In Celebration of World Meditation Day - here is a beginners guide.
Meditation is a transformational method that not only helps us relax but also improves our general well-being. If you’re just beginning to meditate or you’ve been wanting to learn, there are a variety of simple meditation techniques you could start with. Learning how to meditate may seem like a daunting task for beginners, but the basics are actually pretty straightforward.
Beginners guide to meditation
The term “meditation” means different things to different people. There’s spiritual meditation, relaxation meditation, chanting meditation, and a bunch of others. Here at Mindworks we focus on two principle kinds of meditation: mindfulness and awareness meditation. With mindfulness, we train in fully inhabiting the present moment. By settling mindfully in the here and now, we can let go of everything else that is preoccupying us for a few minutes, and this can be wonderfully relaxing. This is one reason why mindfulness has been used so effectively to combat stress, for example. And how do we settle in the here and now? One of the best-known methods encourages us to sit mindfully and simply pay attention to the breath.
Awareness meditation uses the stability gained from mindfulness to explore the mechanics of the mind – perception, emotions, sensations, and so on. It’s a more advanced practice that leads to great insights, and mindfulness is its basis.
If you’re just beginning, it’s best to take it slow – if you can meditate “religiously” for 5 or 10 minutes every day that’s a great start. As you get into the practice, you can sit for longer periods, or you can take more frequent “mindful breaks” during your day if you choose to. You’ll soon find that you can’t imagine a day without meditation.
Here are some tips on how to do meditation for beginners:
- Get comfortable
Find a quiet, serene place to practice your daily meditation. Next, choose a meditation posture that suits you. You can sit on a chair, cushion or bench, but try to sit up straight – pay particular attention to your back. Maintain alignment without being super rigid about it. Relax!
- Be present
Once you’ve found your posture, check in with how your body feels – are there tensions? If there are, you can either observe them or invite them to loosen up, gently. What about the eyes? While some traditions encourage meditators to practice with their eyes closed, we recommend training in keep them half open with your gaze directed down and in front of you. Having the eyes open helps with alertness. Another advantage is that as meditation becomes a regular practice, there won’t be such a distinct difference between mindfulness on the cushion and mindfulness in your daily life.
Pay attention to what you hear, the sensations flowing through your body, how it feels to sit there, what thoughts are wandering through your mind. Be present without judging your experience.
- Focus on your breathing technique
Your breathing should come naturally – don’t force it. Don’t worry whether it is slow, deep or consistent. Over time, as your mind calms down, so does the breath. Take the time to observe your breath, noticing the quality and rhythm of respiration.
As you focus on your breathing, your mind will probably start wandering. This is perfectly normal, and it’s great that you’ve become aware of it. Once you notice that your mind has wandered, let the thoughts pass and gently bring your attention back to the object of your meditation: your breath.
- Feel the sensations flowing though the body
You can come back to awareness of your body in your meditation. This might include a mental body scan. Start with your toes. How do they feel? Is there any tension? If you’re barefoot, can you feel the movement of the air on your toes, on your feet? If you’re wearing socks or shoes, try to determine the sensation of the fabric or shoe material. Is there pressure? Softness? Is something falling asleep? Don’t change or analyze anything: just notice. Gradually work your way upwards, focusing on each area of the body, one part at a time. When you catch your mind wandering, gently bring your concentration back to your consideration of your body. After a couple of minutes of this, you can return your attention to the breath or continue with the body scan.
- Practice makes perfect
Many practitioners, seasoned meditators and beginners alike, enjoy the “auto pilot” feel of guided meditation. There are many meditation resources out there, and most of them are beginner-friendly.
Regular practice is the key to mindfulness meditation. Taking 10 minutes of your day to meditate can work wonders in the long run. Before long, your day will feel incomplete without it.
- Make mindfulness an integral part of your lifestyle
Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment. It involves actively training the mind to dwell in the here and now rather than rehash past memories or fret about the future. It’s a curious fact that although the present moment is all we’ve really got, we very rarely even take notice of it until we begin meditating. But once we start, it’s like we’ve found the key that unlocks qualities and insights that have always been there for the taking – we just never took the time or quite knew how. And now is all we have!
There you have it, a beginner’s guide to meditation, complete with awesome meditation tips for beginners. Sit yourself down and have fun meditating!