How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
Benefits of Mindfulness: Mindful Living Can Change Your Life
Mindfulness 101: A Beginner's Guide
It can feel pretty uncomfortable—at first.
You’ll want to fidget. You’ll want to shift around in your seat. You’ll notice weird twinges and feel itchy in the strangest of places. You’ll be bored and wonder how much time is left until you can stop. You’ll daydream. You’ll think about all the other things you need to attend to.
And you’ll bring your attention back, again and again and again.
That’s it. That’s meditation.
Soon enough you’ll be wondering why you didn’t try it sooner.
But we won’t lie: You may not fall in love with meditation immediately. What you will experience, however, is pretty great.
Not bad for a few minutes of sitting in silence, right? And it just gets better from here. Read on to learn more about meditation and how to start meditating yourself.
The benefits of meditation go beyond feeling more calm. Meditation has been found to support our health and also to improve our overall outlook. Maybe more importantly, meditation is a way to enter into a kinder, more generous relationship with yourself and others.
Here are some of the ways that meditation helps, backed by research:
Meditation is the best tool we have for increasing mindfulness. It’s also a powerful way to bring a greater sense of calm focus and equanimity to our day-to-day lives.
Learning to meditate is pretty straightforward, but it takes practice.
Follow these steps to start meditating right away:
That’s it! That’s meditation.
This basic meditation technique uses an anchor, such as the breath or a sound, to help steady our attention and allow our awareness to come more fully into the present moment.
This technique invokes feelings of love, caring, and kindness, which you then “send” to others, even to the entire world, in the form of a wish.
Listening to a teacher, either live or through a recording, you are guided through a meditation practice that may involve imagery, sensory awareness, or another technique.
In this meditation, you bring your awareness to different parts of your body, commonly starting at your feet and traveling to the top of your head.
Like Loving-Kindness Meditation, this technique involves invoking feelings of compassion and kindness toward yourself, and specifically for difficult situations or feelings.
A mantra, or a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself silently, can be used as an anchor for your awareness during meditation. In some practices, a mantra is given to you by a teacher. You can also use your own.
Moving meditation is done by bring present-moment awareness to a gentle physical activity, such as walking, yoga, tai chi or chi kung.
Expanding your awareness during meditation to notice anything in your experience, inner or outer, and simply noticing what’s there without holding it in your focus.
A visualization meditation that harnesses the image of a mountain to guide us into awareness of our own steady, still nature beyond the thinking mind.
A science-backed practice of nurturing positive feelings and resilience, we bring our awareness to all the good, nourishing and fulfilling elements of our life, big and small.
Every time you sit down to practice, you’ve succeeded.
You want your breathing to be relaxed, not forced in any way. It may help to take a few deep, clearing breaths before you start, and then allow your breathing to settle into a natural rhythm.
If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable for you, by all means, take a chair or another seat. Just make sure that you are comfortable, relaxed but alert, and can stay in that position for a while.
You’ll be surprised how fast it goes by. Add a minute or two with each successive session until you find the ideal duration for your daily practice.
While you often hear about “clearing your mind” through meditation, the truth is you can’t really clear or empty your mind. Thinking is what these big ol’ brains of ours do! And stopping thinking isn’t the goal of meditation, anyway—not getting caught up in those thoughts is. Now, as you get more comfortable meditating, you may find yourself sometimes experiencing moments of spaciousness that feels like no thoughts are happening. If that occurs, cool! Enjoy the sensation. But thoughts happen. Becoming less attached to them is one of the main reasons why we meditate.
If you find yourself getting sleepy during meditation practice, open a window to let in some fresh air, or try meditating outside.
No one begins a meditation practice and can sit like a monk for hours right away. And even if they could, that’s not the goal. The entire reason for meditation is learning to work with your mind in your normal life. And practice is how we do it.
The body is a wonderful touchstone for meditation. Use it to help guide your attention inward and to train it to notice what’s right happening in the moment.
A stern or punitive attitude doesn’t work with meditation (does it with anything, though?). In other words: You can’t will yourself into being a “good” meditator. That’s just a lot of wasted energy. And for what? Meditation is about befriending yourself. Treat thoughts and other distractions with a friendly curiosity, as you might a passerby in the neighborhood. Maybe give ‘em a wave as they walk by, and then get back to your practice.
