Top 10 Tips To Boost your Practice
Have you tried meditation and found it too difficult? Struggled with knowing what to do? Are you worried that your mind is too restless? Not sure how to sit correctly or how to prepare your body and mind? Well, these 10 meditation tips will help you boost your practice for better results.
There are many techniques we can use to improve our meditation, but these are my top 10 tips.
I won’t go into detail here about how to meditate. If you’d like to learn, check out the free “how-to-meditate starter pack” below where you can learn how to meditate, absolutely free.
Meditation tip #1 - Manage your expectations
I have often found that people sit to meditate with the intention to “stop thinking.” However, this is not the only goal of meditation, and it’s also virtually impossible, especially as a beginner. It leads to frustration and often complete abandonment of the practice.
Sure, the goal is eventually to quiet the restless mind, but it shouldn’t be the only measure of how we judge our success in meditation.
St. Teresa of Avila once said, “A meditation is well done if all you did was fight distraction.” Every meditation builds upon the next and helps you to become a stronger meditator and a happier, more peaceful person. This includes those meditations where your mind is restless and busy. If you can just focus on the breath and bring the mind back whenever you have noticed that it has wandered off, that is a good start.
Imagine you were learning the guitar. Every time you heard a note out of tune, you told yourself you had failed and gave up. You would get nowhere, right? So try to be patient. It will take time. The important thing is that you keep doing it.
You don’t expect to become Jimi Hendrix after 20 minutes of learning the guitar, so don’t expect to become the Buddha after 20 minutes of meditation. It takes a long time to master.
Allow yourself to be wherever you are and enjoy the practice, bringing the mind back to the breath whenever it wanders off into thought.
“A meditation is well done if all you did was fight distraction.” -St. Teresa of Avila
Meditation tip #2 - Sit correctly
Correct posture in meditation can’t be emphasized enough. It’s so important that we sit with a straight spine so that the body can relax. It can feel a little unnatural at first, but with time it gets easier.
Pull in your lower back, so your spine is straight and relaxed. Notice if you feel a slight slouch in the lower back, and readjust. Bring your shoulder blades together, and open your chest, placing the hands palms-up on the lap. This will help to straighten your spine.
I recommend sitting on a chair or a kneeling bench, especially for beginners. Sitting on a chair is a great way of meditating, and many advanced practitioners use a chair every day. Just make sure it’s a chair with a firm, flat base – not an armchair, for example!
Sitting cross-legged on the ground is generally the hardest position to get right. Avoid this position unless you are a confident and advanced practitioner. Finally, try to be comfortable because you don’t want to sit through pain during your meditation. Nothing will put you off faster than that!
Be comfortable, sit with a straight spine, and get ready to meditate.
Meditation tip #3 - Prepare well
It’s important that we prepare for meditation. If we sit down to meditate and hope for the best without preparing, we’ll find it difficult to go deep or quiet the mind.
There are many practices we can do to prepare the mind and body for sitting in silent meditation:
- Yoga is a great way to internalize the mind and bring the attention inward to the sensations of the body. It also helps to regulate the breathing and prepare the body for sitting meditation. Do three or four simple yoga poses before you sit to meditate. Here is a great 10 minute yoga routine by Roaming Yogi, perfect for meditation.
- A body scan is another excellent way to bring the attention to the inner world. To do this, we focus the mind on each body part and allow the parts of the body to relax. You can learn more about this in the free starter pack below.
- Breathing exercises or diaphragmatic breathing will further help to calm the mind. Start with something simple like regular breathing: inhale through the nose for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and then exhale for four seconds. Repeat a few times before you begin your meditation.
There are many more preparation techniques, but these are some of the most common and powerful exercises.
Meditation tip #4 - Stay Positive
In meditation, it’s easy to get frustrated, bored or self-critical. Unfortunately, these emotional reactions do little to help our practice. Instead, they pull us downwards toward negativity and restlessness.
The more positive and joyful we can be from the start, the more we’ll be able to go deep and enjoy our meditation. Try to smile, feel content, and affirm that whatever comes, you’ll embrace it. Remain positive when the mind wanders, and you’ll find that your meditations become much more enjoyable. That doesn’t mean you should allow your mind to wander – the trick is to bring it back in a kind but firm way.
When a child is misbehaving, we must be firm, so he understands that his actions are unacceptable. Yet we don’t want to shout or belittle him, because this will affect his well-being and his development.
In the same way, we want to be firm but kind to ourselves, and not give in to anger. Anger and frustration have a negative effect on our practice and our spiritual development. Try to stay calm and positive throughout.
You are doing so well for taking this time to sit and try to improve your life with meditation. There is no rush. Be kind to yourself as much as possible, and you’ll find that with perseverance, it becomes easier and more enjoyable.
Meditation tip #5 - Enjoy the stillness
After focusing on the breath, many people get up, leaving no time in the end for stillness. This is the most important stage of meditation, and it is something that many people overlook.
Some say that not leaving time for stillness at the end of your meditation practice is like driving all the way to the coast and then staying in the car. Alternatively, like cooking a wonderful meal and never actually eating it.
It is vital that we enjoy the fruits of our meditation practice. We do this by leaving a few minutes – after we have practiced the techniques – to sit in silence and enjoy the feeling of stillness.
If your mind is still active, you can try to enjoy the brief pauses between the thoughts, or the blank spaces between the mental images. Focus on that gap, that space, and allow it to grow deeper and deeper as you watch.
