One of the biggest challenges for those seeking tips on meditation for beginners is the misconception that you need to have a deep understanding of meditation to begin. There is a great deal of information on meditation out there – a lot of it confusing and off-putting. You may have a vague idea of sitting in absolute stillness with your eyes crossed. You might be a bit worried about having to repeat strange chants. The thought of trying to clear your mind completely may seem impossible.
The good news is that meditation is a lot easier than you think. You do not need to have any special skills to get started. You can meditate, whatever your religion or world-view. Even if you only have a few minutes a day to spare, you can establish a meditation practice that could change your life forever.
In this simple guide to meditation for beginners, I will share some of the things that I have learnt on my own personal meditation journey. I’ll also give some insight into what meditation is (and what it isn’t) to help you get a better understanding of how it works.
Meditation for Beginners – A Practical Guide
First things first, what is meditation, exactly? According to Wikipedia, meditation is:
A practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.
To put it simply, meditation is the practice of learning how to calm the mind. It is not a trance, nor does it have to be about ‘leaving your body’ or reaching some sort of altered state. It is simply taking a little time out in your day to centre your thoughts and find a bit of peace. Ultimately, it is an essential part of self care.
What does science say about meditation?
Quite a lot, actually. Countless studies have been done to test the effectiveness of meditation, with evidence showing benefits ranging from improved focus to better sleep, pain relief, stress relief, improved memory, increased creativity and many, many others. Psychology Today has a great list of benefits (backed by scientific studies), and Forbes also has a nice list of benefits on meditation and mindfulness.
Speaking from my own experience, I have found that since I started a morning meditation practice, my days are often more energised. I feel happier, calmer and generally ready for whatever the day brings. On the days where I have not meditated on the other hand, I find myself feeling a bit more sluggish. Maybe it’s psychosomatic, but I really do feel fantastic after starting my day with a few minutes of meditation.
How Do You Meditate?
How do you meditate, exactly? This depends completely on you. When I first began meditating two years ago, I liked to do it at bedtime. I would find some relaxing music on YouTube, plug in my headphones, get comfortable and lie on my back with my eyes closed, simply breathing and listening to the music. I found essential oils to be a great addition, using my oil burner each night to infuse relaxing oils such as lavender and citrus. Sometimes I lit candles or soft lights.
A while later, I learned about a fantastic breathing technique that apparently helps to induce calm quickly. It’s called the 4-7-8 breath. Here’s how it works:
Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, exhale for 8 counts. Repeat a few times.
I also began to find other breathing techniques, some of which I continue to do to this day. You can try some of these yourself with the help of this handy graphic below. Greatist also has a list of breathing exercises to try.
More recently, I began to meditate in the morning. At first, I tried guided meditations found on YouTube, but then I discovered the most amazing app called Insight Timer. It’s available on the App Store and on Google Play for free. This app has taken my practice to a whole new level. You can choose from a huge range of guided meditations, ranging from morning meditations to mindful breathing exercises, before bed meditation to help you sleep, gratitude practices, loving kindness practices, chakra meditation (if that’s your thing), music and many, many other guided meditations ranging in length from 5 minutes to an hour or more.
Now, each morning just before I am ready to get up and get my day started, I sit comfortably on my bed and pick a meditation. Sometimes, I also meditate before bed. Depending on my mood and how much time I have, I try a short one or a longer one. It really is such a lovely way to kick-start the day!
To get started, try downloading the Insight Timer app to your phone. Or, head on over to YouTube and do a search for guided meditation. Even if you sit for just a few minutes, you will be glad you gave it a try. You don’t have to worry about quieting your mind completely at first – just focus on breathing in and out. Bring your thoughts back when they wander (it’s ok – it happens to everyone). Be kind and gentle to yourself on this journey. Give it a try for a few days and see what happens!
How do YOU meditate, and what has helped you learn how to master meditation for beginners? Share your thoughts below and let me know!