Meditation is a life-changing skill. But many people are a little freaked out and intimidated to begin a meditation practice because they think they “need” to do it a certain way to be “good” at it. There are tons of meditation tutorials and videos on the Internet that you can learn from, so here are my “UN-Rules for Meditation” so that you can let yourself off the perfection hook right from the beginning of your new practice!
1) You don’t need to be in a “perfect” physical position.
You don’t need to sit cross-legged on a round cushion, back stick-straight, thumbs and forefingers touching. If you are comfy that way, great! If not, no worries. You can sit any way you want. Yup. You can sit on your feet, sit with your feet stretched out in front of you, sit in a chair with your feet on the ground, or sit on the floor with your back against the wall. The purpose of meditation is to bring yourself to focus on the present moment, and if you begin uncomfortable, you’ll only get more uncomfortable and distracted as the minutes go by. Start comfortable, and if you get uncomfortable halfway through your meditation, mindfully shift position (or if you get an itch, mindfully scratch it). You are not breaking any meditation laws by moving. You can keep your hands in your lap, on your knees palm up (to receive energy) or palm down (to feel grounded), or in a mudra (hand gesture, like prayer position) if it is appropriate to the meditation you are doing. I do recommend keeping a straight spine, but for the practical reason of staying alert and awake. Slumping can make you a little sleepy.
A word about lying down: If you are doing a meditation for insomnia with the hope of nodding off, then lying down is ideal. Otherwise, I recommend you stay sitting up so you can stay alert and focused throughout the meditation. The exception, of course, is if you experience a lot of physical discomfort sitting up, and lying down is the only way you can stay comfortable.
2) You don’t need to “clear your mind”.
Your brain is designed to THINK. Clearing your mind is pretty much impossible, so if this idea is keeping you from meditating, you can stop worrying! As you’re meditating, you will find that your brain will constantly try to take your attention by offering up thought after thought. Don’t let this bother you; instead, be thankful that your mind is working for you! As each thought arises, notice the thought, thank your mind for bringing the thought up, and let it go for later. You can keep doing this over and over.
Now, your mind is tricky. So the first few times you meditate, it will bring up silly little thoughts, like, “It’s hot in here” and “Don’t forget to pick up almond milk in the morning.” But once your learn how to thank the thoughts and let them go, then your mind really tries to mess with you by bringing up your real, serious, deep-down issues, like, “Why did my mother say that to me yesterday?” or “My boss never thinks I’m good enough” or “I hate myself for doing that thing.” Remember: This is progress. This is not getting in the way of meditating; rather, this is why you meditate. This is your brain saying to you: “Hey, these are your issues. We need to work on this.” Thank your mind, let the thoughts go, finish the meditation, and when the meditation is over, go call your therapist or write in your journal or do whatever you have to do to address these issues so you can feel healthy! This means meditation is working for you.
3) You don’t need to change or adjust your spiritual beliefs.
Some meditations use language or mantras you might not be familiar with or even very comfortable with, like angels of God or spirit, etc. Don’t get hung up on the language — instead just translate it into whatever you are comfortable with. “God” for you could be God, Jesus, Allah, Ganesh, Buddha, Creator Consciousness, Great Spirit, or even your own inner guide or conscience. Yoga and meditation students are a pretty open-minded group in general so if you just shift the language in your mind to language that feels right for you, everyone can benefit from the same meditations.
4) Get grounded when you are finished meditating.
You always want to get grounded after spending time in your head space. You can do this by stomping your feet, shaking your hands over your head, eating something, or drinking a warm beverage. Yup, you read that right: Reward yourself after meditation with a cookie! Isn’t meditation fun?