Meditation tip #6 - Return gently
After you’ve finished meditating, come gently back to the room and stay sitting for a few moments before you get on with the day. Allow your meditation practice to filter into your life. In this way, we bring the stillness with us, and it lasts throughout the day.
If we bounce up and get on with some work we were doing, or if we immediately check our Facebook or email, then we lose some of the peaceful effects of the meditation.
Get up gently and do something that helps you stay connected to the present moment. Making a cup of tea, or washing the dishes, are great ways to stay connected and avoid getting lost in the external world. Focus on the sensations you can feel and the sounds you can hear. Keep the focus on bringing your attention inward, and try not to let it drift outward of its own accord.
Meditation tip #7 - Live well
The more you can live in a mindful, spiritual way throughout your day, the better your meditation practice will be. And the better your meditation, the more you will act from a centre of peace and mindfulness.
Below is a summary of how you can live well based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. These are the dos and don’ts of the spiritual path.
- Keep your body clean and your environment tidy; eat well and take care of your health
- Be grateful and content with what you have
- Be disciplined and do not always give into temptation
- Study yourself to understand what is working and what is not
- Feel the natural love and devotion of the heart
- Avoid violence, killing, and all forms of unkindness
- Avoid lying, cheating, and gossiping
- Avoid stealing or being envious of other people’s lives
- Avoid overindulgence in sensual pleasure; try to control your desires
- Avoid being greedy or coveting the things you own; share what you have and try not to be attached
We shouldn’t see these as spiritual “commandments,” but as guidelines for how to live a happy, spiritual life. Living in this way prevents the mental agitation that can easily disrupt our meditation practice, especially if we live life in a mindless, reactive or uncontrolled way. Work on yourself by improving one thing at a time. See how it helps your meditation practice.
Life and meditation are interwoven. Don’t think that you can sit to meditate and then leave it behind when you rise. See life as the real meditation and live with kindness, control, and calmness. Then when you sit, you’ll find you can quiet the mind with much greater ease.
Meditation tip #8 - Keep good company
In India, the word “Satsang” means keeping good company. It refers to spending time with positive people, spiritual people and “true” people. The people you spend time with have much more of an influence on you than you might know, so this is very important.
When you hang around with kind and positive people, they inspire you and help you to evolve into a better version of yourself. You become more like them. Likewise, if you associate with negative and unkind people, you’ll find you soon get brought down to their level.
Paramhansa Yogananda once said that, “Environment is stronger than willpower.” That was an incredible statement because he spent a lot of time talking about the importance of willpower.
One form of environment is the people you spend your time with. You have heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, you also become the people with whom you spend your time, so be careful whom you share your energy with.
Go to a meditation meet up, or a yoga or exercise class. You are likely to find good company in these environments. Also, get involved here on this website. Make comments, join the upcoming courses and email me if you want to ask about anything.
“Environment is stronger than willpower.” -Paramahansa Yogananda
Meditation tip #9 - Be consistent
If you only take home one point, let it be this one: nothing is more important than consistency. Start with five minutes a day, and try your best to do it every single day.
I find visual aids and charts to be very helpful, so I’ve made a 30-day calendar checklist for you to download. You can grab it as part of the free “how to meditate starter pack” below.
Morning time is the best time to meditate for most people, so I recommend starting with this. If that doesn’t work, you could try the afternoon or evening. Do whatever works best for you and something you can stick with.
There will be days where you don’t feel like meditating for one reason or another. You’re too tired, too busy, too stressed or too unhappy. My advice to you is to meditate anyway. These are the best days to meditate because you teach yourself to stop and become present in difficult times. This builds discipline, routine and it is excellent for happiness, health, and well-being.
Finally, try to be consistent with the type of meditation you practice. If you skip around between teachers and different types of meditation, you will find you get confused and overwhelmed.
Choose a teacher and a practice you connect with and stick with them.
Meditation tip #10 - Develop devotion
Devotion is an important part of meditation and a way of going much deeper into our practice.
A great yogi, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri once said, “We cannot put one foot in front of the other on the spiritual path without the awakening of the natural love of the heart.” He was talking about devotion.
Whatever your belief system, remember that on this journey, it is helpful to feel devotion for something higher than yourself. So now or whenever you are ready, try to feel the natural love of your heart, and bow to whatever higher power you believe in. This will help you to make real progress in your practice and on this path.
If you have no beliefs, that is ok. You can still bow to the world you find yourself in and feel the joy of living in such a wonderful place. However, as you continue to meditate, you may begin to feel the presence of something deeper. Keep your mind and your heart open and embrace new ways of understanding the world.
Every true Guru and spiritual teacher talks about the importance of love. They are not talking about love for any individual, but of Divine love. Ultimately, this takes us deeper and deeper until peace and joy fill our being.
“We cannot put one foot in front of the other on the spiritual path without the awakening of the natural love of the heart.” – Sri Yukteswar Giri
There are so many great tips you can use to improve your meditation practice. These are my personal top 10 meditation tips, but there are many, many more.
Do you guys have any other tips that have helped you with your meditation practice? If so, please share them in the comments below.
If you want to learn how to meditate, download the free meditation starter pack now. It includes a video on how to meditate, an audio guided meditation, a one-page how to meditate PDF and a 30-day calendar checklist.
Also, I have a 4-week beginner meditation course coming out in the New Year if you want to take your practice to the next level.
Good luck with building your meditation practice.