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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 February 18, 2019

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

        Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

        Why is this so critically important to you?

        The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

        Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

        1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

        Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

        When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

        • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
        • The man facing the judge.
        • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
        • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
        • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
        • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

        These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

        Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

        Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

        2. Accept Your Fear

        Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

        We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

        And here’s what can be done.

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        3. Get Some Perspective

        I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

        And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

        That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

        We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

        So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

        • Are you really at risk?
        • Will this kill you?
        • Which leads us on to..
        • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

        4. Hold a Hand

        As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

        Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

        We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

        Ask yourself:

        • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
        • Could that really happen?
        • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
        • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

        By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

        5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

        This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

        Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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        The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

        It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

        For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

        Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

        6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

        I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

        Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

        Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

        Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

        Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

        Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

        7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

        Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

        I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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        It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

        One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

        Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

        It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

        8. Assume the Worse

        If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

        Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

        • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
        • Think about how they feel about champagne?
        • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

        And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

        When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

        Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

        9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

        If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

        Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

        Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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        10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

        One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

        11. Go with Fear

        When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

        I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

        Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

        One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

        However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

        We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

        12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

        And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

        The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

        What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

        13. Own Your Fear

        Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

        We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

        You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

        More Resources About Fighting Fear

        Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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