Meditation Guide

Meditation Made Easy

What the pros know

Studies have shown that meditating can increase immunity, defuse negative emotions, lower blood pressure and reduce the effects of stress. And unlike prescription drugs, it's free and has no unpleasant side effects. But with so much information out there, how does one know where and how to begin to meditate? iVillage went to expert Joan Borysenko, PhD, a meditation practitioner for nearly 40 years and author of 11 books on the intersection of medicine, spirituality and healing, including Inner Peace for Busy Women, to get the bottom line on beginning a meditation routine.

When to Meditate
According to Dr. Borysenko, we need to meditate at least 10 minutes a day to begin reaping the benefits. Ten minutes may sound easy enough, but in our multitasking culture, carving out that time can be downright hard. Finding time is the number one obstacle to developing a regular practice. Her solution? Keep it simple. "Ask yourself, What is the minimum I can commit to that will sustain me?" Dr. Borysenko says. "Even if your default practice is five minutes, it will get you sitting. Once you're there, you will enjoy it and you'll take five more minutes."

Dr. Borysenko recommends meditating as soon as you wake up. "Set the alarm, bypass the coffeemaker and head straight for your practice," she explains. "Once you turn the coffeepot on, then you turn on the news and the next thing you know, you are absorbed in other things."

How to Begin Meditating
Once you're out of bed, head for a straight-backed chair. "The most common physical problem people face is their body is not experienced in relaxing without falling asleep," Dr. Borysenko explains. Sitting on the edge of a hard chair with your spine a few inches away from the back of the chair is a good way to keep sleepiness at bay.

To begin meditating, let your eyes close. Focus your attention on the sound of your own breathing ‑- the easiest form of meditation a new student can do, according to Dr. Borysenko. Let your belly expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale, allowing the breath deeper into your lungs and encouraging the physiological effects of relaxation. Anytime your mind begins to wander ‑- and it will, so don't be hard on yourself when you realize it has happened again ‑- gently bring it back to the sound of your breath.

Bottom Line
Just this action of focusing on your breath for 10 minutes a day is enough. "Most people make meditating overcomplicated," Dr. Borysenko says. "They think they should get up at 4:30, do a half hour of yoga, a half hour of meditation and some inspirational reading. When it becomes too exhausting, they revert to doing nothing." By learning how to maintain a simple meditation practice, we can begin to figure out how to make our busy lives less complicated as well.

by Kate Hanley

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