How to Meditate for Beginners
To many, meditation can conjure up misconceptions from creating an emotionless state of mind, to developing psychic powers, to entering into Nirvana, a blissful state of being.
They may believe the mind will simply shut down into a space of non-thought. Somewhat comically, perhaps they envision themselves levitating, sitting full lotus while beams of rainbow lights radiate from their chakras as they float up in the air like a feather in the breeze.
What to Expect
The reality is that this doesn’t happen. Meditation is a simple and practical way to be in the present moment without judging our experience. The best approach when learning how to meditate for beginners is to let go of our preconceptions and use what we already have—the ‘beginner’s mind’ to our advantage.
Meditation is a chance to look for ourselves at our own minds and at what’s really important in life and then do something about it. It gradually makes our minds more calm and flexible, allowing us to avoid getting mired in the distraction of daily routines. Meditation is the way to create a spacious, tolerant mind and make our lives truly meaningful.
Where to Start
Where is the best place to begin, then? Short of reading the Buddha’s Sutra on the matter, there is not one official beginner’s guide to meditation. However, there are several basic guidelines that are especially helpful when considering how to begin meditating.
You’ll find various meditation techniques for beginners. The most popular and easiest to learn is a simple sitting mediation which can be done in silence or guided from a recording. Another path to a clear mind is walking meditation, where you slowly become aware of your movements and sensations each time you take a step—becoming literally grounded. More advanced options include chanting, mantra recitation and visualization practice.
What to Do
With that, here are some of the most universally trusted meditation tips for beginners:
The most important thing to remember when starting out is to go easy on yourself. Find a quiet place—perhaps in your home or a neighborhood park where you won’t be disturbed. Relax. Sit upright with eyes open (or closed if you are used to that), in a comfortable position with a straight back and hands gently resting above your knees or in your lap.
Your focus should gently be on your breath. Feel the sensation of the air as you inhale through your nose and exhale. Notice how your chest expands and contracts with each breath. The goal is to simply be aware of your breath. You will also notice that your mind will race, jumping from one thought to the next. When this happens, simply acknowledge the thoughts, then return your focus to your breath. There’s no need to judge or follow your thoughts, just notice them and return your attention to the next breath.
When starting out it is best to begin with shorter sessions. For many beginners 5 or 10 minutes a day is enough to calm the mind and establish a good meditation habit. Once you are comfortable with that much time alone with your mind, you can extend the duration. Consistency is what really matters and what noticeably affects a gradual change. Time of day is also a concern for beginners. Some start their day with a morning session, other’s wind down with an evening meditation. While there is no right or wrong time to meditate, it is highly recommended to meditate in the morning when we’re most fresh and alert, before engaging with our daily activities.
When you stop to think about it meditating is the easiest thing in the world: Be patient. Relax. And, just breathe.