How to Start Meditating
A Beginner’s Guide on How to Meditate
Chances are you’re reading this because you’re interested in meditation but don’t know where to begin. Luckily, you’re in the right place and already off to a great start because opening up your mind to its potential is step one.
This beginner’s guide will get you started, but you’ll need to stick with it to reap the benefits of meditation. Similarly to how you strength train and stretch to keep your muscles and connective tissues functioning at their best, meditating regularly will tone and condition your brain for peak performance. What that means is you’ll feel less stressed, more creative, and more compassionate. Your productivity and memory will also improve. Most of all, you’ll be more aware of your thoughts and feelings and better equipped to deal with them.
The best part is, you can get started right now, no specialized equipment or guru needed.
Where to start meditating
Find a quiet room with few distractions. Sit comfortably on the floor (use a cushion if you need to) with your legs crossed and back upright. Alternatively, you can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor.
If you just want a little taste first, follow these simple steps:
Set a timer for two to five minutes.
Rest your hands in your lap, relax the shoulders, and open the chest.
Close your eyes, soften the belly, and focus on your breath’s natural movement without trying to direct it. Your breath is what keeps you present and will guide you back when your mind wanders.
It can help to count: one breath in, one breath out, and continue through 10, then return to one again. Every time your thoughts wander, go back to one. Eventually, you’ll be able to focus on your breath without counting.
When the timer goes off, be mindful as you enter back into the world and travel gently.
This method is merely the foundation. There are many different ways to practice meditation, involving various positions, mantras, visualizations, and even sound baths. Experiment until you find what suits you and then change it up for variation and to exercise others parts of your mind.
What to expect during meditation
Is This Working?
In your first few meditation sessions, your mind will most likely wander instantly, and often. Don’t try to prevent your mind from straying, but rather, try to bring it back to the present whenever it does. Ideally, you’ll be able to observe these thoughts and feelings and let them pass by like clouds in the sky.
You may get frustrated that you can’t focus, or you may get bored and even fall asleep. Feelings of anxiety, pain or anger may erupt to the surface — know that this is all normal. Don’t try and fight them; acknowledge them and let them go.
Most importantly, don’t get caught up in expectations of what your meditation experience should be. Don’t beat yourself up trying to “do it right.” The best thing you can do is observe what arises without judgment. After several sessions, you’ll notice that thoughts flow more smoothly.
Yes, It’s Working
As you continue your meditation practice and can settle with your breath, you’ll be ready to tackle more advanced meditations. For instance, with the same calm, focused attention you had on your breath, you’ll be able to target tensions in your body and release them. Eventually, you’ll be able to do the same with recurring feelings and emotions.
Once you put time and patience into meditation, you’ll begin to notice its benefits in your life. Here are just a handful of ways meditation pays off:
Reduced anxiety and more positive thoughts.
Better sleep, and more of it.
A boost in confidence, accepting yourself for who you are.
More compassion towards others, even strangers.
Sharper focus and fewer distractions.
Better resilience, especially when bouncing back from mistakes.
Mental clarity and inner calm.
Heightened awareness, within yourself and the world around you.
General feelings of happiness.
How to Keep at It
Practice Makes Perfect
Although it might sound easy, meditation is in fact hard work, and it takes a lot of practice to get better. But just like training for a race or playing a musical instrument, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
A daily practice is essential whatever level you’re at, but especially in the beginning. The best way to start a habit is to meditate for just a couple minutes a day. You can split the time up into morning and evening sessions if that’s easier.
Just Do It
Ultimately, your position, location, timing, and time of day are all completely flexible. Do whatever it is that will most likely bring you back to your practice tomorrow, and the next day.