We’ve all been there. You snag a sliver of free time, and two seconds later you’re sucked into your smartphone. Adele covers, throwback fashion shows, listicles: you name it and it’s there in your hand to keep you from taking a quiet moment to be mindful and present. Enter, Meditation Teacher and Transformational Coach Sebene Selassie. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Washington, D.C., she has traveled all over the world helping countless people carve out a bit of time for meditation in today’s go-go-go world. From setting up a regular spot to practice, to actually exploiting the power of your smartphone for good, she has many tools for anyone looking to get into the practice.
As is the case with any new routine, though, it’s important to start small. So today, she’s giving us 10 easy-to-follow tips that will do wonders for mental health. And the lucky bonus is that they’re all done right at home. Click through to hear a bit more from Sebene and to get started. Enjoy! —Garrett
Photography courtesy of Sebene Selassie
Mindfulness meditation has proven benefits for physical health, mood and productivity and generally helps us live with more awareness, ease, and happiness. Many people have heard about the power of meditation, want to meditate and have even given it a try, but maintaining a regular meditation practice at home requires creating space, time and support. Here are a few tips to get you started. —Sebene Selassie
1. Create Space: Designate one place in your home for meditation. You don’t need to invest in special cushions or clear an entire room or even a corner. You can meditate on your bed, on a chair, cross-legged or not, but do choose that one seat, posture, cushion, scarf or object to signify your meditation practice. Making it pretty and peaceful helps signal to the mind and body that this is good for you.
2. Schedule a Regular Time: Try to meditate at roughly the same time at least four to five times a week. Choose a time that works with your daily routine. For most people, first thing in the morning is best. Make sure it’s before you’ve been sucked into any responsibilities: emailing, getting kids up, making breakfast, etc.
3. Start Small: Don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic expectations, like meditating one full hour every day. It’s much more powerful to meditate for 10 minutes, five days a week than for one hour, twice a month. Think of mindfulness meditation as strength training for your brain. A few pushups every day will yield more results than lifting a really heavy dumbbell a single time.
4. Airplane Mode is Your Ally: Yes, most of us use our smartphones to time our meditation period. Use an offline timer if you can, or at least put your gadget on airplane mode. Give yourself this break from connectivity and know that meditation is shown to offset all that overstimulation.
5. Settle Into Your Body: Mindfulness meditation is a balance between being alert (sit upright and pay attention to your experience) and being relaxed (gently release any tension and let go of thoughts). Make sure your back is straight but not rigid, and your chest is open. Relax your arms and hands in your lap or on your knees. You want to be able to maintain a reasonable amount of stillness for the entire period, so make sure nothing feels strained or pinched.
6. Find an Anchor: The breath is a common focus or anchor in mindfulness meditation. It makes a great object for attention because it’s always there. Find somewhere in the body to follow the breath; the belly/diaphragm, the chest/ribcage or the nostrils/nose are three common places. Experiment with what’s easiest and most relaxed, but stick with one place to follow the breath for each meditation period. This is your anchor when thoughts distract you, but…
7. Thoughts are Not the Enemy: Many people think meditation is about stopping thoughts. Good luck with that. The mind thinks. That’s its job. Mindfulness meditation is helping us unhook from our tendency to get caught up in thoughts without any conscious awareness. The first time you meditate, you might notice the instructions are simple but the practice is difficult. You may keep getting lost in thinking about the past or future. The key is to remember that getting caught up in thoughts is normal. Just make note of thinking and return to the breath over and over again.
“Making [the meditation spot in your home] pretty and peaceful helps signal to the mind and body that this is good for you.” – Sebene Selassie
8. Working with Noise Sounds and Pain Sensations: Mindfulness meditation is helping you be less reactive to your life. Life includes unwelcome sounds and unpleasant sensations. Try not to think of these as noise or pain. If the situation is intolerable, change positions or close the window.
9. Mindfulness is About Remembering and Kindness: You will get caught up in thoughts. Even experienced meditators do. The challenge is remembering to practice and remembering to return to the breath and not beating yourself up when you forget. You’re learning something new, so give yourself a break.
10. Use Resources: Guided meditations and community can be especially helpful for new meditators. Here are a few to get you started:
Insight Timer is rated as the top free meditation app in the Android and iOS stores. You can connect to people around the world in groups that meditate together virtually.
10% Happier is an app that teaches the basics of mindfulness meditation.
Tara Brach is a renowned meditation teacher with a large library of free guided meditations on various topics.