Meditation for beginners: 20 practical tips for understanding the mind
Written by Ted Goldfarb for ZenHabits.net
Meditation is the art of focusing 100% of your attention on one area. This practice has a number of well-known health benefits including increased concentration, reduced anxiety, and a general sense of well-being.
Although a large number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually stick with it for the long term. This is unfortunate, and the reason may be that many beginners don’t start with the mindset required for sustainable practice.
The purpose of this article is to provide 20 practical recommendations to help beginners overcome initial hurdles and integrate meditation in the long run:
first) Make it a formal practice.
This will seem simple, you just need to meditate for 2 minutes.
That is ideal. Start with just 2 minutes a day for a week.
When that’s perfect, increase it by 2 minutes and do the same for 7 days.
In case all goes well, with just a little increase at a time, you will meditate for ten minutes a day for the second month, that’s amazing! But let’s start small first.
2) Choose the right time
It is a good idea to meditate first thing in the morning, or before you intend to go to bed.
It will ensure that you don’t lose track of the time of day, and can start with peaceful energy or calm before bed.
3) Don’t get caught up in how – just do it.
Most people worry about where you can sit, how you sit, and what cushions to use, which is mostly fine, although it doesn’t really matter to begin with.
Start simply by sitting in a chair or on your couch. Or perhaps in your bed. If you feel comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged.
It’s only for the first two minutes anyway, so sit back.
Later on, you can worry about optimizing it so you can stay comfortable for longer, but initially, it doesn’t matter much, simply sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.
4) Sign up with only your feelings.
When you’re initially settling into your meditation session, just check in on how you’re feeling.
How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Worried? Consider whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as perfectly fine.
5) Start with the breath.
Now that you’re settled, turn your attention to your breath.
Simply focus on your breath as it enters, and follow it through your nose all the way to your lungs.
Try to count one as you inhale on the first breath, the next two as you exhale. Repeat this to number 10, then start over one by one.
6) Back when you wander.
Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty.
No difficulty with that. If you notice your mind wandering, smile and gently return to your breath.
Count again and start over. You may feel a little disappointedhowever, it’s perfectly fine not to focus, we all can do it.
This is practice, and you won’t be good in a short time.
7) Create a loving attitude.
Whenever you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude.
See them as friends, not enemies or intruders. They are part of you, though not all of you. Be friendly and never aggressive.
8) Don’t worry so much that you’re doing it wrong.
You will worry that you are doing it wrong. That’s Ok, we all do. You are not doing it wrong.
There is no best way to do it, as long as you are happy you are doing it.
9) Don’t worry about clearing your mind.
Many people think that meditation is to clear the mind or stop all thoughts.
Not so. This can often happen, however, it is not the purpose of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal.
We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we cannot simply shut them down.
ten) Stay with whatever arises.
When thoughts or perhaps feelings arise and they will happen, you can try to stay with them for a while.
Of course, I understand I said to come back to the breath, but after you practice that for 7 days, you can also try to stay with a thought or feeling that comes up.
We may need to move away from feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety, etc., but an amazingly helpful meditation technique is to maintain that feeling for a while. Just stay, and be curious.
11) Get to know yourself.
This type of practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What is going on in there? It’s cloudy, but by watching your mind wander, frustrated, away from difficult feelings… you can begin to understand yourself.
twelfth) Become your own friend.
When you get to know yourself, do it in a friendly rather than critical manner.
You are getting to know a friend. Smile and give yourself love too.
13) Perform a body scan.
Another thing you can do with a little better breath tracking is to focus your attention on one body part at a time.
Start with the soles of your feet – how do you feel? Slowly move your toes, feet, ankles to the top of your head.
14) Notice the light, the energy, the sound.
Another place for your attention, again, after you’ve practiced with your breath for at least a week, might be the light around you.
Just keep an eye on one spot and pay attention to the lighting in the room you’re in.
Another day, just focus on noticing the sound. Another day, try to observe the energy in the room around you (including light and sound).
15) Really commit yourself.
Don’t just say, “Sure, I’ll try this in a few days.” Be really committed to this. In your mind, be locked out for a minimum of a month.
16) You can do it anywhere.
When you’re on the go or something comes up early in the morning, you can meditate in your office.
In the park. During your commute. When you walk somewhere.
Meditation is the best place to start, but in reality, you are practicing this kind of mindfulness throughout your entire life.
17) Check with friends.
While I prefer to meditate alone, you can do it with your kids or spouse or friends.
Or simply make a commitment with a good friend to check in every morning right after meditating. It can help you stay with it longer.
18) Smile when you’re done.
When you finish your 2 minutes, smile.
Be pleased that you’ve had this time with yourself that you’ve stuck to your commitment, that you’ve shown yourself to be trustworthy, that you’ve taken the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself.
Those are two great minutes of your life
19) Feel your body parts.
A great practice for beginners to meditate is to pay attention to the body as the meditative state begins to take hold.
After the mind calms down, focus all your attention on the feet and then slowly move up the entire body (including the internal organs).
This is extremely healthy and a sign that you are on the right track.
20) Meditation with Purpose.
Beginners must know that meditation is an active process. The art of focusing your attention on a single point is hard work and you must engage with purpose!
Meditation is not always easy and peaceful. But it has really impressive benefits, and you can start today, and continue for the rest of your life.