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Meditation For Beginners: Meditate On Your Own With This Complete Guide

Meditation For Beginners: Meditate On Your Own With This Complete Guide

If you were only allowed to take up one habit, what would it be? For me, it’s meditation. Unquestionably.

Why? Meditation has helped me perform better in every aspect of life. It helps me be more focused and get more done. It makes me more calm and peaceful so I don’t suffer from emotional fluctuations as I used to. More importantly, I have greater control over my mind so I can master the art of living in the present.

Wondering whether meditation can bring so many positive changes to one’s life? Let’s see what science says!

A Harvard research in year 2011 found that meditation can help increase the density of grey matter in the hippocampus of our brains, which is associated with the ability of learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Such restructuring of our brains can improve our mental health and make our minds sharper.[1]

What’s more surprising is meditation can rebuild our brains in only eight weeks! That means you don’t need to be an expert in meditation to reap the benefits.

    ▲ Subjects of the study demonstrated significant change of brain structure after practicing meditation for 8 weeks.[2]

    Thinking of taking meditation as one of your habits but don’t know how to get started? Here are 6 things you can follow:

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    Look for a distraction-free environment

    While an area with total silence is an ideal environment for meditation, it is not a must for everyone. If you think playing some light music can help relieve your stress and make you more relaxed, it’s definitely fine to do so when you meditate. Studies have shown that white noise can help lower our stress level and increase our concentration level.[3]

    If you don’t want to meditate in a totally silent environment but have no idea of what to play, you can try start with this one:[4]

    Meditate with the posture you feel comfortable

    The Quarter Lotus is the most popular meditation posture. You sit on the floor cross-legged and rest your hands on your lap. And your back needs to keep straight throughout the process without slouching.

      But if you are the one with chronic back pain problem, this posture may not be the best choice for you. Actually, what posture you have is not the key for meditation. You can also lie on your bed or the floor to meditate. The most important thing is the posture can make you completely relaxed. Here are some variations for you:[5][6]

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      But please be reminded that if you choose to meditate while lying down, you should keep yourself awake throughout the process.

      Focus on your breathing tempo

      Having the right breathing tempo is important as it can make you highly relaxed and concentrated, which is the ideal state for meditation.[7]

      Close your eyes softly. Breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Inhale with your nose and exhale from your mouth. If you do deep breathing correctly, you will feel your diaphragm is expanded and stretched.

      Some people may even feel some mild pain in their chests. But don’t worry, it’s acceptable as deep breathing is not our usual way of breathing. The discomfort will fade when we practice more.

      Always aim for longer exhalation than inhalation. If you difficulty in doing so, you can help yourself by counting numbers. For example, count 1 to 3 to make sure you inhale air within 3 seconds, and then count 1 to 7 for exhalation.

      Replace judgement with understanding in your mind

      It’s a common misconception that we need to empty our minds and stop any kinds of thinking when we meditate. That’s not the case. Instead, you should be open towards whatever thoughts or emotions pop up in your mind without judging them.

      Even if negative emotions like frustration, anger and anxiety creep into you mind when you meditate, you should not avoid them but understand why they are formed.

      After all, the ultimate goal of meditation is to understand more of yourself and so you can have greater control of your mind.

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      Never let time disturb you

      Whenever you meditate, always aim to do it for at least 15 minutes. Why? As a beginner, it is challenging for you to get your mind instantly prepared for meditation. If the time is too short, you may not be able to enter the zone before the session ends.

      But if 15 minutes is too challenging for you for the first time, start with 2 minutes first, and then gradually increase the time afterwards.

      Also, remember to grab a timer with you. This can spare your mind from thinking much about the time so you can focus on your breathing and thoughts. If you don’t have a timer yet, try this free online meditation timer !

      Have a guide to keep you on the right track

      You are inevitably prone to feeling lost whenever you start doing something without proper guidance. This is the case for meditation too. Audio guided meditations which provide clear step-by-step instructions can be a great help to you. By listening to what the instructor says, you can shut out the mental self-talk and keep your concentration intact.

      Here’s a good one for you:[8]

      So how do you know you’re meditating instead of just daydreaming?

      We all struggle between mental turbulence and mental dullness every day. That’s what we call emotional fluctuations in another term. Through meditation, we aim to find our inner equilibrium, which is the sweet spot in this image:[9]

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        ▲ Through meditation, you can strike a mental balance.

        When you reach your inner equilibrium, you will experience unprecedented calmness, mental clarity and sensitivity to the surroundings.

        But honestly, this is hard for beginners. So better indicators should be the ability to get less influenced by your emotions and feel concentrated more easily.

        When do you know you’re having progress when you play sports or musical instruments? That’s the moment when you need less time to perform a skill. It’s the same for meditation. You should look for spending less time to get into the zone in the beginner level.

        Common problems you may encounter when you start

        Q: My mind just keeps wandering and I can’t stop self-talk when I meditate. What should I do?

        A: Keep your mind occupied with a simple task. You can play a game of counting your breathing when you meditate. And it would be good if you keep changing the rules in the process. For example, you can start by counting 1 to 10 in sequence, then count backwards, and finally only count the odd numbers or even numbers. The key of this game is to maintaining the sensitivity of your mind and your focus.[10]

        Q: It’s hard for me to be fully relaxed. Should I start meditation first and calm myself by tuning my breathing tempo afterwards?

        A: No, you should never meditate when your mind is highly agitated. Doing this will only weaken the effectiveness of meditation. Make use of some external means, like doing exercise, listening to soft music, taking a shower or talking to your friends, to de-clutter your mind first.

        Q: I feel sleepy and just can’t help nodding off when I meditate. But I find this relaxing to me. Is this state acceptable for meditation?

        A: There’s nothing wrong if you meditate only for relaxation. But if you want to reap the benefits of having a sharper mind and better concentration through this habit, you should train your mindfulness and alertness. When you feel sleepy, you can straighten up your back, lift up your chin a bit, and inhale more deeply. Then you will feel more awake when you meditate.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Ricky Tang

        Editor. Movie Lover. Amateur Singer.

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        Last Updated on August 20, 2019

        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

        Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

        Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

        I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

        You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

        Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

        When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

        I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

        Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

        Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

        Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

        1. The Inner Critic

        This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

        • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
        • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
        • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
        • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

        The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

        Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

        2. The Worrier

        This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

        The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

        3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

        This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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        This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

        The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

        4. The Sleep Depriver

        This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

        The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

        • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
        • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
        • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
        • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

        How can you control these squatters?

        How to Master Your Mind

        You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

        Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

        There are two ways to control your thoughts:

        • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
        • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

        This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

        The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

        Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

        For the Inner Critic

        When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

        You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

        For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

        You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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        “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

        If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

        • They rile up the Worrier.
        • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
        • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
        • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
        • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

        Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

        Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

        For the Worrier

        Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

        Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

        You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

        • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tense

        Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

        If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

        Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

        “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

        Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

        If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

        Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

        Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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        For example:

        If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

        “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

        Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

        “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

        Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

        For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

        Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

        The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

        • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tension

        I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

        Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

        Breathe in through your nose:

        • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
        • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
        • Focus on your belly rising.

        Breathe out through your nose:

        • Feel your lungs emptying.
        • Focus on your belly falling.
        • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

        Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

        Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

        One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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        Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

        For the Sleep Depriver

        (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

        I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

        Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

        1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
        2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

        When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

        From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

        For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

        If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

        You can also use this technique any time you want to:

        • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
        • Shut down your thinking.
        • Calm your feelings.
        • Simply focus on the present moment. 

        The Bottom Line

        Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

        You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

        Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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        Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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