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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

3 Tips For Meditation Every Beginner Must Know

3 Tips For Meditation Every Beginner Must Know

The right tips for meditation are crucial for the success of your meditation practice. More and more people start to meditate every day, searching for peace, solace, and personal improvement.

Many beginners of meditation are wrongly guided and, as a result, there are thousands of courses available for meditation, teaching meditation in various ways—some in a week, other in 10-days course. There are weekend seminars on meditation, most of them making the initiation of your meditation practice even more confusing.

You don’t need to read books or any courses on meditation that go for days or weeks. Use these three tips for meditation, and you’ll experience a quick and proper initiation in the practice of meditation.

Regardless of your knowledge about meditation, if you apply these tips as shown, you’ll experience a meditative state of mind and understand what meditation really is and how to meditate properly.

As a Raja Yoga Teacher, I study and practice meditation for 19 years and my in-depth research into the philosophy and psychology of yoga has given me the knowledge embedded in these tips I’ll show you here.

Meditation Is an Intrinsic Activity

The concept of meditation has developed in the ancient wisdom of the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishad, dating back to the earlier part of the 1st Millennium BCE.

Chandogya Upanishad opens up with the sutra:[1]

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“Let a man meditate on OM.”

Later on, the concept of meditation evolved in traditions as Jainism and Buddhism having various kinds of definitions and techniques. However, all of the definitions aim towards the same purpose and that is to attend and inquire into the human mind.

To give you an easy reference when sharing information about meditation, I’ll refer to the definition of meditation from the original texts of Yoga—the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

“Tatra Pratyayaikatanaataa Dhyaanam”

This means that meditation is the constant focus on an object, subject, image, or thought.

One of the most important things to mention before giving you tips for a successful meditation process is that meditation is not something you can learn outside of yourself—it is a process of internal communication between your ego and your intelligence, happening inside of you.

1. Knowing

For the very beginner of meditation, the first and most important tip on meditation is to know that you attend your mind.

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This tip goes before the tips on how to sit right or meditate at the same time (early or late) at the same corner of your home. Know that meditation can be done at any time (morning, noon, evening), at any place (bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, park, etc.), and in any position (lying, sitting, or standing).

The mental activity of meditation, which has a psychological and spiritual purpose, can’t be conditioned by time, place. or form. This means that before you get busy with the physiological aspects of your meditation practice, you know that you attend:

  • your knowledge,
  • your memories,
  • your imaginations,
  • your misconceptions, and
  • your sleep.

These five mental fluctuations create your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. As a result, you end up in a certain mood—a state of being, that either advances or detriments your progress of meditation.

One of the most common mistakes that beginners do in mediation is getting engaged in the aspects of their body and mind. They have their concentration on those distractions practically throughout the whole meditation exercise where they generate:

  • constant feelings of discomfort;
  • thoughts of inability to perform the practice; and
  • emotions they don’t understand and try to get rid of.

To omit this mistake, pay close attention to this first tip and make it the fundament of your meditation exercise. Make sure you know that you attend your mind so you’ll start meditating.

2. Adjusting

Being a beginner, you can only last a few minutes in the proper meditation process, so it’s inefficient and ineffective to get occupied with your body position, location, place, and time before the realization of the first tip for mediation—the knowledge that you are attending your mind and knowing that this work is intrinsic and instantaneous.

If needed, adjusting can take care of your:

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  • Asana (body posture which can enable you to sit firmly and comfortably for an extended period of time);
  • Pranayama (control of breathing);
  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses); and
  • Dharana (concentration).

By the above four, I explicitly mean:

  • Asana: Your body feels firm and comfortable—able to remain in that preferred position for the assigned period of time (5, 10, 15, or even 30 minutes). Don’t think this is a big deal here; this step can take only a few seconds until you have adjusted your body position. For preparing your body to sit firmly and comfortably you can use certain yoga postures (especially the squat pose).
  • Pranayama: Your breathing is flowing smoothly and you follow the streaming of your inhalation and exhalation. Also, this takes only a second. Use breathing exercises to help you feel what pranayama means.
  • Pratyahara: Your senses are withdrawn during the exercise. This doesn’t mean you attempt not to feel your body (hands, legs, skin), like ignoring your sense of touch or some sounds coming from the outside. These attempts are simply distractions for your practice. What you do is just let all the coming signals from the external stimuli flow and pass through your mind without identifying them. This way, the signals will gradually vanish and you won’t notice them anymore. That is a withdrawal of the senses.
  • Dharana: Your mind gets fixed on a certain object. This involves activation of the sense of sight (this makes Pratyahara impossible). Hence, I recommend fixing your mind on your breathing. This ensures the execution of the last three criteria at once (Pranayama, Pratyahara, and Dharana).

Sometimes in your meditation exercises, you’ll need to adjust these four elements more and sometimes less. Once you’re advanced in the practice of meditation, you’ll execute the first and the second tip so perfectly to the point where they are simply a part of you.

3. Observing

After the knowledge you’ve gained from the first tip and the adjustments that you’ve made from the second tip, now you have only one thing left to do: observe. By this, I mean internal observation as introspection.[2]

Dwell in a state of observation of your mental state of being, whatever it is. Meditation is the right thing for you to analyze and focus on yourself, especially when you’re surrounded by negativity.

It is more likely that your mental state of being shifts in the early stage of your practice. Here is the most important confusion between concentration and meditation that practitioners struggle with:

When your state of being shifts, the meditation ends and changes from one subject matter to another, and a new meditation process begins—here the mind concentrates on the new subject matter. If the need for concentration shifts too often and too quickly the practitioner is caught up in practicing concentration and not meditation.

But observing and being aware of that shift, through diligent practicing, the mind will gradually become more and more stable up to the point where you’ll be able to dwell in a mental state of a continuous flow on one subject matter only.

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Marcus Aurelius stated in his book, Meditations, that a diligent practice will make your life happy:

If you do the job in a principled way, with diligence, energy and patience, if you keep yourself free of distractions, and keep the spirit inside you undamaged, as if you might have to give it back at any moment—If you can embrace this without fear or expectation—can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now, as Nature intended, and in superhuman truthfulness (every word, every utterance)—then your life will be happy. No one can prevent that.

Conclusion

Only the effort of observing can make sure you recognize if you’re concentrating or meditating. Once you have mastered that moment, your concentration becomes effortless. Just imagine the beauty of being able to master concentration. This goal stands on everybody’s wish-list.

By mastering meditation, you’d not only master yourself, but you’ll also master life and death. Knowing is the result of rational observing and adjusting makes the process between observing and knowing compact and efficient.

Use these three tips and you’ll see the beauty in meditation and the beauty within you!

More Tips for Meditation

Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/S6UT8dEsLMU via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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