You have probably heard the news—meditation is one of the most healthiest things you can do for both your body and mind. While the technique is simple, starting a meditation practice can feel daunting and confusing. I highly recommend starting with mantra meditation as I’ve found it to be one of the easiest techniques. To begin meditating, I recommend you follow these steps to make sure you are successful and establish meditation as a healthy habit.
The first step of mantra or japa meditation is to choose a mantra to use. A mantra is a word or phrase that you use to repeat to yourself. During Meditation, the purpose of the mantra is to give you something to put your attention on instead of your thoughts. Some people like to use words like peace, love, oneness, and while it is fine to use these, they are affirmations and not traditional mantras that are used in India and Tibet. An easy and commonly used Sanskrit mantra is “Soham” which is literally translated to I am. It is often referred to as the mantra of manifestation. I like using the Soham Mantra because this is not in my native English language and there's not trigger any additional thoughts or reactions.
Secondly, you will need to find a comfortable place to sit. It's best to find a quiet location where you won't be disturbed or distracted. Sit cross-legged on the floor or find any other seated comfortable position for you. You can sit on a chair or a sofa or on the floor with your back against a wall. Support yourself with cushions, pillows, or blankets. The goal is to sit up straight as possible while still remaining comfortable. We all have different anatomies, bodies and in different conditions of age, injury, and flexibility so you want your meditation experience to be enjoyable, so make you are very comfortable and especially bring a priority to your back comfort. Laying down is usually not recommended because most people fall asleep in the position, but you try it if it's uncomfortable for you. The most important rule is that meditation can be practiced anywhere as long as you're comfortable.
Now, gently close your eyes and begin by taking some deep breaths. Try taking a few cleansing breaths by inhaling, slow into your nose and then exhaling after a second or two. After a few in breaths continue to breathe with your normal, relaxed pace. Begin repeating your mantra silently to yourself. Don't move your tongue or lips, and have the repetition of your mantra be soft, gentle, and relaxed. There is no need to force it. Mantra does not need to correlate with the breath, but some people prefer to do so. For example, if using the so hum as your mantra, you could chant to repeat, “so” on your inhalation and “hum” on your exhalation. If you choose to coordinate your mantra with your breath, do not to become overly fixated on it. As your meditation continues, allow your breath to fall into a natural rhythm to the repetition of your manta. If it is helpful to imagine, rather than repeating the mantras yourself, that you are actually listening to the mantra being whispered to you.
Do not try and stop your thoughts or empty your mind. As you continue with this process, you will find that your drift away from the mantra. This is just human nature for the mind to wander, to not try to stop your thought or your empty your mind. Whenever you become aware that your attention has drifted away from your mantra, gently and compassionately return to silently repeating to the mantra. Expect to have to catch yourself and come back to the mantra often, especially as you start.
If you find 20 or 30 minutes is too long for you, start with whatever amount of time you can slowly build your way to 20 to 30 minutes. Even a few minutes of meditation is better than none. The benefits of meditation are most significant when practicing daily. Ideally, meditation can be done first thing in the morning upon arising, and then again at the end of the day, preferably after dinner.
You may want to use a timer for your meditation. Many people use their cell phones’ timer to meditate but make sure you set it to airplane mode, so you do not get calls or texts. You don't want to be staring at your meditation timer, so place it out of sight.
A traditional way to time your mantra meditation is to use a set of japa mala beads, Buddhist prayer beads or meditation beads. These are used to count sets of 108 repetitions of the mantra.
After approximately 20 to 30 minutes, you may stop repeating your mantra and continue sitting with your eyes closed. I recommend spending a few minutes relaxing with your eyes closed before assuming another actively or returning to your normal daily routine.