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When should you meditate?
Most practitioners aim for meditating twice a day, typically once in the morning and once in the evening, or whenever their schedule allows. But it’s also not something that requires a set schedule. Fit in a session whenever you have the time, just try to do it on a regular basis, since you have to be in the habit of meditating to do it effectively.

How long should you meditate?
It still isn’t known whether there is an optimal amount of time for meditation that produces the best results. Studies have shown benefits from sessions ranging from 5 to 30 minutes. Common practice is around 20 minutes per session 2 times a day. Beginners may start with 5 minutes per session, eventually working up to around half-an-hour per session.

Problems meditating and relaxing
You will probably find it quite difficult in the beginning to relax and stay focused. Left with nothing to do in a quiet room, your mind will naturally revert to its default activity, which probably involves mulling over recent social experiences and other potential sources of stress, often precisely those thoughts you are trying so hard to avoid.

When first starting out, your mind will wander. This is normal, so don’t get discouraged. Don’t scold yourself or tell yourself you failed, which will only further impede your progress. Just gently remind yourself to refocus. Imagine the untrained mind like a toddler who needs loving direction until they attain more maturity. You’re asking your brain to do things it isn’t accustomed to, and just like learning to ride a bike, it takes time to get better at it. You wouldn’t be harsh and judgmental towards a toddler for acting immature, so don’t act this way towards yourself. Also remember: the inability to stay focused is precisely what you’re trying to improve.  The fact that you find is so hard to keep out intrusive thoughts is an illustration of just how much you have to gain by learning to do so.

Additional meditation and relaxation tips
1.    Don’t look for silence and relaxation or you won’t find it. The more you try to force relaxation, the more uptight you’ll become.

2.    As stated by Barry Boyce, “meditation begins and ends in the body. It involves taking the time to pay attention to where we are and what’s going on, and that starts with being aware of our body.”

3.    While some people find it helps to stay on a regular schedule, others may find this burdensome. You don’t want to be telling yourself that if you don’t meditate at a certain time or a regular schedule that you’ll be in a worse state because of it. Figure out whether you’re the schedule type or the meditate-when-you-feel-like-it type, but either way, always look at it as an addition, not a chore to be done that takes away if you fail to accomplish it.

4.    Some people find it helps to use a ringing bell to start and end each session. It can help separate the sessions from your daily life, and a bell on a timer may be convenient at first to keep you from breaking your meditation to glance at the clock. There are now even smartphone apps that can teach you how to meditate, such as the one available from www.getsomeheadspace.com.

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