Just Starting to Meditate? Here’s What You Need to Know.
Simple meditation tips for beginners to help set you up for success
Meditation doesn’t need to be hard. Unfortunately, many people feel it is. A major reason behind the seemingly growing difficulty of meditation is the stereotypes around it.
Meditation has a marketing problem. The eastern philosophies from where meditation came from are nowhere taught. Instead what is taught is a quick transactional way to close your eyes for 5 minutes a day and be productive all day long.
While meditation can give a lot of health benefits and improve well-being, that isn’t the goal.
At its core, meditation is about concentration on one or more aspects of God.
The aspects of God can be love, joy, peace, calmness, light, sound, etc. The heightened state of awareness that you feel after meditating is also just an experience of God — which is to say, you’re moving closer to expanding your awareness till infinity.
If you’re having difficulty with that definition you can also think of meditation as an intense state of awareness achieved by stilling the thoughts.
The reason I define meditation as I do is not that the usual definitions are wrong but because they seem rather limited.
But in whatever way you define meditation I know these to be true:
- It’s not just about sitting
- It can be done anytime, anywhere even fora couple of minutes
- It doesn’t need to be hard at all
Meditation is about expanding your consciousness. But if that’s too much for you to take, don’t worry! I was at the same place as you.
I had no idea about what consciousness was let alone expand it. But over a period of time, I was able to form a daily habit to meditate for ~2 hours.
Here are all the lessons I learned that can help you get started with meditation.
Forget Everything and Focus on This
When you’re starting out meditation, the most important thing is that you do it. How long you’re doing it is relatively unimportant at this stage.
Meditation is like building any other habit. If you’ve never exercised before and you resolve to go to the gym, the first milestone is to step into the gym. All you have to do is show up day after day.
You don’t think about how much you’re going to squat and what angle you’re going to hit your bicep from. That comes later in the game.
The same is the case with meditation. The first milestone is to get into the habit of setting aside time every day to meditate. The length of your meditation or the type of technique you use is inconsequential.
Here’s what to do: Aim to sit for just 5 minutes, twice a day. Close your eyes and let your thoughts flow. You can do a body scan or focus on the sensation of your breathing — but if not, that’s completely fine.
Often the struggle with meditating is that the mind isn’t used to doing nothing. We’re always thinking about one thing or the other. Ergo, in the initial days, your task is to break this tendency to be occupied all the time and build the habit of consciously stop all activity.
And why do I say two times a day? Because it’s easy to do it once in the morning and forget about it. Then when the next morning comes you forget about how good you felt the day before and decide you skip it.
Doing it twice keeps you in touch with that higher state of awareness.
Do It First Thing in the Morning
Or the last thing before going to bed.
In simple words, choose a time that makes it impossible for you to skip meditation. For most people, it’s easier to find 5 minutes when they wake up and before they go to bed.
If you think you’re doing to meditate in the middle of the day when other tasks need your attention, you’ll fail miserably.
Besides, morning meditations are a great start to the day. There’s also a sense of relief in knowing that you’re already done with your practice and can do other things during the day without worrying.
Don’t Judge Your Practice
Judging your meditations and spiritual progress is almost always deceiving. It can lead you to false conclusions and deductions that can take you off the path.
Instead, think of meditation as an offering to a higher power. Don’t expect any results from your practice. It’s a hard attitude to develop but over time, it will give you much more satisfaction.
Often when you start meditating, you’ll have great experiences. You might think this is how it’s going to be all the time. But it isn’t so. There will be days where you’ll not be able to concentrate as much, or just have a ‘dry’ meditation.
And that’s all right. Accept them and move on. Think about what you can do better next time but if things don’t work out, don’t stress about it.
Your logical mind, aka your ego, will make tons of excuses for you to skip meditation.
The biggest barrier by far is comparing yourself to others. If you read about the benefits of meditation online, you’ll find a huge variety. From feeling a little calmer to catching flies with chopsticks and levitating.
So don’t judge your progress or compare your progress with anyone else. Go into the practice without expectations for you can’t predict what benefits you will reap and how long will it take for them to show.
The only way to stick with meditation is to make it autotelic — an end within itself rather than a means to something else.
The Small Shift That Changed My Meditation Progress
I cannot tell you how many videos I saw on meditation and kept on failing to make it a habit. This continued until I went for a formal class at Ananda Sangha, New Delhi. I learned the techniques taught by Paramahansa Yogananda including his most famous technique, Kriya Yoga, which required a year-long meditation practice before initiation.
This was the greatest shift in my meditation journey.
If you take away one thing from this article do this — find a meditation institute or a support group where you can learn proper techniques. But more importantly, a group where you can meditate together, ask your doubts and keep yourself accountable.
This is also how Tim Ferris learned to meditate. He took a while to get into meditation. But he finally kicked off a successful streak of two years by going for a transcendental meditation course.
The course itself isn’t what I want to focus on. Instead, it’s the coaching and accountability that comes with it.
If you can’t find a community to meditate with, then try to get your friends or family members excited about it.
The initial stages of meditation are the most delicate ones. There are many things that can lead you to leave it forever.
Be around like-minded people to avoid that from happening. Even an online group would suffice. But whatever you do, take this step in all seriousness. It can completely change your life. It did for Tim. It did for me.
