Learning how to meditate isn’t difficult but actually meditating can be a challenge.
You can meditate in a variety of ways. In this guide, we’ll give you the tools to practice a seated meditation as well as a running meditation.
Regardless of the type of meditation you do, though, the most important thing to remember is the principle of non-judgment. One of the primary objectives of meditation is to be able to observe everything that happens without giving it any kind of value – positive or negative.
In other words, be patient with yourself and take it slow. Like any new skill, it will seem difficult at first. But then one day it suddenly won’t and you’ll be so glad that you persevered.
How to meditate (seated)
- Sit comfortably and try to have a straight back (not slouched against a chair or wall). This clears your breathing passage so you can relax as much as possible. Sitting straight up is challenging for most people in the beginning so do the best you can. And remember: no judgement.
- Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Notice what your body feels like right now. It can be helpful to focus on feeling the weight of your body on the floor or the chair, the feeling of your feet on the floor, or your hands in your lap. Don’t think too much about what this feels like – just notice it and sit with that feeling.
- Notice the sounds around you. You don’t need to actively listen to anything, just take note of whatever you hear.
- Notice where in your body you feel your breath going in and out most clearly. In the tip of your nose? The in and out of the chest or stomach? Try to follow your breath entirely – from the beginning of the inhalation to the end of the exhalation. Then the next one. And so on.
- Every time you notice your mind drifting (and it will – A LOT) just come back to any of the three points above: how your body feels, the sounds around you, or the sensation of your breath entering and leaving the body. Remember, you can begin again at any moment. This is the essence of mediation. The entire practice consists of failing and starting again.
- In the first few weeks, it can be helpful to listen to high-quality guided meditations. Two of my favorite (and free) sources are the meditations of Tara Brach and Sam Harris.
How to meditate (running)
Combining meditation with running can make it easier for you to reap the benefits of – and stick with – meditation. But if you’ve never tried meditation before then I recommend starting with at least 3 to 5 minutes a day of seated meditation for about two weeks before mixing it with your running. This will train you to keep a calm, steady focus in a changing environment (yes, sitting still is a changing environment!).
- Go for a run without music. If you’ve never done this before, take your headphones with you but don’t turn on the music for as long as you can – aim for at least 10 minutes.
- As you’re running, scan your body and notice how every part of it feels. It can be helpful to name the feelings in your mind. Do you feel tense? Hot or cold? Relaxed? How do your legs feel? What about your arms?
- Notice how you are breathing. Is your breath fast or slow? Deep or shallow? You might be surprised at how poorly you’re actually breathing (I was)!
- Notice when the endorphins start to kick in. How do you feel now? Really try to acknowledge any changes as they happen in your body.
- Notice thoughts as they come into your head and as they leave again. If you have trouble with this, try thinking to yourself, “I wonder what my next thought will be.” Then just observe what happens.
- Notice your environment. Is there a breeze? How does the path feel under your feet? How does the air smell? What do you see? Try to recognize what stands out to you most at this exact moment. What is drawing the most of your attention?
- It can also be fun to reverse this question and actively seek out items that fit a certain theme. For example, challenge yourself to notice everything that’s yellow on your run.
- Whenever you find yourself lost in thought, getting frustrated, or bored – just return to noticing your breath, your surroundings, the breeze, or the feelings in your body.
- Alternatively, try a seated meditation shortly after coming home from your run. You will likely experience a much clearer head and a faster relaxation than usual.
Wondering what’s the point of all this? Check out our article on how meditation enhances your running (and vice versa).
Written by Varia Makagonova.