Post updated 1/22/20
Starting a New Meditation Practice
The new year is a great time to start or restart a meditation practice. Starting anything new can sometimes feel daunting so we’ve put together a few very basic guidelines for starting a new meditation practice. I had a chat with Koshin Christopher Cain, one of the owners of Still Sitting, to get his suggestions for starting a new meditation practice. We covered the what, where and when of getting started. Hopefully these tips will be helpful in getting your buns on that zafu in the new year and beyond.
What: Meditation Cushions and Supplies
Very little is actually needed to start meditating. Of course, we are partial to our comfy cushion sets, but a zafu or firm cushion can be enough. This is especially true if you will be sitting on a carpeted surface. On hardwood floors or hard surfaces, a zabuton or cushioning mat underneath would also be helpful.
We find a timer to be a must. Your phone will work well for this. Make sure to set the alarm sound to something that is not too jarring.
Incense or candles, while not necessary, can help set a sense of intention around your meditation practice. Lighting incense or a candle can be a nice ritual to accompany your experience. The incense scent will linger in your meditation spot and this can be a pleasant reminder of your practice.
Once you get started you may find that you would like to try certain types of cushions, benches, or other meditation aids, but nothing else is needed to begin. However, you do need a quiet place to sit, which brings us to your meditation space. (For more on creating a meditation space, go here.)
Where: Your Meditation Space
Look around your home and find a spot on the floor that feels like a good place to sit. It should be relatively uncluttered, so you can conveniently plop your cushions down and quickly get started. You do not need a dedicated space that is only for meditation. Most of us, when we are starting a new meditation practice, will improvise with the space we have. This could be a cozy corner of your living room or a nice spot in your bedroom. We have a friend who meditated in her bathroom because it was the quietest and warmest room in the house. Her zafu and zabuton were kept in a nearby cabinet, at the ready.
Of course, if you have the room for a dedicated meditation space, this is an ideal situation. But for the beginner, it’s definitely not required.
When: For How Long and What Time of Day to Meditate
Koshin recommends starting out small, but regularly, with a new meditation practice. “Even 5 minutes a day is better than 20 minutes once in a while,” he says. If you only have time to sit two times a week, let that be your practice to start with. Determine a time and begin. There are benefits to meditation even when practicing only once or twice a week.
There is no one time of day that is best for everyone. However, once you determine your time, sitting at the same time each session is a good habit to get into. This makes it harder to put off for later or to skip altogether.
A Few More Tips
A Sangha or Group
“For me, one of the most important things is someone else to sit with, a group, or a sangha. To keep it going, keep it fresh, to find a support group, essentially,” according to Koshin. Finding a community or even a few pals to sit with can be a huge support to your solo meditation practice.
Keep a Meditation Journal
Keeping a meditation journal can be a great way to stay intentional with your practice and record your reflections about your experience over time. A journal can help you stay grounded and mindful along the way.
Don’t forget, meditation is called a practice for a reason. You will be practicing meditation. It is not easy, but thinking about it as something to practice can sometimes help.
And let us know how it’s going here in the comments. We love hearing from you. Happy New Year and Happy Sitting!