So you’ve finally decided to try this whole “meditation thing” but aren’t sure where to start. You just want to find a simple meditation technique for beginners to see if makes a difference in your life. The amount of information available online is overwhelming so I’ll make it easy for you.
Just a few words in case you’ve resisted trying a mediation technique because of concern over a possible conflict with your spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. Meditation is not about a particular religion nor does it requires you to have a particular spiritual belief. There….worry no more.
Warning – this is not about religion 🙂
There are so many misconceptions about meditation that some may be concerned about where it might lead them or how their life might be affected. Although meditation likely originated in the earliest Buddhist traditions, it does not require any religious beliefs. Whether you believe in a divine entity or are a devout atheist – the benefits of meditating will be similar.
Of course there are beginner meditation techniques which involve reciting mantras (more on this later) or visualizing religious icons but these are only a few. You can simply focus on the breath or your thoughts or your body. You’ll see.
Actually starting with a fresh beginner attitude is to your advantage as there’s no need to de-clutter from previously learned complex meditation techniques. Simplicity is key here…and gold as well.
Which beginner meditation technique should I try first?
First of all you can try one or all. Switch back and forth until you settle in on your fave. You’ll ultimately choose one that seems to allow you to center yourself more consistently than the others.
We are playing the long game here and if you are earnest, the results will absolutely be forthcoming. Find the meditation technique that’s best for you and don’t rush the process.
How Long will this take?
You don’t need to invest a lot of time initially and the benefits will blow your mind. Just try 10 or 15 minutes a day to begin. Even that little of an investment will have a noticeable effect in reducing daily stress levels. You’ll actually want to meditate for longer periods as you witness your increased peace of mind and well being.
Consider setting a timer of some sort before meditating as it will be one less thing to concern yourself with and free you up to have increased focus. “Has it been 10 minutes?” Did I do this long enough?” You’ll see what I mean when you begin meditating. After awhile you’ll instinctively know when the desired time has been met without a timer. Start with a timer though.
What time of the day is best to meditate?
Plan on this being a once a day thing to begin. Morning or evening -they both have unique benefits. First thing in the morning will allow you to get grounded and meet that day balanced and ready to withstand normal stressors that will undoubtedly arise.
End of day meditation will help you to decompress and become aware of bits of undigested thoughts/emotions/experiences that were picked up during the day. You’ll absolutely find you’ll sleep better too. In time you might enthusiastically decide to do both – meditation should never become a chore or obligation – but initially choose one time every day.
Where am I doing this?
Ideally you’ll want to establish a regular location where you live that is quiet and from which you are not likely be disturbed. If there are others nearby, let them know you need some time to yourself. Make sure that the room has a comfortable temperature.
Maybe you haven’t begun meditating because you’ve been intimidated by the seemingly difficult poses you’ve seen like like the lotus position. Know right now that you can gain benefit by simply sitting upright in a chair.
If sitting down, make sure your feet are making contact with the floor. Start simple like that. Other advanced positions can be introduced later. Keep your palms loosely in your lap facing upright.
What if sitting isn’t an option?
If sitting isn’t an option due to some sort of physical pain then lying down on a bed is possible but the risk – if you want to call it that – is that the meditator will fall asleep before completion.
Now if you are using this as a method to deal with insomnia then that is fine as it will be good for your health but ultimately you won’t derive all the benefits of maintaining awareness and completing your meditation session. I’ll talk a bit about falling asleep during meditation later.
Whatever the position…relax
Whatever position you choose, it is crucial that it leaves you comfortable and relaxed. That way your positioning will not have a negative impact on your ability to meditate. To gain the most benefit and be able to focus on your breathing or an object or your body sensations, you must start your meditation in a comfortable position.
As you begin just be aware of your body and senses. Are you relaxed? Are there thoughts racing in your mind? Can you hear noises in the room or outside? No worries as these will in time be like leaves floating downstream as you sit by the river watching them float by. You will watch these thoughts and distractions pass and leave your field of vision.
Close your eyes and just become aware of your breathing. This is often the best meditation technique for beginners because one is simply becoming aware of the breath. There is no effort needed.
You are just becoming aware of what is always happening below your normal consciousness. How does the process feel as your chest takes in the fresh air and then exhales it back into the world? Follow this feeling. Don’t rush the breath or make an effort to force your breathing; just let it happen as it naturally does.
As you begin meditating on your breath, over and over again your awareness will be pulled away by a thought. Whenever that happens simply notice that it has and return to the awareness of your breath.
Go easy on yourself
Don’t judge yourself, simply notice that it is happening and return to your focus on the breath. It’s that simple. You are constantly returning to the present which is the only moment that exists. Thoughts will bring you back to past events or future worries but your awareness of the breath will put you right back to the here and now.
When you begin any meditation technique whether the focus is on your breath or an object or a mantra, you will constantly be interrupted by thoughts attempting to grab your focus.
