You’ve decided to try meditation and see what all the fuss is about. Are you having a hard time starting because you just can’t seem to shut your mind off? You can’t seem to sit still for any more than 10 seconds?
Today, I’m here to tell you that you can learn to meditate. It’s just like any other activity you learn, and you have to take it in baby steps. Follow this beginner's guide to meditation to help you on your journey!
What meditation is not
The first thing is that it is impossible to completely ‘shut off the mind.’ Our brains are not wired to turn off. In fact, did you know that according to the Cleveland Clinic, the average human has 70,000 thoughts a day? That’s approximately 50 thoughts a minute! Meditation is also not ‘zoning out.’ So if you tune out at a boring meeting or on the train, that isn’t meditation either.
Much like pranayama, meditation is controlled thoughts or practised concentration.
How is meditation different from mindfulness?
Meditation and mindfulness are closely related practices, but they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Meditation is a broader term that encompasses various techniques aimed at cultivating a state of deep relaxation and heightened awareness. It involves focusing one's attention and eliminating the stream of thoughts that typically occupy the mind. Through meditation, individuals strive to achieve a state of inner tranquillity, often by following a specific method such as mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation.
On the other hand, mindfulness is a specific form of meditation that emphasizes non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. It involves intentionally paying attention to one's thoughts, sensations, and emotions as they arise without getting caught up in them. Mindfulness encourages individuals to observe their experiences with curiosity, acceptance, and an open-hearted attitude. It is often practiced through formal sitting meditation but can also be incorporated into daily activities, such as mindful eating or walking.
While meditation encompasses a wide range of techniques and goals, mindfulness is a particular quality that can be cultivated through meditation and applied to various aspects of life. Mindfulness practice can enhance self-awareness, reduce stress, improve focus, and promote emotional well-being. In essence, meditation is the broader umbrella term, while mindfulness is a specific aspect or technique within the practice of meditation.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation offers a multitude of benefits for both the mind and body. Regular practice of meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the nervous system. It can improve focus and concentration, enhancing cognitive abilities and productivity. Meditation also cultivates self-awareness, allowing individuals to observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment, leading to greater emotional stability and resilience. Moreover, meditation has been linked to increased feelings of happiness and well-being, as it encourages a positive outlook and a sense of inner peace. Additionally, research suggests that meditation can positively impact physical health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving sleep quality, and boosting the immune system. Overall, the practice of meditation provides a valuable tool for achieving mental clarity, emotional balance, and overall holistic well-being.
Tips to begin meditation
If you're new to meditation and looking to start your practice, here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Start with short sessions: Begin with short meditation sessions, such as 5 minutes, and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable. This will help you build consistency and prevent feelings of overwhelm.
2. Find a quiet and comfortable space: Choose a quiet environment where you can sit comfortably without distractions. It could be a dedicated meditation corner in your home or any place where you feel at ease. Consider getting a special meditation cushion to sit on for your practise.
3. Set a regular schedule: Establish a regular meditation schedule that works for you. Consistency is key in building a meditation habit. Whether it's in the morning, during lunch breaks, or before bedtime, find a time that suits your routine.
4. Start with guided meditations: Guided meditations can be helpful for beginners. You can find numerous meditation apps, websites, or videos that provide guided sessions led by experienced instructors. These can assist you in focusing your mind and understanding various meditation techniques. You can follow along with one of my guided meditations here.
5. Focus on your breath: One of the simplest techniques to begin with is focusing on your breath. Close your eyes, take slow, deep breaths, and pay attention to the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to the breath. If the mind wanders easily, simply try counting each breath in and out until you reach 10. Then start again.
6. Be patient and non-judgmental: It's normal for thoughts to arise during meditation. When this happens, don't get frustrated or judge yourself. Instead, acknowledge the thoughts and gently guide your attention back to the present moment. Remember, meditation is a practice, and progress takes time.
Remember, meditation is a personal experience, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The key is to approach it with an open mind, be consistent, and allow yourself the space to explore and grow in your practice.
An easy meditation practise to try
My favourite type of meditation and an easy way to begin is with a body scan. Here is a simple body scan technique for you to try.
Find a comfortable seated or lying position, gently close your eyes, and begin to bring your attention to your breath. Take a few moments to settle into the present moment.
Now, slowly direct your focus to different parts of your body, starting with your feet. Notice any sensations you feel in your feet, such as warmth, tingling, or pressure. Simply observe these sensations without judgment or the need to change anything.
Move your attention slowly up to your lower legs, noticing any sensations there. Continue this gentle awareness as you scan through your knees, upper legs, hips, and pelvis. Allow yourself to become aware of any sensations, tension, or relaxation in these areas.
Shift your focus to your lower back and abdomen, observing any feelings or sensations you notice there. Then, move your attention up to your chest and upper back, bringing awareness to the rise and fall of your breath in this area.
Continue scanning through your hands, lower arms, elbows, upper arms, and shoulders. Simply notice any sensations, whether they are subtle or pronounced.
Now, direct your attention to your neck, throat, and the back of your head. Observe any sensations, tightness, or release in these areas.
Finally, bring your attention to your face. Notice the sensation of your facial muscles, your jaw, and your forehead. Allow any tension to melt away as you bring a sense of relaxation to your entire face.
Take a moment to bring your awareness to your body as a whole. Notice any lingering sensations or areas of tension, and send your breath and gentle attention to those places, allowing them to soften and relax.
When you're ready, slowly bring your awareness back to the room, gently opening your eyes if they were closed. Take a moment to appreciate the time you've taken for yourself and carry the sense of relaxation and presence with you throughout your day.
Remember, this is just a basic body scan to get you started. As you become more comfortable with the practice, you can explore longer and more detailed body scans to deepen your awareness and relaxation.
And if you want more guided meditations to get you started, head over to my Spotify Podcast with all of my guided meditations, free for you to listen to.