In this beginners guide to mediation, I intend to use my own knowledge and experience, to discuss:
- What meditation is
- The benefits of meditation
- Tips for getting started
- Things that I wish I new before I started
- Some meditations that helped me get started
I will keep this article regularly updated as I learn, progress and face new challenges with my own practise.
I have been meditating reguarly for a while now and now is as good of time as any to get started. You don’t need anything but a little time and patience… and well, to show up for yourself from time to time.
Mindfulness is a term that is used A LOT these days. It can sometimes can get a bit complicated or overwhelming. Society is fast paced, we are all jumping from one thing to the next, the progressions in technology and social media, instant buy and delivery, 101 norms to adhere to, happiness and success to chase…. So much that we rarely stop and live in the present moment.
This is something I certainly suffered with (and still do!) and continue to live in the past, replaying things I regret or dislike or didn’t do or playing the victim… or chasing things I wanted or could have or criticising myself for what I could be.
There comes a point where, enough is enough.
That’s where mindfulness and meditation can really help us. Such a simple and accessible tool, yet not used enough. Unfortunately, I think this is sometimes due to either; a lack of understanding, a stigma attached to meditation, or people not wanting to face themselves. It’s not easy being an beginner at something and stepping into the unknown. But, it’s where growth occurs.
Mindfulness is simply being in the present moment. When was the last time you were actually living in the here and now? Because truth be told, this is all we have. We can get so caught up, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Our lives and experiences are lived entirely through our minds. Our state of mind can completely change the way we see the world.
What is meditation?
For a moment, try to forget any stereo types you may already have of meditation, because the chances are, they are wrong. Meditation is a really simple and effective tool to help understand our minds, practise focus, reduce stress and live mindfully in the present. Meditation helps us observe our thoughts without judgement and train our brains to come back to the present moment. Using the breathe and body to stay connected to the present moment is a powerful tool. Something I have experience through my regular meditation and yoga practise.
One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that it is used to quiet your mind.
Meditation is a tough thing to define in a sentence. Here are few things that sum up mediation for me:
- Being present
- Learning to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement
- Better understanding thoughts and feelings
- Training awareness
- Fresh perspective
- Not letting the past or present, anxieties or fears, or societal norms get in the way of living our lives in the present moment
- To go within
- Learn to sit with yourself
- Start gaining control of your life
- Stop being stuck in a prison in your mind
What does it mean, to go within?
To look within is a really powerful practise. Every single day we are tempted to look externally, infact, it’s the norm, to seek answers from everywhere but ourselves. From friends, social media, books, online courses, etc. We desperately are in search for something more, something better or to just be happy.
Unfortunately, we just bury these under anxiety and fear. Too many of us are too scared to go within, and I completely understand why. It may seem like a scary place at first, so much things to face, so many things we may uncover about ourselves.
Isn’t it just better to leave them alone and not poke the bear?
The longer we leave it, the deeper that hole may get. To start looking within, can be the start of all the tough work. The work to peel off all the layers of societal norms and sh*t, and start to uncover YOU. Starting with self enquiry and a meditation practise can really help to bring your awareness inwards, as well as start dealing with all the sh*t you are hiding.
How can we move forward if we don’t?
Sitting in silence, being with yourself can be SO hard. We all feel it. But that feeling is only temporary.
The more you dedicate time to your meditation practise, the easier* it will become.
*easier in terms of the practise and concept, like with everything, meditation practise isn’t perfect and will always have up and down days.
Time, consistency and patience is key. Take it day by day, practise by practise and every time you meditate, you are training your mind to be still.
Benefits of meditation
There are so many benefits, both mental and physical, that can be experienced through a regular meditation practise. These are subject person to person and will also take time a consistent practise to start feeling some of these. Some benefits of meditation include:
- Better focus, concentration and memory
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced stress
- Improve mood (overall happiness as well as reduce feelings over irritability)
- Increased compassion
- Less judgemental and self critical
As we start to dig deep into ourselves, through self growth and meditation, you start to become more aware of yourself, your habits and behaviours. Through time, you may start to become aware of what, when and why they are happening. You may also get super good at observing feelings and dealing with them differently, as well as seeing them with a fresh perspective. And in turn, change the way you perceive the world, improve sleep, relationships and work.