As you practice meditation as a beginner it may seem overwhelming but please don’t give up! You will quickly increase your awareness and focus as your practice. These characteristics will spill over into your daily life with incredibly positive results. Keep practicing!
You choose what to focus on
When someone begins to meditate they may find focusing on the breath is the easiest thing to choose as it is happening involuntarily. You could also choose to concentrate on a single point such as an object in the room like a candle’s flame, Buddha statue or other icon.
The goal is the same. Whenever a thought comes and pulls your awareness away from the object, you simply notice that is has happened and return your focus to the flame or object. It will amaze you just how quickly your ability to concentrate will improve both during and after meditating.
As you continue meditating, a gradual sometimes even subtle change will take place. Every moment that you are able to still your mind during your meditation will have a resulting beneficial effect in your ability to deal with stress and anxiety while engaged in worldly pursuits.
If neither the breath or an object appeals to you as the focus of your meditation technique, you may choose to practice mindfulness. Like the example earlier of watching leaves on a stream float by you but not being in the stream itself, so mindfulness meditation involves watching the myriad of thoughts as they emerge in your mind.
You are the observer of the thoughts as they flow by. You don’t judge or analyze the thought, you simply notice it and remain unattached.
Just notice what is happening – you aren’t stopping anything from happening – simply notice the mind’s activity. Refrain from judging what you see – just observe.
You are the witness of the thought but not the thought itself. You have a thought, notice it and remain separate from the thought. Before meditation, thoughts had the ability to overpower and have their way with you. As you continue to meditate you have an ever increasing ability to remain objective to these thoughts. Negative thoughts have less and less impact as you continue to practice.
Watch what happens in your life
You will start to notice habitual thoughts and unresolved issues coming to the surface when you meditate. Usually the closest to the surface first. This is awesome as meditation teaches you to remain unfazed and objective to the thought. There is you and there is the thought. You no longer will identify with the thought as you have in the past and it will be liberating.
You find moments where you forgive and let go. Moments where you realize you’ve been holding on to something to your detriment. Meditation allows you to calmly identify and willingly let go.
Mindful of the body
Rather than focusing on thoughts, you may want to try being mindful of the body. In this type of mindfulness meditation exercise, you are simply beginning from head to toe and slowly scanning your entire body and noticing how warm or cold you feel, as well as areas of pain, discomfort, tension and soreness.
This meditation technique could be just as easily considered a relaxation technique. Also as you continue to consistently practice this technique, you’ll identify areas of the body that need attending to lest they become chronic locations of physical pain. So the benefits of the body scan meditation technique are twofold.
The focus is on total awareness of the body and again being aware when that focus is interrupted by a thought. Whenever you realize that your focus has been interrupted, calmly return to the last point of awareness in the body scan. Do several runs through the body without rushing if time permits. I wrote about this type of meditation here.
I briefly mentioned mantras earlier while attempting to demystify meditation techniques regarding pop culture’s tendency to erroneously attach all meditation to religious dogma. Mantra meditation involves using a sound or a chant repeatedly.
Sometimes a set precise number of mantras are required to complete the meditation depending on the tradition. Sometimes the vibration of the sound is said to possess power to manifest or heal. The mantra OM (representative of God) is likely the most familiar to both meditators and non-meditators.
The idea is that the repetition of the mantra keeps you unattached to thoughts allowing you to periodically but increasingly find those areas of no-thing-ness or nothingness.
In the future I’ll write about mantra meditations in-depth but my focus in this post are the simple beginner meditation exercises to start immediately.
Third Eye Meditation
We’ve all seen the iconic paintings of the meditator with the third eye centered just above the eyebrows. Historically this has symbolized the meditator achieving extraordinary perception and tapping into previously inaccessible powers of intuition.
Any serious foray into this type of meditation would involve a certain openness and willingness to literally have their mind changed. If this isn’t too woo woo for you, I touch on this briefly here.
What if I can’t stay awake while meditating?
It’s very common at the beginning that no matter what position you choose you’ll find yourself falling asleep halfway through your meditation – or even sooner. Sometimes life has beaten us down so much before we begin meditating that there is such a profound release and relaxation effect, that we become drowsy and fall asleep.
Early on you may find you can’t go through the entire meditation technique without falling asleep. If that happens no worries – you likely need the rest.
Don’t count that as a completed meditation but don’t beat yourself up over it either. If anything, you are being kind to yourself in allowing your body to rest. Come back to the meditation when you feel more refreshed.
Come out of your meditation slowly. Stretch and pause a few seconds to become aware of how refreshed and renewed you feel. Take the meditative state into your day as you move through your life.
You now have a few techniques to begin immediately. Right now. There is no better time than now. In fact there is only the now. Be patient with yourself as you begin meditating and let me know how it goes 🙂