Meditation is not rocket science.
In fact, everyone can meditate. Yes, you. And your grandparents, too.
Learn the nuts and bolts of the meditation practice in this easy and straightforward guide to meditation for beginners.
Table of Contents
You've meditated before at least once. You just didn't know it.
What, you don't believe me?
Try to recall some memories from your childhood. As a child, everyone could meditate.
Do you remember:
All of these little things that were so natural to us when we were kids are, in fact, different meditation techniques.
There are literally hundreds of meditative traditions that differ in their ways and approaches.
But there's one thing that all of them have in common. And this one thing truly defines the essence of meditation.
Meditation is the practice of staying in the moment, here and now. It's the ability to give your full conscious attention to one single thing you're doing without dwelling upon what happened or will happen.
A child does not make far-reaching plans and does not look into the future. If her immediate needs are met, she is content and happy.
We all have been children at one point, so we all already know how to stay content and happy, here and now – we just forgot.
The benefits of meditation are pretty well-documented by science. So I'm probably not gonna surprise you saying that meditation relieves stress, increases life quality, and even lowers blood pressure.
But all that aside, let me just ask you a few simple questions:
Are you entirely happy and satisfied with your life?
Do you know yourself and what you want?
Do you feel that the stresses of the modern world pass you by?
If the answer is yes, think again.
Still yes? Congrats, you're probably among the lucky 1% of the population on this planet. Share your secret with the world!
High chances are that your answer is leaning to "no."
And here's when meditation comes in. It can help turn your "no" into "yes" one meditation session at a time.
Wondering how to start meditating or how to meditate properly? Let me just drop this excellent quote from Krishnamurti here:
Meditation is not a process of learning how to meditate; it is the very inquiry into what is meditation. To inquire into what is meditation, the mind must free itself from what it has learnt about meditation, and the freeing of the mind from what it has learnt is the beginning of meditation.
If you're a beginner starting a meditation practice, try to follow Krishnamurti's advice.
Forget about everything you've seen or heard about meditation and how a meditating person should be.
Yes, I'm talking about the image of the meditation practitioner sitting in a Lotus, always calm, steady, and focused. Ah, and did I mention - always happy?
Forget about it.
This is real life. And nobody expects you to be a monk or act like one.
Instead, stop thinking about meditation and finally begin doing it with these 3 super easy meditation tips for beginners:
There are so many types of meditation, techniques, and a whole pile of instructions on how to sit, where, how long, etc.
There seem to be as many approaches to meditation as there are meditation practitioners. So it probably will take a lifetime to study all of the "how-tos."
Ain't nobody got time for dat!
Start with the basic basics:
This is the simplest and most straightforward way to start meditating now.
With time, as your practice evolves, you'll probably want to try different techniques or "anchors" as well as optimize your meditation space to be able to practice longer.
But before that, you need to establish a solid meditation practice and a simple protocol that you can always come back to.
You know how you finally decide to start exercising? You rush into the gym the next day and lift as much weight as you can. And lo and behold, your body feels so bad and sore the next day that you decide lifting is "not your thing." And you never come back...
The same can happen with meditation – and basically, anything you do.
Getting started is the most crucial step. But start wisely and start slow.
If you're a working parent, an hour of meditation from day one doesn't seem like a reasonable place to begin. But 5-10 minutes of meditation while you're having your tea can make the world of difference.
My advice is to start with a few minutes a day. Say, five. Or even three, if that's how much you can afford.
But stick to it every damn day for a week.
Add an extra minute or two next week or start meditating for 3 minutes twice a day until you build a regular meditation habit.
Eventually, meditate as much as you can, but make it count.
I personally love to end my yoga practice with meditation. When I'm pressed for time, I squeeze a few minutes of meditation before yoga, not to rush it in the end.
Tip: The general advice is to set the alarm for your meditation. I find the alarm a bit distracting because it sets a goal or a deadline of sorts for my meditation. Plus, it sometimes interrupts my "flow" just when I manage to get myself into a calm state of mind.
So when I'm slightly more flexible with the time, I set a stopwatch to count up the time I'm meditating. Once I feel like I've meditated for long enough, I check the time. If it's a little bit low, I get back into meditation.
Goals are great – you've come to meditation for something, whether it's stress-relief, reduced anxiety, or dealing with life challenges.
But here's the deal.
Don't expect immediate, and more importantly, consistent results.
I don't know why, but we firmly believe that when we feel terrible, angry, or anxious, all we need is to breathe, and it will all go away.
