Whenever I have a new client one of the questions I inevitably ask is if they meditate. 99% of the time there is a pause, a bit of a wince and then they apologetically say, "I try to, but it's hard."
Meditation can be tough for people to begin as a practice. I think many people are intimidated by the thought that they aren't doing it correctly, while others just can't stop for five minutes due to all of life's distractions. I get both groups because I've been both (and still find myself falling into the latter category).
No one should be too tough on themselves about struggling to meditate. The intention is there and that is a great first step. The best way to keep your practice going is by having patience with yourself. Your thoughts may lack focus when you first start meditating, but don't let this discourage you. Give yourself time to adjust to the idea of settling down your whirling thoughts and getting in touch with yourself.
So, how to take the first steps to create a meditation practice? Here are a few tips that I like to use for myself and recommend to clients:
How to meditate correctly (hint: stop trying so hard):
Find a spot that works for you - someplace comfortable and quiet or at least comfortable and quiet once you put earplugs in.
Figure out the time that works best with your schedule. I prefer mornings or before a client but some people may want a mental break during lunch and many prefer meditating at bedtime to unwind their mind in preparation of a good night's sleep.
Don't shoot for the moon, just do it. Sit in silence with your eyes closed for one minute. Focus on your breathing and nothing else.
Try box (or square) breathing - inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. Do this four times. Notice how your physical, mental and emotional state have shifted. That's it. A perfect start to meditation.
Begin with one day and build to three times a week and maybe then five days a week.
Don't get down on yourself if you skip some days. It's ok - just start fresh tomorrow (or next week - just keep going).
How to focus your mind away from distractions (hint: stop trying so hard):
A wonderful starting point is to do a body scan. Some people like to start at the feet and work their way up to the crown of the head, but I actually prefer the opposite. As I work my way down my body, the tension is draining away further, further down.
Thoughts will arise and that's ok. Observe them without judgment and allow them to drift away like clouds in the sky.
Accepting your thoughts and awareness of the world around you is absolutely a part of the process.
Observe how you feel before you start meditating. Then observe the difference after. No judgment, no goals.
Be kind to yourself. Who cares if you aren't doing it perfectly (whatever that means, anyway)? You are sitting or laying down with intention and how beautiful is it that you made that space for yourself? When your inner monologue kicks in, speak to yourself with the same love that you would to your best friend.
To reiterate - you are not doing it wrong. Keep going.
My friend, stop trying so hard. Make space for yourself, breathe and keep going.