Q: Why meditate?
A: What appeals to you?
- Concentration / Productivity
- Relaxation / Stress reduction
Q: How should I meditate?
A: Observing the breath is a good start. Look for “Meditation basics” in my previous article.
Where you go after that, depends on your why. Try both guided and unguided meditation. Pick a method that makes sense and you enjoy doing. Otherwise it won’t stick long. For a bunch of high quality free resources, look for “The best things in life are free” in my previous article.
Q: Do I need a formal meditation practice? Isn’t it enough to be mindful or focused during daily activities?
A: I strongly recommend informal meditation during daily life. I also strongly recommend a formal daily session, because :
- It’s a more reliable habit.
- You make it clear to yourself that meditation is a priority.
- There is far less distraction.
- It can be a big contrast with informal meditation, which is insightful.
- Even if your formal session is only 2 minutes, it’s a good foundation to build upon.
Combine formal and informal meditation. Give it time. It won’t disappoint you.
Q: When is the best time to meditate?
A: Whenever there is little or no distraction.
The usual recommendations are to meditate first thing in the morning (good start to the day), not to do it after lunch (the brain gets less blood supply), to pick the same time and place every day (habit formation 101) … That’s all great advice, but only if it works for you.
Because of my particular job and family life, every day looks different. Some days I work at our home office, other days I work in Bruges. Some days my wife takes the kids to school, other days I do … I have tried getting up even earlier than I already do, but that habit didn’t stick too well.
Arriving home is the most reliable trigger for me. I meditate right after. For you it might be an entirely different trigger.
Q: Where should I meditate?
A: Wherever there is little or no distraction.
Our home office is my sanctuary, but I also meditate in the bedroom, on the train, in the garden, in a field, on the bank of a river …
Q: For how long should I meditate?
A: However long you feel like. The only bad meditation is the one you didn’t do.
There’s also much to be said for increasing your formal meditation time. But do it gradually. Over the years I went from 10 to 30 to 60 minutes a day. Relaxation has deepened. I have learned a great deal about mind and body. My perspective on life has dramatically changed … Just try it for yourself and let me know how it goes.
Q: Should I close my eyes?
A: Do what helps you focus.
If you get too sleepy with eyes shut, leave them open or half closed. If you get too distracted with eyes open, close them. This need can change in the course of longer sits.
I used to be unable to meditate with eyes closed. I would drift off to La La Land right away. This slowly improved and nowadays it’s no longer a problem.
Q: How should I sit to meditate?
A: Check this Posture Pedia by Stephanie Nash.
Q: What if I lose motivation? What if I don’t find the time anymore?
A: Go back to basics. Pick a new trigger. Sit for shorter times again. Choose a different technique.
Q: Why does my favorite technique no longer work?
A: No worries!
Maybe you used to get very peaceful and focussed during meditation, but now you seem to have lost this skill?
Something might have changed in your life that brings new challenges, with a busy mind as a result. Nothing personal. This too shall pass.
Maybe relaxation is no longer the main reason to meditate and it’s time for insight practice, self-inquiry or contemplation?
You simply lost interest in the technique? Or it has run its course? That’s okay, but don’t just hop from one method to another. Stick to one at a time for at least a month.
Q: I have many doubts.
A: That’s great! Stay curious. Trust yourself. Go with the flow.