A helpful trick for dealing with thoughts and other distractions in meditation is to name them as they arise. It’s just like it sounds: When a thought comes into your mind, silently say “thought.” When a bit of emotion starts to stir, simply name it— “sadness,” for example. If you find yourself ruminating about something that happened, tell yourself: “remembering.” You can come up with your own labels, but the point is to simply acknowledge what’s coming up, give it a nod, and then let it go without engaging any further.
Any amount of meditation is better than no meditation at all. But the benefits of meditation are compounded when you do it regularly. And daily? Even better. A daily meditation practice will yield benefits that will reverberate into every area of your life.
The benefits of meditation are compounded when you do it regularly.
To get the most benefit, meditating every day is best. Making it a daily habit also means that you don’t have to try to remember to fit it in. But any amount of meditation is better than no meditation at all! To start, aim for three meditation sessions per week, and increase that number over time. As you begin to notice its effects in your life, you’ll look for any opportunity to meditate!
The best posture for meditation is sitting upright, comfortable and alert, with your hips slightly higher than your knees to support a natural spinal curve. This can be done sitting on the edge of a chair or other piece of furniture that’s not too low, or by sitting upon a meditation cushion on the floor. You can rest your hands in your lap. The most important thing is that you find a position that you can stay in for a while.
It’s tempting to lie down to meditate, especially if you’re doing it before bed or right when you wake up. Ideally, though, you want to be in an upright seated position, to avoid any urge to fall asleep.
That said, some types of meditation, including guided meditation and yoga nidra, are often done lying down. You’re less likely to drift into sleep when following someone’s voice.
Meditation is come-as-you-are: no special uniform required! But you want to be as comfortable as possible for the duration of your meditation. In other words, avoid clothing that feels tight or restrictive, or that’s going to make you too hot or not keep you warm enough. Loose layers are a good option.
Meditation is a highly personal activity, with everyone finding their best own way to practice. Some find guided meditations to be useful, especially when starting out, to help focus their attention. Ultimately, meditation is something you can do anywhere and at any time, so getting comfortable meditating without guidance can be useful.
Some people find listening to music while meditating helpful. Indeed, some music, especially slow or instrumental music, can invoke a quiet, relaxed state that’s conducive to meditation. Just make sure to choose music that won’t distract you.
Meditation and mindfulness are related, but they’re different things. Meditation is an activity that cultivates mindfulness. It’s sometimes described as a workout that strengthens your mindfulness muscle.
Mindfulness is a quality of mind that is strengthened through meditation and other practices. It is a way of being, of experiencing life, that is alert, curious, and present.
Like many other aspects of meditation, whether to practice before or after exercise is mostly a personal preference. It may also feel different for you from day to day.
That said, yoga is an example of an activity often done prior to meditation, and specifically helps prepare both mind and body for the pratice. Meanwhile, at least one found that meditating before doing moderate aerobic exercise may help counter depression.
Meditating after a large meal—and certainly after drinking alcohol—can make you feel sleepy, which isn’t ideal. The goal is to stay alert during your practice. But having something to eat prior to meditation may also mean you won’t be distracted by hunger. Use your own judgment and experience as a guide to what works best for you.
Ideally, you should meditate when you feel calm but alert, and when you won’t be distracted. If you’re a morning person, then meditating in the morning might be perfect for you. If you’re someone who needs help winding down before bed, then try meditation in the evening. The main thing is to set yourself up for success: Don’t schedule meditation for a time when you’re likely to be interrupted, distracted by your to-do list, or feel sleepy.
No, you don’t need anything to meditate, although it can be helpful to use an app, especially when you’re starting out. Some apps also have timers or other prompts reminding you to meditate, which can help you make it a daily routine.
We’re admittedly biased, but the primary goal at Mindfulness.com is to help people develop a daily practice of meditation. The most common feedback we receive for our app is how useful it is for beginners to start and sustain a meditation practice. It does this through various points of support based on experience level, how much time you may have, and with practices designed to meet you exactly where you are that day, in your particular life stage, and wherever you are along your meditation journey.
Enjoy these articles, stories, and guided practices for incorporating mindfulness into every day.
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