A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

You have probably heard something about the benefits of meditation. You know you should do it, but you just don’t know how to get started. Or maybe you tried and it wasn’t what you expected – you didn’t reach that ‘zen’ state people talk about.

The most difficulty thing about meditation is to actually make the commitment to doing a daily practice. I’m sure you commit regularly to other personal hygiene activities each day, such as showering, brushing your teeth, and washing your clothes. So why not bring that same attention to your mind’s hygiene. Meditation essentially has the ability to clean the mind, to wash away the stress and baggage we collect on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t meditate, you just end up carrying all that extra weight around.

A lot of people struggle with meditation due to their perceptions about what the experience is going to be. The best thing you can do to start with is to let go of any ideas of what you are going to achieve with meditating. The point of meditation is to become aware of what’s in your mind. As your practice develops, you will find the thoughts slow. But it’s completely normal to sit and have thoughts floating in and out of the mind. You just need to invite some stillness with it.

Find a time that’s going to suit you to meditate – first thing in the morning or evening can be a good option, but really the key is to choose a time that you can commit to. It’s always easier to meditate if you have a dedicated spot – seeing it can provide a visual cue to meditate. It doesn’t need to be a special room; it might be just a quiet corner of your home with a cushion or chair.

Ensuring you are comfortable is key. A sitting meditation is generally best. A cushion of the floor is ideal. If you have back issues, raise the height of the cushion or use a chair. If it’s cold, use a blanket or move somewhere warm.

Committing to 5 minutes of meditation daily is a good start. It’s not a lot of time, so there’s no excuse as to why you can’t fit it in somewhere in your day. Use a timer – either your phone or Insight Timer (which will record time spent meditating which can help accountability). Commit to meditating for the whole time until the timer goes off, even if it seems like an eternity. It will likely seem a long time to start with, but soon it will pass quickly. Once you are comfortable with five minutes and in a regular practice, then start to increase the time as you see fit. There’s no magic number in regards to time, but a solid 15-30 minutes of meditation daily will bring consistent benefits.

If you feel distracted during the meditation, come back to your breath. Notice the sensation of the natural breath. Don’t feel you need to breath more deeply or more shallow. Just follow the flow of your normal breath, passing through the nose (or the mouth), noticing where in the body expansion occurs – the lungs, the belly. If you experience thoughts, just acknowledge them and let them be. This is normal. Don’t try to push them away as you will only create more resistance.

If you are still struggling to meditate there are a range of resources below that may assist you getting started.

Apps
Podcasts
Group Meditation
Courses