Starting and Maintaining your own Practice

All you need to begin a meditation practice is a quiet place to sit and some time to watch your breath. Start with 5-10 minutes and add time as you feel ready.

Gratitude meditation:

Take a piece of paper and a writing utensil and list 5 people/things that you are grateful for. You do not have to write down the why (although you could), but spend some time thinking about the reason you chose those 5 people/things and what they add to your life.

The most important thing is to start this practice and try and do it every day. If you think you could benefit from the insight of teachers as well as a peer community of learners please see more information about our class.

Breathing meditation:

Find a quiet place where you can sit upright; this might be on a chair or a pillow on the floor. Gently close your eyes if that feels comfortable, or if you’d prefer to keep your eyes open find a spot to gaze at. Begin with two deep breaths as you settle into the space around you, in through the nose, and out through the mouth. After that, settle into the natural rhythm of your breath. Find where the breath is most noticeable for you – that may be at the nostrils, at the chest, or in the belly. Find the breath at the nostrils – maybe you feel coolness or warmth. Focus on those sensations for a few breaths. You can stick with that, or focus on the rising and falling at your chest or belly. As your chest or belly rises, you can mentally note “rising”, and as it falls you can mentally note “falling”. Continue to focus your attention on these sensations, using the mental noting if it is helpful. When your mind wanders, as it inevitably will, gently bring your attention back to the sensations in your body or the mental noting, without judgment. When you’re finished, you can slowly open your eyes and come back to the room around you. 

Meditation on the senses:

This meditation is a great activity to do anywhere, and can be done with your eyes opened or closed to bring your attention to what is happening in the here and now. Begin by taking a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, to settle into the space. In this meditation you will be engaging your five senses, focusing on each sense, and counting down from five. To start, look around and find five things that engage your sight and make a mental note of them (ex: the tree, the bench, the yellow flowers, the building, the sidewalk). At this point you can close your eyes, then make a note of four things that you hear (ex: the traffic, people talking, the birds chirping, the sound of footsteps). Next, pay attention to three things that you are touching (ex: your feet on the floor, your arms against your sides, your hands in your lap). Then note two things that you smell (ex: the freshly cut grass, someone’s perfume in the air). Finally, note one thing that you can taste (ex: toothpaste). To end, take two deep breaths, and return to your previous activity.

Maintaining your practice:

Life can be busy, but maintaining a practice can be simple! Some strategies are:

  • Finding a schedule that works for you and sticking to it. For example, you can sit right when you wake up or right before you fall asleep. Building it into your schedule will make it a consistent habit.
  • You can also attach your practice to another activity that you do regularly. For example, right before you shower or right after you brush your teeth.
  • If you’re able, create a space in your room or a designated location where you can go to meditate. This may look like setting up a cushion on the floor, pulling your desk chair over to a designated corner, or sitting on the same bench outside of your dorm each day.
  • Don’t let time be an excuse. If you only have five minutes, then that’s what the practice can look like for that day! Even a little bit a day makes a big difference.
  • At the same time, cut yourself some slack. If you go a few days without meditating, don’t worry – each day is an invitation to start again.
  • Find an accountability buddy – someone you can reach out to check in with and who can check in with you to see that you are prioritizing your practice.
  • If helpful, find a group that resonates with you and try sitting with them. It is often helpful to meditate with a group so you can share experiences (good and bad) and get motivation from a like-minded community.
  • Avoid judging your practice as “good” or “bad” – it’s just about maintaining a practice. Often once you maintain a practice you will see benefits for yourself, which will, in turn, make you want to practice more.
  • Mindfulness in everyday life

Mindfulness does not need to look like sitting in lotus position for hours on end. It can simply be added to activities you are already doing in your daily life. For example:

  • When you brush your teeth, focus solely on that activity. Start with mindfully putting the toothpaste on the brush, moving the brush slowly and methodically, and focusing on the sensations you feel in your mouth.
  • Try walking between classes without headphones in an unhurried pace. Feel the sensation of your feet on the ground, listen to the sounds around you, and feel the wind on your face.
  • Try eating one meal (or more!) a week in a mindful way. Eat at a slow, unhurried pace, and do your best to chew your food many times before swallowing. Take note of the texture or consistency of the food, and the warmth or coolness in your mouth.
  • While you’re doing chores, focus solely on that task at hand. For example, if you are washing dishes feel the sponge as it makes contact with your hand, or your feet planted firmly on the ground near the sink.
  • Try listening to a friend or family member in a mindful way. That means really paying attention to what they are saying. A good tip is to let them speak and then think about your response, rather than formulating your response while they are speaking because you may miss what they were saying. And if you do miss what they are saying, be honest – “Sorry I wasn’t paying attention very well. Would you mind repeating what you said?”
  • Do one activity at a time. Rather than jumping between texts, to emails, to homework, focus on doing that one activity with your full attention and engagement, then move on to the next.