Meditation is a really accessible tool that can be practiced by anyone and anywhere. The techniques for learning to meditate are pretty simple, and the key is to try and be consistent.
The more you do it, the more you’ll get comfortable with it.
Most people know what meditation is but, learning how to meditate properly is key to creating a practice of longevity. Regardless of the reason behind wanting to start a meditation practice, sources say that meditation can directly improve stress, sleep and focus.
There has been a significant amount of research into the benefits of mindfulness and meditation on mental and physical health, and learning how to meditate is important for all-around quality of life.
In this article, we’ll take a look at meditation 101 for beginners (and for those returning to the practice) as well as:
- What is meditation?
- Meditation in your life
- 5 tips
- Dealing with distractions
- Guided meditation
- What happens when we meditate
What is meditation?
Meditation requires us to intentionally spend time with our thoughts and with the mind.
With busy days and trying to find a work-life balance it can be tricky to find the time to meditate, but sitting with the breath or watching thoughts for even a few minutes each day can be beneficial.
Meditation helps us to become more aware of ourselves.
This happens in the form of not just becoming more aware of thoughts but also the choices and actions that we make in our lives. It helps us to develop present-moment awareness.
Meditation is often associated with stopping the mind from thinking or making it go blank.
If you think this sounds tricky then you’re right but that’s not really how meditation works. Meditation is about allowing thoughts to arise and dissolve. It’s about watching thoughts and not reacting to them.
Thoughts are a bit like clouds in the sky they are constantly moving. Sometimes we get caught up with the shape and form of the cloud and become interested in it whether it is negative or positive.
But what happens if you see the cloud, acknowledge it without attaching a narrative or a story to it, and then move away from it? That’s meditation.
Meditation teaches us to notice thoughts without chasing a meaning or fighting against them. The idea is to let the thoughts come and go and then return back to a focal point such as the breath. This gets easier with practice.
Meditation in your life
Life is not always plain sailing and we know that we are not in control of what happens to us (most of the time).
Meditation can’t change the inevitable but it can help to change our responses, reactions, and behaviors:
- It helps us to meet ourselves where we are with what life brings us and it can also help us develop compassion for ourselves and others too
- Meditation can help us gain clarity and see things more objectively
- It can also support us to feel calmer and more content because we are trying to train the mind and feel comfortable with it just as it is
It’s really important to note that meditation isn’t about achieving something.
Meditation is purely about doing the practice of meditation, and a big part of this is the act of mindfulness and noticing what the mind is doing.
It’s about noticing thoughts for what they are – just thoughts.
5 tips for beginners
The great thing about meditation is that you can do it pretty much anywhere – planes, trains, beaches, and bedrooms all work.
Some of the basics that are worth knowing before beginning a meditation practice are:
1. There is no correct way to meditate
Finding your way with meditation might take a little bit of time.
There are lots of different approaches that you might want to try, and it can be difficult just sitting with yourself if you’re new to practice. Remember – no judgment!
2. This is not a one-time practice
Consistency is key.
While you may feel some benefits from just one session, it’s important to think about meditation as a new habit that you want to keep up – like cleaning your teeth.
For some people it can be beneficial to schedule in a certain time to meditate that is the same each day. As soon as you wake up is a good place to start.
3. Pick it back up
Don’t panic if you fall out of your meditation routine, just pick it back up as soon as you can.
Whenever you can. Of course, there are benefits to having a routine but if that doesn’t work for you, then no worries.
Practice when you can. Make sure to meditate when you’re short on time and when you are feeling overwhelmed. Try not to skip it if it feels difficult – that’s part of the process.
It’s important not to place high expectations on yourself.
A little bit of meditation can go a long way. Anywhere between five to fifteen minutes is a good place to start. As you become more seasoned within your practice you can increase the time if you wish.
How to sit
Now this can be a big thing for many people.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor is not an option for everyone so you can sit in any comfortable position on the floor. The important thing is that you want to feel comfortable without the threat of falling asleep.
If sitting on the floor is not an option, then try sitting in an upright chair. Sit toward the edge of the seat so that the spine is unsupported and erect.
The important thing to remember is that you need to be pretty comfortable. If you’re not, then you’ll end up meditating on bodily discomfort which is not ideal.
Dealing with distractions
While in a perfect world, we might have a calm, quiet and serene environment to practice in, the likelihood is that life will get in the way.
When you’re first starting out it might be overwhelming to have complete quiet so don’t panic if there is some noise happening around you.
Manage your expectations and prepare yourself for there to be noises and distractions. You might find that there are noises within the room you’re in, such as the subtlety of a clock ticking or there might be louder noises from outside such as traffic or dogs barking.
All of the noise is ok.
It doesn’t detract from your meditation practice. It gives you the opportunity to practice present-moment awareness and the action of coming back to the breath without becoming attached to the story of the sound.
If the sound is overwhelming and causing you distress, then you could use some headphones or earplugs to block out the noise a little.
Alternatively, you could try playing some gentle ambient instrumental music or try playing a binaural beat for meditation.
Guided meditations can be particularly useful for beginners.
Guided meditation is led by a teacher and they explain where to direct your attention. Teachers can help to keep you present by offering suggestions on how to breathe, what to do with the body and how to perform a specific meditation technique.
Having someone guide you through your meditation practice can be helpful when you’re learning how to meditate, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some guidance.
Once you become more familiar with meditation, you might want to try it without guidance. In this case, focusing on your breath or a mantra (a word or sound) might be helpful.
What happens when we meditate?
When learning how to meditate, it can be useful to have guidance or a focal point. Without this, the mind will likely wander, and you’ll struggle to stay present. Remember the role of the mind is to think.
At first when you’re starting out the mind will wander a lot. Over time you’ll be able to meditate for longer without being distracted so much.
Try not to be hard on yourself.
Just because the mind wanders away, it doesn’t mean that your meditation is wrong or worthless. Take one day at a time or even one breath at a time and try not to get bogged down in negativity.
Sometimes you’ll meditate and feel not much at all; in other sessions, you’ll possibly feel emotional. This is completely normal. As we slow down, sometimes things come to the surface.
Sometimes you’ll feel calm and still, and other times, you’ll want to fidget and move.
This is ok. Treat the need to move like you would a thought. Ask the question – is this something that requires me to act right now or not? Take a mindful approach. Return to the breath.
Meditation is like learning a new skill. It takes time and effort. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out. Remember that you can’t do it wrong, and it’s not wasted time. Keep coming back to the breath.
Hungry for more?
Now you’ve read how to meditate for beginners and learnt how to meditate properly, why not check out this Loving Kindness Meditation Script.