True, sometimes it does. But sometimes, you meditate for 20 minutes, do yoga, journal, and still a have a pretty much shitty day in the end.
That's okay. You did what you could.
Establish an easy and straightforward protocol that you can follow almost every day without fail.
To do that, make up your mind about time, place, position, and anchor.
There's nothing easier than saying that you'll meditate in the morning and getting caught by life. So I suggest that you choose a specific time that you can dedicate to meditating every day or a trigger. Say after waking up or during lunch break.
My trigger is yoga practice. The time of my practice may differ every day, but I stay consistent with it. As a result, I'm consistent with my meditation, too.
Truth be told, you can meditate anywhere – the park, during the commute, and what's the better way to chill out while waiting in the line?
But if you're a meditation newbie, you'd probably want to start somewhere safe, quiet, and distraction-free.
Starting meditation at home is also the safest bet.
Cross-legged, in a chair, or sitting against the wall – it all works for meditation. Stock up on pillows and a bolster (if you one) if you have trouble sitting upright.
Try not to slouch as it obstructs breathing. (And why would you want to slouch anyway?)
An anchor is an object you'll focus on during your meditation.
Basically, anything can be an anchor:
I find that the easiest and the most straightforward anchor is what we all have, no matter where we are – breath.
Oops, here your leg can start itching, or you might drift away thinking about what you'll eat for dinner. That's fine. Your mind will wander, everyone’s does. Shake it off and return your focus to the breath.
Repeat this until you count to "ten" and start from scratch.
Congrats, you're meditating!
Meditation is purely experimental. You can't follow rules that someone laid out for you and expect to build a thriving practice.
You have to make your own rules through trial and error and seeing what works for you and what hurts you.
That said, I've got one straightforward and down-to-earth rule that works for EVERYONE. No matter what type of meditation you practice.
And, trust me, it's going to save you tons of trouble when you're just beginning your meditation.
Here it is (drumroll, please).
My only rule for successful meditation is: Don't sweat it.
Sounds inappropriate and out-of-context? Just hear me out.
You know, there's this song that goes, "Don't sweat it, forget it, everything is a-ok."
Sing yourself this line every time you feel doubts about your meditation practice. Or whenever it feels awkward. Or whenever it seems you're not doing it right. Or whenever you feel stupid thinking, "what the hell am I doing here."
Basically, this rule will remind you that there's no such thing as bad or wrong meditation.
Here are some examples.
Imagine you just had a perfectly crappy day. You're cranky and stressed out, and meditation is what you probably need most right now.
So you sit down, try to breathe, but your mind is acting like a crazy monkey. You start counting your breaths to concentrate, but you can't even count to three since you're so wound up.
How would it make an average person feel?
"I can't do anything right," "I'm a failure," that's probably the dialogue we're all too familiar with.
Now, when you start feeling that your meditation wasn't as good or as quality as it usually is, remember the rule. Don't sweat it and shut off that inner critic. Any meditation is a good meditation – remember it once and for all.
You're an expert in starting a meditation practice. You started it like 20 times during your lifetime, but it just never sticks, and you can't turn it into a daily habit.
But this year, things are going to be different.
Twenty-first time makes the charm. You will meditate every single day.
All went great during the first month. But then, oh dear, you skipped a day.
That's it – you broke the streak. You're a terrible practitioner, and you're never gonna make meditation a daily habit. So what's the point.
Sounds absurd? You bet! But that's what millions of people out there are thinking every time they skip a day or two of meditation.
If you skipped a day of exercise, does it mean you should never exercise again in your life? Or if you're trying to eat healthier and once you couldn't resist a cheeseburger, does it mean you have to eat only fast food until the rest of your days?
True, building a solid habit requires discipline and daily commitment. But we're not robots. Sometimes we have problems at work, sometimes our kid is sick, sometimes you feel sick.
So you skipped a day, or two, or a week… Don't sweat it. Come back to your meditation whenever you can. Anytime spent meditating is a good time.
If you're starting meditating, naturally you'll have all sorts of questions pestering you:
You want to hear the truth? You don't need to quantify your meditation results. And you truly don't need answers to these questions (even though you desperately think you do) to reap the benefits.
I bet you already know what to do: Don't. Sweat. It.
Just let go of the expectations and judgments, and enjoy the ride.
Meditation is an amazing and unique game that unfolds the longer you do it. You can't learn its rules from teachers or gurus. There's only one way - sit on the cushion and start breathing.
Do you meditate? Do you have some tips to share with the beginners? Leave a comment below!