Regular meditation also allows us to notice our thoughts and return back to our breathe. With this simple act, we soon learn to stop judging ourselves for wandering off, instead returning back to our breathe, over and over. This intern increases love and compassion towards ourself, as we accept what happens and move forward, rather than back. Over time, we stop becoming a prison to our mind, overcome negative self talk and start feeling whole.
Below are a couple of studies that have been completed (there are of course many more out there, as well as real life experiences). I believe that the only way to see if it works though is to try it yourself, and see what you bet out of it.
Another study put individuals into random groups, involving mindfulness and meditation practises through programs or audiobooks. The study found that mindfulness training has a positive impact on psychosocial well-being, including reducing stress. And the mindfulness intervention group had a significant positive impact on irritability, affect, and stress from external pressures.
A Happy Healers study was conducted on medical students, who are shown to have higher rates of depression and psychological stress. They completed a meditation on a smartphone app, everyday for 30 days between 10-20 minutes. Perceived stress in the groups were shown to have significantly decreased and general wellbeing increased. It was concluded that guided meditations on mobile apps were an effective way to decrease stress in medical students.
Meditation is a funny thing and scientists like Dr Joe Dispenza, have actually now proven that through meditation, we can actually rewire certain neuro paths within our brains. This means we can create new habits, with patience and consistency. Therefore, we can begin to reduce the inner critic, the anxiety, fear and stress and start creating good habits, more focus and joy.
How do we reap the benefits of mediation
- Time, consistency and patience is key
- Practise regularly
- Don’t give up
Tips for getting started with meditation
The best way is to simply START.
When can you practise? Being able to find a short space of time in your day, or should I say, MAKE time in your day to devote yourself to the practise.
Find the right time for you
You may have to begin by experimenting with different times of the day. You may find you prefer to meditate first thing, or you may feel too tired to do it at that time. Find what works for you.
Create a space
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just try to find a space that is comfortable, clean, quiet and free from distractions. This helps create a safe space that represents stillness and silence.
You may find it more comfortable to sit on a cushion or a yoga mat, or even a chair. As long as you are comfortable. (If it is common for you to have knee or hip pain, try prop yourself up higher, ensuring your hips are higher). You may also want to wear something comfortable.
No need for hours of meditation. Simply start with 5 – 10 minutes. Regularly practise this and start to build your meditation practise up overtime by increasing to 15, 20 and even 30 minutes. You don’t have to start every day, maybe pick a few days and times at first and create yourself a good routine.
Choosing the right meditation
Take a look at the different types of meditations (some are outlined further down) and start experimenting. I would recommend starting with a simple guided meditation to help you understand meditation a little more and what to expect from it. There are plenty of good meditations out there.
Sometimes things come up in meditation. If you have time, a great habit to get into is to journal after your meditation. If you noted any thoughts, or things kept coming up for you, now is a great time to explore them further. It’s also great to note any challenges you faced, anything you learned, how you felt, how the meditation was for you that day, what meditation you practised, etc.
Post practise activity
Continue to be mindful after the practise. It’s easy to just jump straight back into the hustle and bustle of life. Try to move a bit slower and more mindfully after your practise and start embedding this into everyday life. There are many ways to experience meditation and mindfulness in everyday activities, such as showering, brushing your teeth, chopping up vegetables. Simply bring your awareness to the activity and focus on the feelings, sensations and movement.
If you read one more bit of today’s post, make it this next section….
Things I wish I was told before I got started with meditation
- Expect setbacks and know that they are normal. We are not silencing the mind. A lot of people are actually scared to meditate because what they think they have to face.
