Meditation has long ago become a widely accepted method for relaxation and spiritual anchoring. More and more people want to learn the basics of meditative exercises, but it is often a bit hard to find the type of exercises you like. Moreover, even when you find it (let’s say you like transcendental meditation– TM), you still need to work hard and practice quite regularly.
How to start meditating? This is the question we’ll answer throughout the whole text. To do this, we will describe the ideal setting and context for meditation (time, place, and external stimuli), and then give you some meditation tips for beginners.
Before you read all our recommendations, it is important to note that meditation is an extremely flexible set of exercises. First of all, there are several important streams of thought through which various types of meditation developed throughout the centuries. These streams are often quite heterogeneous. Thus, we have a lot of diversity within the schools of meditation themselves. Furthermore, this is, after all, a highly intimate and personal exercise. Yes, you learn techniques that have been around for centuries and practiced by millions of people, but meditation is, essentially, a highly individual thing.
Now we can pass on to our How To Start Meditating For Beginners Guide.
Why Meditation Is Good For The Body And Mind?
In other texts, we’ve mentioned some specific studies that have proven that meditation positively affects both the mind and the body. Now we will just quickly recapitulate all the important findings:
- Meditation helps you concentrate and improve the power of your attention.
- It calms you down.
- Meditation gives you new insights into problems you dwelt on.
- TM, for instance, decreases your heart rate, lowers oxygen consumption and attenuates the psychogalvanic reflex. These are all physiological markers of relaxation.
Even this sparse set of findings leads to the conclusion that meditation is both a physical and spiritual exercise. This isn’t surprising, as numerous yogis and gurus preach a highly holistic philosophy, according to which the mind and the body are inextricably intertwined. Western civilization, on the other hand, often forgets about this important viewpoint, attempting to cure the mind with the help of drugs. Needless to say, this is essentially the way Western society deals with mental health issues- you are simply advised to take more drugs.
Inversely, meditation comes from a holistic background, which is why it can complement the way Westerners see the world.
What Is Required For Meditation?
The first set of tips on how to meditate revolves around:
- Time of day
Strictly speaking, you can meditate anytime you feel like it! It is important, however, to set up a routine. For instance, you’d want to meditate every day at the same time and stick to your schedule. Some contemplative exercises are practiced twice per day (TM, for instance), and you’d want to separate the two sessions with a longer period.
Generally speaking, you should choose a cozy, calm place, where nobody would bother you. You may see some people meditating outside, and this may be a good idea. However, especially if you’re new to everything we’re talking about in this text, you’ll do good to keep your sessions at home, and later find some remote places like beaches, woods, or meadows where you can find peace and meditate.
How Much Time Should Be Devoted For Meditation?
The answer depends on the type of meditation you’ve chosen. If you opt for TM, you’ll most likely do two 20-minute sessions per day. On the other hand, Zen session lasts as long as the incense stick burns, which is the traditional way. Generally speaking, Zen is a bit more time-demanding, as some teachers think that a session should last at least 40 minutes. Needless to say, not everybody can or wants to meditate this much, which is why we should emphasize once again that meditation is, after all, a highly idiosyncratic exercise.
Thus, the best meditation tip for beginners is to simply follow your inner voice. Sure, acknowledge others’ suggestions and corrections, but also try not to follow what others say, at least not before your critical evaluation. For instance, in the initial period, even a 10-minute session may seem overly demanding and exhausting. 1 minute of meditation is most surely better than none.
How To Choose A Meditation Pose?
As you delve deeper into the wonderful world of Eastern tradition, you’ll find more and more meditation poses. Some are quite demanding and even dangerous when they’re not done under close surveillance, which is why we won’t explain them here.
There are, however, a few poses that are quite suitable for everybody, especially for beginners. People who are wondering about how to start meditating, often have doubts about the “best” meditation pose. In our opinion, these are the best poses for beginners:
1. Full lotus and half lotus
This is what people think about when someone mentions meditation. You simply sit down on the ground, cross your legs so that your feet end up above your knees, and that’s about it! One or two deep breaths and you’ve already begun your session. The difference between full lotus and half lotus is that you put your feet a bit closer to your knees in the half-lotus position.
2. Sit on a chair
If you’re not into all those traditional poses, simply find a chair, sit down, and spread your weight evenly across your posterior and feet.
3. Burmese pose
This pose is actually quite similar to half lotus, but with Burmese meditation style, your weight is distributed across your posterior and your shins. This means that your feet are not above the knees (as in lotus position), but they are directly touching the ground.
Whichever pose you choose, the weight distribution is the most crucial thing. You’ll easily notice if you got this part right- if not, various body parts will slowly start to hurt, especially during longer sessions.
How To Set Up Breathing For Your Meditation?
All How-To Meditate Guides need to focus on breathing exercises, as this is very like the most important common denominator of all types of meditations. The first step towards setting up breathing for meditation is to be fully conscious of your breathing. Most of the time, this is an automatic action and rarely do we become aware of it. Meditation is the right time to concentrate on your breath, as this is a good method to get yourself anchored in the present moment (“the be here now principle).
After you’ve gained control over your breath, focus on the depth of your in-breaths. Slowly inhale the air, letting your belly rise. This last point is crucial as it is the trademark of the so-called diaphragmatic breathing. Various studies have shown that diaphragmatic breathing (DB) has various health benefits, mostly decreasing the physiological stress symptoms. In other words, if you’re trying to find a way to start your meditation session, DB is a good technique that will most likely decrease your negative affect (depression, worry, anxiety), lower your cortisol levels (a major stress marker), and improve your attention.
This may be the start of mindfulness meditation, which utilizes breathing techniques but also has other, more philosophical components and introspective elements.
Eating Before The Meditation: Yes or No?
Stuffing yourself with copious amounts of food will make your drowsy, somnolent, and confused.
If you’re one of those people who loves abundant meals, then meditating just after you’ve had a meal might not be a good option as you might fall asleep!
On the other hand, if your meals are smaller and if you don’t feel drowsy or sleepy, feel free to start your daily meditation session.
By the way, you should try to meditate every day- even if it’s for 5 minutes!
What Do You Need To Do During A Typical Meditation?
We’ve already emphasized that there are many types of meditation- and sometimes these different types are quite heterogeneous. Here, we will describe a short transcendental meditation session, which relies heavily on mantras.
- Choose the right time of the day for your session
We’ve talked about this earlier- the exact time isn’t really important, the consistency is what matters. This way, if you opt for morning meditation, you’ll slowly begin to link meditation with the start of the day, and the link between the two will become automatic and effortless.
To conclude, just choose the timing that suits your schedule.
- Find a comfortable pose
For starters, we recommend the classic sitting pose. Burmese and variations of lotus poses may be regarded as too strenuous by beginners.
- Proceed with diaphragmatic breathing
- Start meditating
After you’ve calmed down, start repeating your mantra. We’ve talked in-depth on transcendental meditation in another text, and here we’ll only note that mantra can be whatever phrase you want. If your mind starts wandering, simply get back to your mantra. This is its main purpose – providing you an anchor that will stabilize you in the present moment.
Having said that, you can just use your breathing as an anchor. It is very simple but effective, you can use your concentration on breathing is a fundamentally minimalistic meditation practice to start off; and then develop it as you go and practice more. This allows you to learn this skill and make meditation practice truly yours. Enjoy!