Don’t Worry If You Can’t ‘Clear Your Mind’
The goal of meditation is to reach a point where not even a ‘ripple of thought enters the mind’. Read that again and focus on the word ‘goal.’
That’s right. It’s called a ‘practice’ for a reason. You’re still training your mind.
Even seasoned meditators have trouble concentrating. It’s not something that you can master in a few months or even years. So don’t worry if you can’t do it. Everyone has thoughts. It’s normal. We can’t just shut our brains down.
Bring your attention back whenever it wanders and repeat forever.
Make It Enjoyable
To make any habit stick, you’ve to make it enjoyable. If you like doing it, it’s a hundred times easier to keep going.
So choose a place that you like to be in. Light some incense if you want. Get oil diffusers if that’s you. Open the window, let some air in. Be in solitude and make your meditation place sacred. Choose a technique that you like practicing.
Gradually, you’ll develop a liking for it. You’ll start looking forward to your practices. And that’s when the magic happens.
Meditate with Love
Love is something beginners forget. We focus a lot on the technicalities but not on the attitude which in fact, is more important.
Love is the greatest catalyst in the universe. You can’t stop anyone from achieving something he loves.
But love for whom? It can be love for the Universe, God, or whatever name you have for your higher power. For a long time, I avoided this thinking it’s out of my understanding.
But love gave a new life to my practices. Love gives vitality to our concentration. How easy it is to focus on something we love! On the other hand, focusing on the breath day in and day out without any feeling can lead to monotony.
Therefore, bring your heart and soul to your practice and you’ll find a new zeal within you.
Simple Techniques You Can Try
Further, here are some meditation techniques you can try along with tips to make your life support your meditations:
- Inhale slowly, counting to eight. Hold the breath for the same eight counts while concentrating your attention at the point between the eyebrows. Now exhale slowly to the same count of eight. Repeat three to six times.
- After inhaling and exhaling completely, as the next breath comes in, mentally say Hong (rhymes with song). Then, as you exhale, mentally say Sau (rhymes with saw). Hong-Sau means “I am He” or “I am Spirit.” Make no attempt to control your breathing, just let its flow be completely natural.
- Be sure that your gaze is kept steady at the point between the eyebrows throughout your practice. Don’t allow your eyes to follow the movement of the breath. If you find that your mind has wandered, simply bring it back to an awareness of the breath and the mantra.
The Awareness Alarm
The awareness alarm is something I use to remain mindful throughout the day. As I said above, no matter how much you meditate in the morning, it’s easy to get carried away in the hustle-bustle of life.
To prevent that from happening, I use an app called Repeat Alarm on Android that rings every hour from 8 am to 8 pm.
When the alarm goes off, I try to do one of many mindful activities:
- Conscious breathing
- Stretching/Energisation exercises
- Check my posture
- Have some water and relax
- Take a walk
- Close my eyes for 5 minutes
- Read an uplifting book
…and much more.
You can use similar activities as a reminder to be mindful. Then when you sit to meditate, you’ll feel as if you’ve been doing it all day!
Simple Diaphragmatic Breathing
Most of us have a bad habit of not using our belly while breathing.
The right way is to expand your belly as you breathe in and contract when you breathe out. This gives space for your lungs to expand and take more oxygen.
And it doesn’t take a doctor to know that more oxygen is good for your body and mind!
Even count breathing is simple. You inhale, hold, and exhale for the same count. Once you exhale, inhale immediately.
Start with a count for 4 seconds for 6 rounds and increase as you go.
Concentrate on the “spiritual eye”
You might’ve heard different names for this in yoga classes like the “third eye” or the “sixth chakra” and so on.
In any case, it’s located at the point between the eyebrows at the frontal lobe of the brain.
It’s not a physical object located in the body, but a light that is actually visible there. Behind the darkness of closed eyes, you can see the light if your energy begins to flow to that point.
For a meditator, this point is of supreme importance. Through the spiritual eye, the deep meditator can gaze into subtler-than-material realms.
To focus on the spiritual eye, you don’t have to focus exactly on that point between the eyebrows. That will be quite uncomfortable and will make you cross your eyes. Honestly, it’ll also be quite funny!
Just keep your eyes open and imagine staring at the top of the distant mountain. That’s the level of elevation for your eyes.
Once you’ve achieved a comfortable level of elevation, close your eyes and keep your gaze uplifted.
The more you concentrate at that point, the more your consciousness will rise. Consequently, you’ll start to feel real joy inside. You can learn more about the spiritual eye and how to use it in your practices here.
To Sum Up
Meditation isn’t hard if you do it right, and focus on the correct teachings. Here’s everything you need to do if you’re just starting out:
- Focus only on taking out the time to sit. Don’t worry about the length.
- Try to do it first thing in the morning — or some other time where it’s almost impossible to skip
- Don’t judge your practices. It will dry your enthusiasm
- Find a spiritual community to get support and enforce accountability
- Clearing your mind is a goal that takes time. Don’t worry if you’re not able to do it right away.
- Make the practice enjoyable — light up some incense, choose a place you love, and do everything to motivate yourself.
- Finally, and most importantly, meditate with love. Love gives vitality to your meditation, without it, everything is like a flower without fragrance.
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