How to Start Meditating

Hiya Wise One,

At the start of the New Year I asked my husband, Brian if he would like to try meditating with me. Usually this request gets a huge eyeroll, followed by a casual “maybe” which means “nope”. But after we created the Self-Care for Busy People meditation album together he found a new love for this regenerative practice. Rather than listening to my voice though, (he gets to hear it whether he likes it or not LOL!) I suggested we try using the Headspace app together.

The results of meditating regularly are measurable and truly life-enhancing and today I have a powerful two-fer for ya! A free meditation from my album and an incredible interview with Andy Puddicombe, the founder of Headspace. This practice has benefited me deeply for over a decade and I know it can improve your mental and physical well-being too (if it hasn’t already!).

So let’s jump right in with Andy and get the 411 on meditation.

In his early twenties, Andy Puddicombe decided to leave college and become a Buddhist monk. And for more than ten years, his meditation training and adventures took him all over the world. In 2004, Andy returned to the UK without his monk’s robes. He had one simple aim: to demystify meditation and make it accessible, relevant and beneficial to the masses. Andy did just that (Bravo!). With that epic goal in mind, Headspace was born in 2010. I’m so happy to be interviewing Andy for you all today, I think you’ll adore this guy as much as I do.

Kris: Welcome Andy! Let’s cover the basics for those who are new to this practice. What is meditation and why should we do it?

Andy: Meditation itself is about letting go of any need to try and get somewhere or achieve something. So if we are approaching it in the right way, there is no pressure whatsoever. In fact, it may be the very first thing we have ever done in our entire life where there is no goal or result intended.

In essence though, meditation provides a framework in which we are able to step back from habitual thinking and emotions, so that we can witness them with clarity and perspective. When we learn to do this, the mind begins to calm down, as does the body. In turn we experience more quiet and a greater sense of ease in every area of life. It is a remarkable shift in perspective, which really needs to be experienced, rather than explained. The Headspace Take10 program is a good place to start, as it’s just 10 minutes a day and the app is free to download too.

Kris: My husband Brian and I love the Headspace app and use it all the time. So how long should we sit for and what if we don’t like sitting? Are there other ways?

Andy: It’s best to approach meditation like anything else in life: start small, build up slowly and find your own personal sweet spot. For some people, this sweet spot is 10 minutes and for others it’s 60 minutes. To begin with, the most important thing is finding a time length which feels achievable and keeps us feeling motivated. Recent findings suggest that frequency rather than duration is more beneficial. So 10 minutes every day of the week is likely to be more constructive than 70 minutes on one day of the week.

For those people who hate sitting still or are always on the go, walking meditations are a great way to introduce mindfulness into your routine and have been practiced as a meditative technique for thousands of years. In everyday life, walking is usually an established and habituated action that requires very little concentration. The additional benefits from walking meditations include the process of connecting with nature which can help lift your mood and reduce feelings of stress and tension!

Kris: How will our lives change or shift if we commit to a regular practice?

Andy: 10 minutes a day over a sustained period can have a huge impact. It can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, enhance productivity at work, improve your physical performance in sports and even help to soften the edges in relationships as we become more patient, better listeners, and perhaps a little kinder too.

I think it gives everybody something different but generally speaking, it provides a greater sense of calm, clarity and perspective. Of course it can be used in many different ways, and these days you’re just as likely to find an Olympic athlete using it to improve their performance as you are global organisations using it to improve employee well-being. But perhaps the most important thing of all is that it allows us to connect with those around us, in a way that enriches our lives.

Kris: It can be challenging to create and stick to a new habit, even when it’s healthy for us. Do you have any tips for maintaining a regular practice?

Andy: Just think: same time, same place. Don’t judge yourself. If you miss a session, don’t use that as an excuse to miss another.

Andy Puddicombe meditation expert

Kris: What benefits have you personally experienced from your meditation practice?

Andy: I think it has changed my perspective on the world around me, and the way I understand the mind. The biggest thing I got from it was the focus on being kind—it’s not something that’s often talked about in relation to meditation, and sounds almost clichéd, but as long as we have conflict in our own minds, and as long as we have conflict with others, we will never have peace of mind. It sounds obvious, but it wasn’t something I had ever considered, before going into the monastery.

I take some time each day to look after the health of my mind, to meditate; I have a greater appreciation for this precious human life and remember to be grateful daily; I spend more time thinking about the happiness of others and less time thinking about myself. Ironically, this makes me happy too!

Kris: How can someone who has never meditated start today?

Andy: In terms of learning to meditate the Headspace app is a great way to familiarize oneself with the process of meditation. You could also follow these easy steps:

1. Get settled: Find a quiet place where you can relax.

2. Breathe deeply: Take five deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, on the last exhalation, close your eyes.

3. Check in: Settle into your body taking note of your posture and how your body feels.

4. Scan your body: Turn your mind inwards and take note of your body from head to toe, acknowledging any tension or discomfort and then scan again noticing parts of your body that start to relax. Then turn your body to your thoughts, notice what comes up without trying to alter them.

5. Bring your attention to your breathing: Count each breath, one (in), two (out), three (in) and so on. If you notice your mind wandering just gently bring your mind back to the counting.

6. Allow your mind to be free.

Kris: Thanks, Andy!

I want to reinforce that meditation is a wellness practice you can start immediately. And if you miss a day (or a few weeks) try not to beat yourself up about it—just pick back up where you left off. It takes very little time to begin experiencing the benefits of meditation, so why not dive right in? I love Andy’s free Take10 Headspace program and I hope you’ll enjoy the gift of this free track from my Self-Care for Busy People meditation album (access it here).

Your turn: What does your meditation practice look like? (Don’t worry if it’s not consistent). Or what questions do you have about meditation? I wanna hear it all!

Peace & deep breaths,

Kris Carr

P.S. Make meditation a priority in your daily life!

Check out my Self-Care for Busy People meditation album by listening to the Pep Talk meditation for free (I promise it’ll lift your spirits!). Each track on the album is under 15 minutes, making it easy to fit a mindfulness practice into your busy, beautiful life.