A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
Once seen as something kind of ‘out-there’, in recent years meditation has made it’s way into the mainstream, and is here to stay thanks to hundreds of scientific papers that prove its benefits to the brain; and its tireless promotion by famous teachers such as Deepak Chopra, Gabby Bernstein and the Dalai Lama.
But with all of the different techniques, teachers and books out there, no one could blame you if you had no idea how to start a meditation practice of your own!
Let me assure you – not only is meditation a simple practice that anyone can do, it’s the ultimate act of self-care (in Mastering The Art Of Self-Love I explain why and share extra tips of getting started. Sign up if you haven’t already – it’s packed with goodness, plus it’s free). Like anything, the key to success is consistency and dedication.
Here’s what you need to know:
What Is Meditation Exactly?
There seems to be a big myth out there that meditation is the ability to stop thinking, and when people try it and find they can’t stop their thoughts, they feel like failures and give up. Deep meditation is not about stopping your thoughts. Rather, it is the ability not to get lost in your thoughts, but to maintain a steady focus on an object of your attention (i.e. your breath, sensations in your body, a mantra, a candle flame). While maintaining this focus, thoughts can and will arise, but rather than mentally following them down the rabbit hole, we notice them, allow them to pass and continue our focus. Through practice as we become better at this, we find that our natural calm and peaceful awareness that is normally drowned out by our wayward thinking can rise to the surface of our consciousness, which can feel deeply relaxing and blissful.
In short, once you get the hang of it, it feels wonderful! But more importantly, meditation helps to:
- Reduce stress
- Reduce anxiety
- Reduce depression
- Improves concentration
- Helps you to experience more ease and joy in your life
- Become more aware of and in, the present moment.
John Lennon once famously said “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. Becoming more aware of the present moment means that you are more open to the experiences of your life and to others around you.
How to Meditate in 3 Easy Steps
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty so that you can get meditating right away. Meditation techniques for beginners needn’t be complicated. There are 3 main things to do while meditating
Step 1. Sit somewhere quiet with a straight spine (on a cushion, chair or on the floor) and set a timer for 20 minutes.
Step 2. Your meditation may be for a few minute or much longer. 2-20minutes is a good timeframe to start. Focus your attention on your chosen object (watching the natural flow of your breath or repeating a mantra in your mind such as “I AM” over and over are two good options to start with). Let your focus me clear but don’t strain. Observe the breath or the repetition of the mantra in detail, while noting anything else that arises such as thoughts, feelings in the body, outside sounds etc.
Step 3. Whilst meditating. When you catch your mind wandering off or when you notice that you are lost in thought, gently bring your awareness back to your object of attention. Don’t judge yourself or beat yourself up, this is all part of it. Keep noticing when you are lost and then returning to your focus as many times as you need to until the timer goes off. You may want to rest or lie down for 5 minutes after your practice.
Making Meditation a Regular Habit
Like anything, meditation requires practice to fully realise its benefits. Setting up a daily meditation habit is the best way to get results, and just like exercise, this takes a little bit of willpower and dedication in the beginning until you start to enjoy it and then your natural desire will keep you motivated to stick to it. Just like going to the gym or running, put it in your schedule and stick to it. Before you know it, you’ll be doing it because you really want to, not just because it’s scheduled into your day. First thing in the morning, when you first get home from work, or before bed are good times to meditate, and make sure that you show up everyday, even if you feel tired, unmotivated or bored with your meditation practice. In fact, it is at these times that you need meditation the most. Soon you will find that your day just doesn’t feel right if you skip your 20 minutes of cushion-time!
Have you started mediating recently or are you thinking about giving it a go? I’d love to hear your story, and feel free to ask me any questions via the comments below.
Want to learn more? Listen to this podcast on How To Meditate (Successfully) where I share my top tips, techniques and mantras for when meditating for various purposes such as sleep or anxiety. I also delve deeper into how, when and where to meditate, plus for how long.
If you’re after a beginners meditation program or beginners meditation course, here is my free online meditation course. And if video is your preferred method over books, do a Google search for ‘meditation for beginners youtube’ or ‘guided meditation for beginners’ – there are many free options available to help you on your meditation journey.
P.S. Do you know someone who might find this helpful. Share it with them and help us create a less stressed, more peaceful world for us all.
P.P.S Start Mastering The Art Of Self-Love – a 7 day email series filled with tips, advice, inspiration and tools from some of Australia’s leading self-love experts. Designed to help you cultivate self-care practices including regular meditation.