You’re likely reading this post because you’ve developed an interest in meditation but don’t know where to start. You’re not alone, a lot of people start off with questions. Meditation is a very unique practice that is tailored to each person’s needs and goals. Before beginning, it’s important to understand that meditation takes practice, it may be very strange for you to sit in absolute silence and the ability to silence your mind is much easier said than done.
If you wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn’t just wake up one day and do it, especially if you’ve never done it before, you’d train for a while beforehand – think of meditation the exact same way. If you’ve never meditated before, it’ll take a little bit of time for your mind to get the hang of it. Practicing is all part of the experience, so just take your time and enjoy the process of your mind and body learning something new.
The techniques are straightforward and easy to learn, with consistent practice and patience you’ll have your mind trained in no time and start feeling the benefits of meditation right away.
Getting started with meditation
Every person who starts meditating has a driving factor that makes them start. Being clear about your motivation is super important. Just like any other goal we set for ourselves, we’re less likely to stick to it if the goal is unclear, not important enough or meaningless. So, decide what you really want to get out of meditation – do you want to improve your focus? Do you want to feel happier? Do you want to help relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety? Choose a goal and dedicate yourself to achieving that through meditation. This way you’ll find it much easier to stay motivated to practice regularly.
When meditating, you can be indoors or outdoors, seated or laying, on a chair or on the floor… it can be done anywhere that works for you. Most beginners choose to sit upright in a chair to start, if you choose to do this position yourself toward the front of the chair to maintain good posture, and rest your hands on your lap.
When it comes down to how long you should meditate, frequency is more important than duration. When starting out, you should set aside 5-10 minutes a couple of times a week when most convenient for you. Ensure that during these 5-10 minutes there are no possibilities of being disrupted or distracted – a great time to do this would be right before bed or as a part of your morning routine. Once you’re comfortable and feel satisfied with 5-10-minute sessions, you can increase the duration to as long as you’d like, just make sure that you’re getting the most out of your meditation time.
Use a timer to time out your sessions and choose a gentle alarm to bring you back to reality so as not to disrupt your relaxed state of mind. Some people also choose to have relaxing music with water sounds or other meditation music playing quietly in the background but don’t worry about this if you think you will find it too distracting.
Above all else, be patient with yourself, it’s very easy to become frustrated when your mind wanders, but this is normal. Be gentle when bringing yourself back to focus, your meditation will feel more productive this way.
Different types of meditation
There is a countless amount of meditation forms, there’s really not one most effective way to meditate. The most effective form is subjective to whoever is practicing it. You’ll find the style of meditation that is easiest for you and it will be the one that you’re most encouraged to practice. Because there are so many types that exist, it’s impossible to list them all because we just simply don’t know how many there actually are. However, let’s break down five of the most popular and most westernized forms of meditation for you.
Guided and unguided meditation
Choosing between guided and unguided meditation is typically the first decision someone makes when they want to start meditating. Guided meditation is considered to be the best choice for beginners because it involves a teacher or recording guiding you through the basic steps. During guided meditation, the teacher is able to lead you through a particular technique and is able to describe how your mind works throughout the meditation process.
Unguided meditation is the opposite so it is done alone and without a teacher or ‘guide’ to help you through it. When someone wants to try unguided meditation, they typically implement the techniques they’ve learned through guided meditation experiences. Otherwise, unguided meditation involves sitting quietly for a set duration of time. During this time, you’re welcoming awareness of how your body feels and the thoughts in your head.
The exact definition of the term ‘mindfulness’ as described in the dictionary is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” Mindfulness meditation is the most popular form of meditation in western culture. This involves paying close attention to your thoughts and feelings as they pass through, analyzing them but not judging them, and then taking notes of patterns you may observe throughout the process. It can be easily practiced alone so it’s a great place to start if you’re not keen on a guided meditation.
Body scan meditation is also known as progressive relaxation. It encourages you to pinpoint tension in your body so that you can then release it. Typically, you start at the feet, focus on relaxing them and making them feel as though they’re ‘heavy’ or ‘sunken into the floor’ by inhaling and becoming more relaxed after every exhale. You then move on to the next part of the body, repeating the same steps – working your way to your head. Other forms of body scan could also involve tensing the muscles and then relaxing them, or imagining air circulating through each body part and relaxing as the ‘air’ leaves your body. This technique is also a great method used for falling asleep.
The goal of loving-kindness meditation is to create a feeling of love and kindness towards everything. You practice opening your mind to receiving these feelings through each deep breath and then sending the positive messages back out into the world or towards loved ones. This form is designed to promote feelings of compassion and love for yourself and others.
Breath awareness meditation is fairly self-explanatory. It consists of breathing slowly and deeply, counting or otherwise focussing on your breathing only. The goal is to ignore any other feeling, thought, or sensation that passes through your mind, if or when that happens you would then redirect your attention back to your breath.
Ten tips for meditation beginners
1. Don’t get too caught up in how you’re doing it, focus less on small details like where/how to sit and focus more on being quiet and comfortable.
2. Check-in with yourself after each session. How did it make you feel? Do you feel more relaxed?
3. Really focus on committing yourself, view meditation as a necessary form of self-care and try implementing it into your daily routine.
4. Involve yourself in a local community* of people who enjoy meditation and who do it frequently.
5. Start out with guided meditation.
6. Don’t focus on clearing your mind entirely, that’s not the goal, focus more on being aware of the thoughts passing through and redirecting yourself if you become distracted or if your mind begins to wander.
7. Don’t try to control your breathing, just breathe naturally and focus on that.
8. Try morning meditation or right before bed.
9. Frequently remind yourself of the benefits.
10. Find a friend who is also interested in meditating, you don’t have to do it together but it helps to hold each other accountable.
If you’re looking for meditation groups, teachers, events or communities in your area, Local Prana houses all that information in one place*.
There are also tons of meditation apps you can download on your phone that offer different forms of guided and unguided meditation, here are some of our favorites:
1. Headspace: Meditation & Sleep
Headspace teaches you how to meditate, breathe, and live mindfully. They also have a free ‘basics’ course that will teach beginners the essentials of meditation and mindfulness. They offer sleep meditation, sleep sounds, and ‘sleep casts’ to help you fall asleep.
2. Calm: Sleep, Meditate, Relax
Calm is a great mindfulness app for beginners and experienced users. They offer a variety of mindfulness exercises that target meditation for anxiety, stress, self-esteem, breaking habits, and more! There are programs, and classes that you can follow daily to ensure you’re staying consistent on your path to mastering meditation.
3. Insight Timer – Meditation App
This app offers guided meditations and talks led by some of the world’s top meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists, and teachers from top universities. They offer thousands of free guided meditations and provide stats and milestones for you to track your progress.