Here I am at the end of a meditation practice.
You can see that I am seated on the purple cusion. I have mala beads, a candle, and tingsha bells. These are 4 tools I use regularly in my practice. I always sit on the same cushion, light a candle and begin and end my practice with the invitation of the bell.
I use the mala beads to count breaths; sometimes I chant or say a word that has special significance to me, once for each bead.
Having these regular components to one's practice helps to form a habit.
A good habit, one that helps me remain firmly grounded in the present moment, not seeking to escape it.
What are the elements that speak to you?
What would you like to be the parts of your practice that are always the same? Choosing a couple of things like this will help immediately anchor you in the present moment and will form the container for your practice.
Remember the orientation we need to have for meditation: no expectations, simply Be, be the watcher of your mind, emotions and sensations. You can begin by doing a check in like we always do at the beginning of class. I learned this from Bo Forbes. This has five parts.
1) First we check in with our breath. Just the invitation to notice your breath slows it down. This is called the Hawthorne Effect. Take several breaths here.
2) Second, notice your surrounding environment: sounds, temperature, light and shadow, color and shape, fragrance in the air. Take several breaths here.
3) Third, you bring your attention inside and notice what is happening inside your body. What is your energy level? How are you feeling? To what degree are you present in your body? Note if there is pain or tension present. Take several breaths here. Watch for likes and dislikes or judgments in case they arise. If they do, acknowledge them and return to your breath.
4) Fourth, notice what is happening in your mind. Are there many thoughts racing or just a few slowly passing through? If you become hooked by a thought, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Take several breaths as you watch the activity in your mind. Know that you are not your thoughts.
5) Fifth, notice if there is a particular mood or emotional tone present for you. Be careful not to get caught in a story about anything. There is no need to justify or explain your mood, only notice it and the direct sensations associated with your mood in your body.
Once you have done a check in, you can settle down for any further practice, or your meditation could be complete. I recommend starting out with 5 minutes twice per day, once in the morning upon waking, and once in the evening before bedtime. It is not the duration of practice that is important but frequency.
It is important to practice when your life is going well so that when challenges arise, you are already firmly established in your practice.
Remember, we are forming the habit of checking in and connecting to that in us which is eternal, unchanging, whole, complete and always at peace.
Or you might read your pet a story. This is my mom reading a Sherlock Holmes story to Lily. Lily loves mysteries.
Investing time with a pet is a wonderful way to be present. Be fully there as you pet your dog or cat. Their presence will enhance your own.
Namaste! My very best wishes to you!