I often get asked how to meditate – so here’s some tips in the form of a very basic beginners meditation guide.
The first meditation tip that I would recommend to any beginner is not to take on too much. Just start really gently, with only five minutes of meditation per day.
The discipline of having to find five minutes every day, of having to find a suitable space that you return to, of having to get the cushions out each time and sit down and get comfortable, will mean that over a period of time, the ritual of actually sitting will become easier.
It is said that anything can become a habit if done for 30 days – so try giving yourself a goal of sitting for 30 days, or start with 10!
You’ll need to find a comfortable position where (ideally) your back is straight. Depending on your age and how flexible you are, this might be cross legged or sitting on some cushions with your legs either side of you, (with your toes pointed backwards and your knees forward)
It’s said that it’s not advisable to sit directly on the floor. This is because you lose some prana (energy) through the floor and although I don’t have evidence to prove this, it sounds feasible to me.
So instead, I would definitely sit on a mat that is big enough to accommodate you and your cushions. If you don’t have a special mediation mat to put your cushions on, you can use a yoga mat or a rug.
So now that you have resolved to sit for 30 or 10 days, you have your position organised, cushions arranged, and you’re sitting reasonably comfortably, what are you supposed to think about when on the mat or cushion?
Well, this is actually the hard part. Firstly, I’d advise that when you start out, try to relax your brain – without trying! What I mean by this is that if your mind is stressing out all over the place, gently relax your mind, by not forcing it to relax, but instead, trying to let the thoughts arise and depart without catching on too heavily to them. Just observe your thoughts manifesting and dissipating naturally. It’s so very hard when you start out.
Here’s one of my best meditation tips: Meditate regularly even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day! It really does get easier!
When I started out meditating, so many anxious thoughts would come into my head. All I wanted to do was banish the thoughts by stopping meditating and going to do something more interesting (ie distracting) like watching TV or a movie, or going for a walk. This is completely natural. If we aren’t used to examining our internal dialogue, the workings of the mind, then silence can be hard to deal with. There’s nowhere to hide. Don’t worry – it get’s easier once you start doing it regularly!
Here’s a great motivating meditation tips that I love: Consider this: an athlete isn’t going to be perfect without training. They have to train and repeat and repeat until they can perform effortlessly. We aren’t striving for perfection (rather to let go of perfection!) but the point is to return to the mat again and again. Over time, it gets a bit easier.
Every day is different, sometimes our minds are distracted, sometimes we feel calmer. That’s another meditation tip: meditation is always interesting because we can observe the mind and notice that our thoughts are never the same – they’re always changing – the opposite of boring!
Don’t mentally chastise yourself if you feel anxious and carried away with your thoughts. Just remember that this is natural. When you catch yourself getting carried away, don’t think “that was bad of me”, instead, think “that was good because I noticed my thoughts taking over, and now I can return to just observing thoughts coming and going”. There’s a different between just observing thoughts coming and going on the one hand, and getting caught up and carried away by trains of thoughts on the other hand.
It’s natural that our minds will wander in meditation. But there’s a difference in thinking “I just noticed that I was wondering what to cook for dinner” or (scenario 2) making a whole shopping list in your head while you watch the clock for the end of the session (which I should make clear I have never done…)
When you have been meditating a while, you might notice that your mind is less troubled with thoughts, especially anxious thoughts. You might find that you can sit more comfortably without everything hurting all the time. You might then start to notice that things arise and pass in your life, in a similar way to how you have noticed your thoughts arising and passing. This is the concept of impermanence. Nothing is permanent in our lives, and trying to hold on to things is a great cause of misery. So in this way, you might start to see meditation as full of insights into the nature of things!
For a more comprehensive list of meditation tips, check out my meditation tips ebook on Amazon (Meditation Motivation – A Quick Tour of Buddhism and 20 Easy Tips to Create a Daily Practice)