that meditation can offer you.

My approach to teaching beginners is to just present the basics: To review and present no-nonsense techniques that can alleviate the confusion and assist my students in initiating their practice in the shortest time possible. Then yes, find aspects of the history and culture that interest you, or don’t. There is so much out there, so many techniques, opinions, names, definitions that you will make yourself crazy trying to make sense out of it all prior to beginning your practice.

Let’s just explore some of the basics for now and you can fill-in all the details as you gain experience. Here is the Who, What, Why, Where, and How of meditation to get your started:

Who: That is easy, the answer is YOU. Remember this is your personal practice. You get to determine what works for you, what feels good, what produces results, what your preferences are, what’s comfortable for you physically and mentally, what times of the day your prefer, whether you meditation once, twice, three times, what your object of focus is, or lack thereof, what to wear, or how you like to sit for your practice. Please do not evaluate yourself and your practice based upon what others say and do. Learn, yes, adopt some, sure, but get yourself down or think you’re doing it wrong because of other people’s opinions or practices…absolutely NOT!

What: Humans have been meditating for thousands of years, but what is meditation exactly? It’s open to interpretation of course but basically it consists of the established techniques and practices of ancient and modern times that are designed to help you train your brain to be less reactive, focused, and more present for the life you’re living at this moment. It’s about a state of awareness outside of normal consciousness and sleep, the experiencing of a communion with the real you, the presence behind your eyes.

Why: There isn’t enough time and space to list everything but here are some points that mean something to me in my life:

  • Meditation helps you learn to be more focused, engaged, and present in your life.
  • Become less reactive, responding to situations and events instead of reacting.
  • Mediation has so many physiological benefits such as lowered blood pressure, normalized blood chemistry, improved hormone balancing, improved immune system, reduced stress, and direct physiological changes in the brain.
  • Mental benefits such as improved memory, greater empathy and compassion, more focused concentration, an understanding of yourself, your thoughts, and their implications.
  • Meditation can lead to a greater awareness for the details in your life, outside of your default mode of thinking and reacting.
  • More presence and control during intimate times…. yes it really works.
  • Helps you to be more aware of your eating habits so you are less prone to binge eating or selecting unhealthy foods.
  • Helps you face any existing OCDs, either eliminating, reducing, or eliminating them completely. See OCD for what it is, just a thought.
  • Helps you face addictions, to see how the puzzle fits in your life. The practice opens up/brings to light more choices than you though you may have had.
  • Increases happiness, decreases episodes of depression by bringing to your awareness points of deviation that could lead to depressing moods or thoughts, thereby allowing you to make another choice about how YOU want to feel.
  • Helps you see the bigger picture of your life and to decide what to place importance on.
  • Enhances gratitude for your life.
  • Helps you realize that happiness can come from within, placing less importance on material items, events or experiences.

And the list goes on and on…..

Where: again, this is YOUR personal practice so it’s up to you. However, a few suggestions for a beginner would be to find a safe, secure room where you can practice undisturbed. Meditating outside is OK, and I would suggest you try it if interested (nature is an important part of your wellness journey after-all), however you have much less control on what is happening around you. The weather, sounds (which in time should not be a barrier to meditating), temperature, dogs, and kids playing may cause some distractions outside. Instead find a comfortable room indoors where you won’t be disturbed and consider hanging a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. Animals should be escorted out of the room for your practice. Or of course you can go to a group class too (see our event schedule).

How: Finally,how do you meditate? Here are some common questions and answers concerning developing a meditation practice:

What should I wear?

Clothing is your choice of course, no you don’t need to wear a monk’s robe or beads, just aim for loose fitting clothing that you are comfortable in. It can be yoga type or casual exercise clothing…basically anything you could sleep in is ideal. The point is to avoid any type of restrictive clothing that could distract you during your practice.

How should I be sitting during my practice and what should I sit on?

There are so many seating options for meditation. The key principal is to sit in such a way that your hips are higher than your knees, this helps you maintain good posture and allows for a more natural alignment of your spine. You may sit in a cross-legged style in one of the various lotus positions, using a meditation cushion or zafu to elevate your hips. There are angled meditation benches that I’ve used for years, it props you up off the floor and takes a bit of the pressure off of your knees. You can sit in a chair if you like but would suggest you sit towards the edge of the chair, so your knees hang lower than your hips, loosely crossing your legs as they meet the floor. Laying down for meditation is not suggested as you’ve been trained to fall asleep in this way. If you have a specific reason, medical or otherwise, then of course it is ok to do so. Again, this is your practice, you get to call the shots as to what works for you or not.