- At first your mind is more than likely going to be busy and wander, ALOT. This is ok and totally normal… and totally the point of meditation, to start training to bring your awareness back. The key is to not get caught up in the drama of your mind. As soon as you notice your mind is wandering, it’s just a simple practise of bringing your focus back to your breath. This will take time and practise, and even if you meditate for a while, you may still get days with a busy mind. This is all completely normal and ok.
- It will be hard and you may feel like fidgeting a lot. Do what you need to do, but try to resist any unnecessary moving. If you are in pain, or experiencing pins and needles because you are not used to sitting in a seated position for so long, you can move! Just ensure any movement you make is necessary and done mindfully. Move slowly and with ease.
- The sense of calm commonly talked about as a result of meditation, may not come straight away. This is okay! Just be patient and consistent.
- Let go of any end goal or success. This takes you away from the point of meditation. Just meditate regularly and keep showing up for yourself. There is nothing to strive for other than sitting quietly and letting your mind do what it wants to do.
- There is no good or bad meditation. Your practise will differ day to day, time to time and when different things are going on in your life.
- Meditation is a skill, so it needs to be practised (there is no good, but certainly a difference with consistent practise)
- It’s a practise. There’s nothing to perfect or get ‘right’ or ‘good’ at. Sometimes your mind will just keep wandering, some days you will forget to breathe or not listen to the guided mediation or music… some days will drag, some will be uncomfy and some you just will not want to do. All part of the experience, just don’t give up.
- Don’t resist, let your mind do its thing.
- You may feel sleepy, or even fall asleep. That’s ok… just keep trying. Your body is probably not used to closing your eyes and staying still for so long (until you are going to bed) so it may take some time to change this.
Types of meditation
There are many different types of meditation. This is great because everyone is different and will respond to some better than others. The bad side is, where do you start or find one that you enjoy?
There is not a one size fits all meditation, or a ‘better’ or ‘more effective’ meditation’. I personally like to dip in and out of different meditation techniques, rather than doing the same everyday. If you are new to meditation and don’t know where to start, I would recommend starting with a guided meditation.
A silent meditation is what it is says on the tin. Sitting in silence. Sometimes people will come to this one after trying the others, so they can implement some of the techniques they have learned. Others will simply focus on their breathe and body, while observing their thoughts, for a certain period of time.
A guided meditation is simply where a teacher will guide you through the practise with some simple steps and techniques. This is usually the most common way of starting a meditation practise. This can really help a beginner in meditation to develop a regular practise and learn how meditation works for them. This can be done via an app, online or even in person.
In this particular meditation you focus on an object. Sometimes this could be a candle, or simply just anything that is in front of you. This is opposed to bringing your awareness to yourself and your breathe.
A form of guided meditation, practised twice per day by certified instructors.
Repeating a mantra (e.g. a word, syllable or a phrase) over and over in order to promote positive change. For example, some may use a chakra mantra to help balance a particular problem area in the body.
Zen meditation is an ancient Buddhist tradition, which encourages presence and awareness of the breathe and the movements of the breathe, in and out of the belly.
Visualising a nice place, a happy place, light into the body, etc.
A great way to start incorporating body awareness. It’s a really great way to learn about how your body is feeling and any aches or discomfort you are feeling, as well as helping bring awareness to the tension you may be holding onto. Perfect way to sync the mind and the body, as well as bring your focus and attention to something.
Meditation in everyday life
You can also find a meditation practise throughout your day, without having to sit down to do it. This can be part of a yoga practise or moving meditation dance or even in activities such as cooking or showering. The meditation aspect comes with being present and focusing on what you’re doing in the moment. Rather than thinking about all the things on your to do list, you just focus on chopping the vegetables. The activity, the sound, the smell. Maybe sound a bit weird at first, but try it. It’s a great way to bring presence about your everyday life.
The good news is, there are so many to experiment with to find something that works for you.
I have copied below some meditations that may help you get started, they are all from YouTube so they are free for everyone. There are hundreds online, so do some digging and find what works for you.
What are you waiting for?
Please let me know how you are feeling about meditation and where you are on your journey! I would love to hear from you!