Without a doubt the most important habit I have cultivated the past few years is meditation.
This article – meditation for beginners – aims to give you some simple, practical tips to help implement meditation into your daily life.
There are so many benefits associated with meditation. Meditation has helped in every area of my life, teaching me to be calmer, more focussed and more grateful.
Most importantly though, meditation has helped me to understand myself and through that, be able to trust myself more. It didn’t happen overnight, but when it did, it made a huge difference to me. As anyone with anxiety can probably understand, when you have anxiety, you often feel out of control and unable to trust yourself, not knowing how you might react to a particular situation.
Before I started meditating, I never thought about what was going on inside my head – it would just happen. A thought would appear and I would follow it along, getting carried away envisaging outcomes or worrying about past situations.
These days, of course unwanted or unwelcome thoughts still appear, but I am aware of what’s going on. I can make a choice about whether to follow the thought, ground myself in the present moment, or steer my mind elsewhere.
It’s given me strength and freedom.
Don’t expect to be good at first – that’s why it’s called a meditation “practice”
So it will come as no surprise that I recommend meditation as one of the best habits you can have.
I’m not going to pretend it’s easy, but you can start small and get better and better as you practice. Don’t expect to be good at first – that’s why it’s called a meditation “practice”…
These tips aren’t aimed at helping you to become an expert … they should help you get started and keep going. You don’t have to implement them all at once – try a few, come back to this article and try a couple more.
Take a moment to arrive…
- Sit for 10 minutes. Start with just 10 minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another few minutes and do that for a week. But start small first.
- Do it as soon as you wake in the morning. Even with the best of intentions it’s easy for the day to get away from you and run out of time to meditate. Set your alarm a few minutes early and meditate before you get out of bed.
- Don’t get caught up in the how – just do. Most people new to meditation worry about where to sit, how to sit, legs crossed, uncrossed, on a bed, on a chair, lying down, palms up or down… but it’s just not that important. Start by sitting somewhere comfortable and quiet and just… start.
- Take a moment to arrive. As you first settle into your meditation, arrive in the moment and give yourself permission to put everything else aside, just for a few minutes.
- Check in with how you’re feeling. Check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? There’s no need to judge how you are feeling, whatever you’re bringing to the session is completely OK.
6. Notice your breaths. Notice how it feels as the air enters your nose: warm or cold? Is it cooler on the way in and warmer on the way out?
7. Feel the movement of the breath through your body. Rest your attention on your breath as it comes in through your nose, follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs and into your belly. See your breath as a movement.
8. Count your breaths. This is an especially useful anchor when the mind is active and keeps wandering. Count “one” as you breathe in and then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.
9. Gently bring your mind back. Your mind will wander. This is an absolute certainty. This is completely normal. When you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to your breath.
10. Be objective. When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, do not judge. Allow them to arise and flow away.
You are not your thoughts. You are the observer of those thoughts
11. Be the observer. Remember that you are not your thoughts. Instead, you are the observer of the thoughts.
12. Don’t worry that you’re doing it wrong. You will worry you’re doing it wrong. That’s OK, we all do. You’re not doing it wrong. There’s no perfect way to do it, just be happy you’re doing it.
13. Don’t worry about clearing the mind. Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains think just as our lungs breathe and we can’t stop that. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.
14. Stay with whatever arises. When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try staying with them awhile. Yes, I know I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for a week, you might also try staying with a thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger and anxiety but perhaps allow yourself to explore another feeling, is it fast or slow, heavy or light? Just stay, and be curious.
15. Ask yourself some questions. Ask questions such as “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”. Don’t try to answer them but see what arises in the mind. Perhaps you will start to understand yourself better.
16. Get to know your mind. This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there? Observe the mind wandering, getting frustrated… It’s enlightening.
17. Become friends with yourself. As you get to know yourself, do it with a friendly attitude instead of one of criticism. Give yourself love and kindness.
18. Do a body scan. Focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start with your head and focus on each body part as you work your way down your body: slowly move to your neck, your shoulders and down to your toes.
19. Notice the light and sounds. Another place to put your attention, is on the light or sounds around you. Keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, focus on noticing the sounds, near and far.
20. Really commit yourself. To get the most out of meditation, it needs to be done consistently for a period of time. Commit to a month or more to give yourself a chance of noticing the difference.
This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works
21. Try different locations. You can meditate anywhere. In the car. In the park. During your commute. As you walk somewhere. Sitting meditation is the best place to start, but it can be done in almost any situation. Not driving though.
22. Follow a guided meditation. If it helps, you can try following guided meditations to start with.
23. Meditate with others. Meditating with other people is fantastic. I generally find the meditations more powerful and making a commitment to meditate with someone else is also a great way to stay motivated.
24. Try different types of meditation. There are many different types of meditation and I would encourage you to try them out and explore. Some people like mantras, others prefer loving kindness and so on.
25. Finish your meditation with gratitude. When you’re finished with your meditation, smile. Be grateful that you had this time to yourself, that you stuck with your commitment, that you took the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself. That’s an amazing few minutes of your life.