Many, many people seem to stumble around how to start. Where to start? What to do, how? I also see some people who are “waiting for the right time”. Let me just address this quickly, and finally. THIS is the right time. Start where YOU are. Start NOW. Start with what YOU have. The best thing about a personal practice – is that it’s free, and accessible at any time, in any place, by anyone. Marvellous!
Need some more tools? OK – here is a mini starter pack. Firstly, a spiritual path requires practice. It’s not a case of just saying “I’m an empath therefore I am spiritual”. It just isn’t. So firstly, you may want to consider what kind of “practice” will work for you. The foundation of your practice, is “Stillness” – however that works for you. For some, it’s a 30-minute meditation, twice a day. That one takes some cajones to be honest, when just starting out. I don’t know many people who can go from zero, to 2 x 30 minutes a day. If that is too overwhelming for you – then start smaller, and better for you.
There are many forms of meditation or stillness. A great starting point is an app called Headspace.
It’s free. It’s easy. It explains everything. It’s written by an ex Buddhist monk….and few people know meditation, like monks know meditation. It’s a great starting point. 10 minutes a day, for 10 days, for free, is a great way to enter into a new habit and have some guidance along the way.
We are looking for the “space” between your thoughts. Start to observe your thoughts, from a quiet distance. Notice that as they run through your mind, there is a start and end to them. There is a space in between them. That’s where we want to be. In that quiet, calm space. The longer we spend there, the calmer we become. It’s the doorway, the portal, the vortex, into our deepest selves.
Keep coming back to this space. Your mind will wander. Often. That is ok. Every time you notice it wandering, just bring it back to center. This is how we train ourselves into that space. That “space” is what you’re looking for. The blank. The thought void. The stillness.
Focus on your breathing. Note each breath in. Each breath out. This is another great way to focus your time, on the space. You may also try a “mantra”, a word that you use to center yourself when your mind wanders. A common mantra is simply “om”, or even “I am”. Simple. Short. Just a focus point for you.
If you find this a bit too “light”, then by all means, search youtube – there are many, many free meditations to download and use. Or – simply find some background music that works for you and start to sit. Music can be a good starting point – as it is a point to return your focus to, when you mind wanders. Make sure it’s music only, and gentle music. Nothing you’re likely to break into song to. I sit in silence these days, but that is many years of practice later.
Start with 5 minutes a day. Same time each day, same place and posture. Make it a routine. It will grow. You will read that you must sit, you must have a cushion, you may not lay down etc – honestly – whatever works for you is OK. I don’t sit – I find it too uncomfortable. Use your favourite chair, go lay in your hammock, stand in the sun…..You will find that you will go from wanting to do absolutely anything but sit in that space (cleaning under the fridge hasn’t been done for a while, maybe I should do that first…) – to looking forward to that space within you.
Walking meditation is a thing. A really, really good thing. One of my favourites actually, is to walk in nature, to halt all thoughts, to observe without labelling, and to simply slip into that still space while out in the bush. The energy around the tree’s and scrub is truly, to me, a god experience, one of my absolute favourites. I normally have my dog (Bodhi) with me, and it’s a cleansing, bonding experience on that level too. I also use this method on public transport…. trains particularly. To slip into silence and simply be, when amongst a group of people, is a peace that I am grateful for regularly.
Secondly – journaling. Start a journal if you have not already done so. It doesn’t have to be fancy, grammatically correct or a work of literature in any way. It’s by and for you – and only you. Start to notice subtle things, particularly around your mediation. How do you feel before? How do you feel after? Did any images or messages appear or repeat to you during mediation? Do you have any major questions in life right now? Write them down, head into a still space, and ask for the answer to come.
Be on the lookout for inspiration – not everyone gets bright, flashing messages during meditation. I don’t. For some, there is nothing much at all……and then a day or so later, while showering and not thinking much at all – you get a jolt of inspiration. It feels like a great idea, it motivates you……and finding your stillness allows it to come through. Start to notice those things. Notice a “joy response”, as that is a sure sign from your soul that you’re open and on the right track.
Journaling is also great for noting down anything that triggers you, any repetitive thoughts that you would like to break, anything that brings you joy! It’s a great practice to end each journal entry with anything that brought you joy, or anything that you are grateful for, since you last made an entry. We’ll deal with repetitive thoughts in more detail later, however at this point, even noting them is an important part of this process.
This is how and where you start. You start right here, as YOU are, where YOU are, how YOU are. You decided that YOU ARE worth 5 minutes a day, and that YOU ARE open to inviting calm into your life, and you start. If you need to restart several times before the actions “stick” or become habits – that is ok too. Just keep starting. Right here. Right now.