Are you wondering about meditation for beginners? Meditation offers immense physical and mental health benefits. It makes you more productive and confident, relieves stress, and empties the clutter from your mind. You’ll be more focused and you’ll achieve more, without trying. In essence, meditation helps you to know yourself.
Let’s look at eleven tips for meditation for beginners.
1. You’re doing it “right”. You can’t do meditation “wrong.”
Beginning meditators worry that that they’re doing it “wrong.” However, as revered Zen monk and teacher Shunryu Suzuki points out in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, when you take your posture (sit to meditate), you’re meditating:
“When you have this posture, you have the right state of mind, so there is no need to try to attain some special state.”
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t instantly feel a deep sensation of peace and well-being whenever you sit for meditation. Over time, you’ll become aware that just sitting is all there is to meditating. You don’t need to force yourself to change; meditation does that automatically.
2. Choose a meditation that works for you.
There are many different kinds of meditative practices. Breath-counting meditation is simplest for beginners, because you can do it anywhere.
Here’s how. Once you’re sitting, or lying down with a straight spine, focus on your breathing, but don’t try to change your breathing. As you inhale, say silently to yourself: “… and”. Then as you exhale, count: “… one.”
Continue breathing and counting, as you inhale and exhale. “And… one; and… two; and… three; and… four.”
When you reach “four”, start at “one” again with the next exhalation.
The numbers are arbitrary. You can count up to ten if you like. However, you’ll be amazed at how much your mind will wander. It will wander when you count from one to four too, but you’re less likely to suffer frustration.
Let your mind wander. That’s what it does. When you realize that you’ve lost the count, just restart your count.
3. Schedule meditation time every day.
As a new meditator, you’ll feel the health benefits immediately. When I meditate, I find that I’m more relaxed, and much more productive. I sleep better, and wake up bright and alert, ready to face the new day. The 10 to 20 minutes I spend meditating each day are amply repaid with my enhanced productivity, and my overall well-being and happiness.
You’ll find that your relationships benefit from meditation too: you’ll be much happier, and irritability from stress will be in the past.
However, to achieve these benefits, you need to meditate daily. That’s not easy, so schedule your meditation as you schedule everything else. I meditate in the morning, in my office, before I start work for the day. Choose a time you’ll be alone, and without distractions. Play music if you wish.
A meditation timer helps too. I use the Insight Timer on my iPad.
4. No time to meditate? Meditate for five minutes.
Some meditators meditate for an hour, twice a day. Others meditate for 20 minutes, twice a day. I meditate for 10 to 20 minutes, once a day.
The time you spend in meditation is beneficial, no matter how short it is. So, if you’ve only got five minutes, that’s fine.
5. Keep your spine straight when you meditate.
Posture is important in meditation. Whether you choose to sit or lie down for meditation, straightening your spine is good for your health. The Yoga Research Society’s article “Physiology of Meditation” is well worth reading; it discusses the three major benefits of keeping your spine straight. And as Shunryu Suzuki said, when you take your posture with a straight spine, you’re meditating.
Over time, your mind and body will relax into a meditative state as soon as you take your posture. It becomes a habit.
6. Meditation may make you more aware of your challenges.
One of my friends told me he “feels so angry” when he meditates. This is because he’s now aware of his underlying feelings, which were always there.
Best-selling author Susan Piver recommends that if you feel overwhelming emotions, you:
Place your attention on the feeling itself, not the story behind the feeling.
If you’re doing a breath counting meditation, and you’re overwhelmed with emotions, start focusing on the feeling of the emotion in your body, without getting caught up in any stories attached to the emotion. Accept what you’re feeling, and become curious about the sensation of the emotion in your body.
7. Although you’ll get fast results when you meditate daily, don’t become attached to self-improvement.
Beginning meditators are excited when they realize that meditation “works” for them. They want to meditate better, to get faster results.
You’ll get faster results when your sole goal in meditation is to meditate daily. Meditation is a process. In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki says:
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
8. Get physical: yoga’s meditative, too.
As your meditation develops into a daily practice, you’ll find that you automatically eat more healthily. Even if you’ve never exercised much, you’ll find yourself looking for ways to move and stretch your body.
Consider yoga: it’s a form of meditation too. Yoga teaches you to stay in the moment.
9. Choose music for meditation.
Some mediators enjoy music while they meditate; others prefer silence. If you’ve had a busy, frustrating day, meditating with music can help to calm you.
Alternatively, treat your music as a meditation. You’ll find lots of links to music for meditation online. I like to listen to Gregorian chants as a meditation. Many people enjoy Bach, or playing the sounds of nature: rain falling or waves on a beach.
10. Bored? Try a different meditation.
Bored with your meditation practice? Try a different style of meditation.
- An image meditation. Choose a peaceful photo of a nature spot like a beach or a mountain meadow. Imagine yourself there.
- A chanting meditation. Formal meditative chanting is called kirtan. However, you can choose to sing along (out loud) to any kind of music that appeals to you, whether it’s opera or pop. Just be in the moment, and focus on your singing.
- A walking meditation. In this style of meditation, you walk very slowly, and are aware of every step you take.
11. Meditate wherever you are.
You can meditate anywhere. You don’t need to be sitting.
Try scanning your body. In this meditation, become aware of your feet, and how they feel in your shoes, as well as the weight of your body resting on the ground. Then become aware of each leg in turn. Place your attention on each part of your body, working your way upward to your head.
A body scan is the ideal meditation if you’re waiting in a queue, or even at a traffic light. Of course, if you’re waiting for the light to change from red to green, you won’t be able to do more than become aware of your feet, but even a few moments of attention will relax you.
So there you have it: eleven tips for meditation for beginners. Meditation will not only change your life for the better, it will change the people with whom you come into contact, too. Enjoy your meditation. You’ll soon look on your meditation practice as the best time of each day.