How to Meditate for Beginners
It is often said the the “quieter you become, the more you can hear” I would agree. The path toward inner listening and observation starts with the decision to show up as you are. Release the need to understand how it all works and befriend the inner critic who will likely show up in your space each day too. Learning how to meditate as a beginner can feel overwhelming and frustrating. There is growing evidence that many people exist through life, reactionary to whatever life hands them. Moment to moment, we face unknown circumstances, and situations and the very thing we can and do have control over is how we show up each day. We do have control over our minds and the space in which we react, and so much of this control is gained through meditation.
Research shows that a regular mediation practice changes and increases the gray matter in your brain. It reduces stress and anxiety, increases compassion and mindful behavior. Meditation increases the connections between the right and left sides of the brain. It decreases our fight or flight (trauma) response and increases our rest and digest response. Why is that important? Our lives are stressful, but our reaction to what happens in our lives doesn’t have to be. Think of meditation as hygiene for the mind, body, and soul. Most of you reading this would not start your day without brushing your teeth or taking a shower; after feeling and seeing the benefits of meditation, most of you won’t go a day without meditating.
Myths about Meditation
There are many myths about meditation, and maybe the biggest one being that you must somehow be religious to start a mediation practice. The origins of meditation date back thousands of years and are connected to many of the world’s religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. Despite its long history as a religious practice, Meditation is not and does not have to include religion. Meditation is about being human, opening your mind to the world around you, and being present with what is happening within you.
What is the best way to Learn How to Meditate as a Beginner?
Meditation is not about being engaged in every thought that comes to the surface but rather observing the thoughts as if they were clouds passing by. Think for a moment about a recent sunny day where you caught yourself watching the pillowy clouds floating by, as you blissed out in the warmth of the day, and caught yourself watching the clouds, you step away for a moment, as simply an observer. Meditation is similar; you watch and observe what comes to mind and then watch as it floats on by.
The mind-shift that happens when we go from doing to being is uncomfortable. Meditation is not a race or competition; wherever you are right now is enough. Honor this space. When you can sit and observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions stirring in your mind rather than engage them, you have started to resist the reactionary space that so many people live within.
How do I start meditating as a Beginner?
As a beginner who has never sat in meditation or may be intimidated by the idea, there are some important things to consider as you dive deep into the contemplative space of your own inner knowing. Learning how to meditate as a beginner is about trusting who you are right now, unencumbered by your thoughts.
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for at least 5 minutes. If you want, and can go longer than this, wonderful. As you develop a practice, you may find that meditating for longer increases your brain-body benefits.
- Sit cross-legged on the floor in this quiet place, on a cushion, on a couch, or chair with your feet touching the floor.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breath in through your nose, filling your stomach, and breathe out through your mouth. Do this at least 3-6 times slowly.
- You will often “catch-and-release” that deep inner space and breath that was waiting for you to bring your attention to it. Ahh! Feels so good
- Then just breath normally, continuing to focus on your breath and bodily sensations and movements as you breathe.
- Your attention will probably drift, and that is ok; focus and return to your breath, and allow yourself to sit with what comes up, without judgment, just observing.
- Set a timer so you are not worried about the time.
Note: Specific hand poses are not necessary for meditating; you may incorporate them into your future practice, but placing your hands in your lap together, or palms up or down, is really your choice, do what is comfortable for you.
How Long Should I Meditate?
There is an old Zen proverb that says:
you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes each day unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour.
Start with 5 minutes daily for 2 weeks to develop a practice you can regularly show up for. Increase at regular intervals. When you have developed a regular practice, schedule your day around it. Don’t fit in meditation as a last-minute thing to do. Adjust as necessary and be kind and patient with yourself as you learn to show up for yourself in a new way. Meditation is self-care. Meditation Apps offer timers and alarms, and tools that can assist you in developing a practice.
TIP: Be less rigid about getting it perfect and more fluid about the routine of meditation daily.
What do I Think About When you are Learning to Meditate as a Beginner?
Culture and society have ingrained in us that we must go-go-go to be productive, happy, and free. If we aren’t doing something all the time, then we must be failing. Fortunately, our brains are wired to rest and relax, and meditation is one way to do that. Meditation unwraps and untangles the need to “think” and “do” but rather “be” and “observe”. It is a new concept that many people struggle with as our culture drives our acceleration cycles. Many people need tangible evidence that slowing down is worth the struggle. Many people operate under the presumption that “I will believe it when they see it” instead of believing it before seeing it. This process is worth it in gold. They need to see the outcomes ahead of the process. Meditation is as important as the clean water you drink and a necessary step of the self-care cycle.
3 Meditation Beginner tips
There are many different types of Meditation that diving right into just one of them might feel overwhelming. Here are 3 Beginner Meditation tips that you can try within your meditation space to get you started.
- Guided Meditations: These are recorded audio files that usually include relaxing music with an overlay of someone’s soothing voice guiding and prompting you what to do. The voice guidance may prompt you to focus on your body and how it feels or imagine a specific scene to invoke relaxation. You work a lot with imagery. It is an easy way to get started and very helpful if you struggle to focus and return to your breath.
- Breath Awareness: This technique allows you to focus and return to your breath through deep inhalations and exhalations as a way to mitigate the “monkey mind” or wandering mind. This is explained in the brief introduction above.
- Mindfulness– the ability to be fully present with whatever is happening around you. Noticing and observing how you are right now reserving judgment and reaction to be fully present with your body and mind at the moment. This is the by-product of people that meditate regularly but a great place to start—body and Mind awareness.
Meditation Apps for Beginners and Experts alike
There are many Meditation Apps on the market and can help with many different approaches to your practice. Some Apps are free, and some are a paid subscriptions. Check out this article for more information and to find a good fit for you.
Returning to the Breath Meditation
As a gift to you and a way to get you started on your own meditation journey, I have included a short 5 minute guided meditation. Enjoy and please share if you found this helpful.