5 Tips for Navigating Those Tough First Minutes of Your Meditation Session

David Gerken
Nov 13 · 3 min read
Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

The first few minutes of any meditation session are usually the most challenging. Why? Because when we first sit down to meditate our out-of-control noggins are usually racing faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona Speedway. Here are five tips to get you through the first minutes of your meditation session.

Tip #1: Do Nothing For the First 15–30 Seconds

So you’re sitting in your chair or on your mat and you’ve just closed your eyes. What’s the first thing you should do? Nothing. Yes, you read that right. By ‘do nothing’, I mean that right after closing your eyes I don’t want you to place your attention on anything. Let your thoughts go. Let your body go. Let everything just be exactly as it is. Let it all hang out.

Why do I suggest this? Because I find the simple act of closing my eyes and sitting in silence to be a bit jarring. So to ease into any session it helps to just sit there with your eyes closed for several seconds and do absolutely nothing. The only thing you’re “doing” is getting used to sitting with your eyes closed.

After roughly ten to twenty seconds of this, gently transition into trying one or more of the following four tips, whichever most resonates with you.

Tip #2: Say “Slow Down” to Yourself

On an inhale say the word “slow.” On the exhale say “down.” It’s amazing what that can do. Try doing it five times. Much of meditation is about “slowing down” your mind so that you can place attention on what’s happening in the present moment.

Tip #3: “Not Trying To Get Anywhere”

This one I learned from an excellent meditation teacher named Peter Russell. He advises saying to yourself something along the lines of, “You’re not trying to get to some special spiritual place. You’re not trying to achieve anything. You’re just sitting here, fully accepting anything and everything that’s happening in the present moment.” This works great when my do, do, do gear is revved up and I’m trying to get somewhere awesome and other-worldly in my session. When I say Peter’s words in my head, it helps me get to the place where meditation resides — simply being.

Tip #4: Place Attention on the physical sensations of the present moment

What physical sensations? Feel your feet pressing against the floor. Feel your buttocks and upper thighs pressing against your chair. Also, acknowledge any tightness or aches or pains you’re feeling. Why is this helpful? Because all of these sensations are happening in the now. Placing your attention on those sensations will facilitate bringing you into the now.

Tip #5: Four Count Breathing

This is a simple breathing practice that is incredibly effective at calming the mind and body. All you do is inhale for a count of four, then hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Try repeating this four times. This one is a no-brainer that works for just about everybody in getting the mind and body to relax and slow down.

After you’ve put some of these tips to use your mind should calm down enough that you can move on to following your breathing or whatever you have chosen to place attention on.

Finally, if you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-follow meditation program, I created one that is designed to get people into regular practice in the easiest way possible. The program is eight-weeks long and starts off with meditating for two minutes a day then building gradually from there. It’s free and can be found at davidgerken.net.

I also recommend the meditation books and recordings of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Peter Russell, and Jack Kornfield.

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David Gerken

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Former Washington, DC political aide and Writer for THE WEST WING. Currently devoted to spreading meditation to the masses. Follow me at davidgerken.net.

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