How to Start a Focused Meditation Practice

woman meditating at home on bed

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Focused meditation can be a useful tool for people who want to try using meditation for stress relief. This meditation style allows you to focus your attention on an object, sound, or sensation rather than trying to achieve a clear mind without a specific focal point.

Focused meditation is also feasible without an instructor or teacher, which makes it accessible to anyone with a few minutes of time, something to focus on, and a quiet place.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Focused meditation involves focusing on something intently as a way of staying in the present moment and slowing down the inner dialogue. Unlike classic meditation — where you focus on nothing to quiet your mind — with focused meditation, you still remain in the present, but focus wholly on one thing, typically sensory stimulus like sounds, visual items, tactile sensations, tastes, smells, and even your own breathing — much like mindfulness meditation techniques.

5 Steps to Focused Meditation

Starting your practice involves just a few steps that will come more and more easily with time. Begin with five-minute sessions and work your way up to longer periods of time as you become more comfortable with the exercise. You'll need to find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted. These short sessions of focused meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time, whether you are in the comfort of your own home or in an office at work. The key is to practice your focused meditation in an environment that is calm.

  1. Choose a target for your focus. Focusing on your breath is a good choice since it is usually the entry point to any meditation practice.
  2. Get into a comfortable position. Sit upright. If you are sitting on a chair, sit right on the edge of it, relaxing into your pelvic bones with your feet on the floor. If you are sitting on the ground, preferably propped yourself up with a cushion or block so that your thighs are relaxed and your spine remains tall. Relax your body. Loosen your shoulders and breathe from your belly. You can cross your legs but you don't have to if you're more comfortable in another position, just as long as you can fully relax without falling asleep.
  3. Turn your attention to your chosen target. Zero in on the sensations including the sound, smell, sight, and details of your focal point. The idea isn't to think about it but simply to experience it, being fully present in the moment. If you are focusing on your breath, for example, pay attention to the sensations you experience as you inhale and exhale each breath.
  4. Calm your inner voice. If your internal monologue starts to analyze your target or begins to rehash stressful situations of the day, worry about the future, make a list for grocery shopping, or anything else, gently turn your attention back to your chosen target and the sensation it provides. You may be focusing on something, but the goal is to maintain a quiet mind.
  5. Don't worry about failure. If you find your mind engaging you and realize that you’re not being fully present with the sensations of your chosen target, don’t let your inner perfectionist beat you up for doing it "wrong." Simply congratulate yourself for noticing and return back to the present moment and the sensations you're experiencing.

Tips for Focused Meditation

Though you can start practicing focused meditation in just five steps, that doesn't mean each session will be easy, particularly in the beginning. Keep these tips in mind to help develop a practice that's tailored to your experience, environment, and enjoyment:

  • Give it time. Meditation often takes practice. If you’re expecting to do it perfectly, you may actually create more stress for yourself. Feeling discouraged may prevent you from sticking with it.
  • Start with shorter sessions. Five minutes is perfect for beginners. Work your way up to longer sessions over time. With practice, this type of meditation becomes easier and more effective.
  • Try another meditation practice. If the experience is frustrating and you don’t really want to continue, you may find more success with other types of meditation like the karate breathing meditation.
  • Choose the best time for you. Many people find that focused meditation (or any meditation practice) is a great way to begin their day. A morning meditation practice can do wonders for keeping you calm and reminding you to be mindful throughout the day. Others choose to meditate after work as a way to wind down from their busy schedules and refocus on family and home. Think of it as a great way to leave work stress where it should be — at work.

A Word From Verywell

Once you build your foundation, you'll start noticing the benefits of meditation, including stress relief, improved memory, and more self-awareness. And like any new-to-you hobby or activity, the more you practice, the easier and more intuitive your focused meditation practice will become.

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