What should I do with my hands?

There is nothing special that you need to do with your hands. You may rest them comfortably in your lap or turned upward while resting on your knees (my preference), or traditionally a variety of hand postures (mudras) have been used in meditation. We cover some of this in our introductory classes.

How long should I meditate for?

It’s a good question that is often asked and it will be different for everyone. For a beginner you may start with 5-10 minutes once a day. You’ll know when it’s time to increase your duration, working up to perhaps twice daily. Ideally twice a day, for 20 minutes each, is a good meditation practice for even experienced practitioners.

Are there any preparations I should be doing prior to sitting for my session?

There are some things you may want to consider before sitting for your meditation session. Have ready a few essentials: water, tissues, a buzzing or low volume timer that you don’t need to get up and shut off, your chair or cushion, and a do not disturb sign for your door. Reduce the ambient lighting and/or close your blinds or drapes, set a comfortable temperature, keep the furry pets and/or people outside your room, and set your cell phone in airplane mode. Sit comfortably and scan your body from head to toe, releasing any tension you may find.

What is a good basic technique for a beginning meditation student?

My go-to meditation is focusing on the breath. It’s a very simple meditation technique that allows you to turn inward and use your breath as an anchor. Pay attention to, notice, feel, and experience the rhythm and sensations of your breath without trying to change it in any way. It may speed up, slow down, deepen, or become shallower. Find your preferred place or explore areas of your body where you feel your breath the most, can be the rise and fall of your chest, the cool air going in and the warmer air going out, the movement your belly, or maybe just the sound of your breath. In our classes we go through this and a variety of other techniques, including various guided meditations as well.

What about meditation music or other sounds?

Personally, I started with meditation music, then went to crystal singing bowls, then sounds of water, then finally sitting in silence. The theory is that outside sounds, even if it’s classified as “Meditation Music”, focus your attention outward instead of inward. I got to a point where the external sounds were too distracting and eventually found that the silence was much more peaceful. This is your personal practice so I would encourage you to experiment to see what’s right for you. One note is that if you’re suffering from a form of PTSD, or being alone with your breath causes you discomfort, use an external focus such as a sound, a picture, candle flame, or something else entirely.

How do I empty my head and stop all these thoughts?

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about meditation. Your brain is designed to think so don’t even try. Thoughts will come and go, repeatedly, and this is a good thing…it’s actually a sign than you’re releasing stress. When you realize during your meditation that you have drifted away, simply bring yourself back to your focus, as many times as necessary. What you will find, in time, that you carry this ability with you during your active hours, allowing you to stay more present for your life.

What to do once the meditation is over?

Allow yourself a minute or two following your meditation to just sit, with your eyes closed, stretching into the space around you. We call this the integration period. It’s not a good idea to jump up immediately once the timer goes off…it would be like having to bolt out of bed in the morning, and we all know how that feels.

What do I do if I am restless, or have pains or itches? Can I move during meditation?

Yes of course. It is OK to move, scratch, shift, or adjust, just do so mindfully. What does that mean exactly? If you notice an itch for example, you can be reactive and just scratch it quickly, as if you were pulling your hand away from a hot stove, or you can notice the itch, explore it, see if it goes away, then respond to the situation by choice instead of impulse.

What if I have too much to do or get distracted and want to stop my meditation?

It’s recommended that you continue with the time you set for your practice, even if you have unanswered emails, phone calls, barking dogs, or cars going by. This will help you gain the discipline that will help you keep your practice going. If you have an emergency, then of course get up. If something happens and you do get up, just go back into it after and perhaps and add on a few more minutes, no big deal.

How do I learn more?

There are so many ways to learn more about meditation, this is barely scratching the surface. However, it is a good, general outline that can help you get started while you continue to explore. You can learn tons online, find a good meditation teacher near you, and of course check our schedule of classes and retreat options to further your education with us directly at Joyously Balanced.