How to Meditate: A Guide for Beginners

When you think about meditation, what is the first thought that pops up? Boredom?

11-12 years ago, I thought learning how to meditate was useless.

The health benefits of meditation have been proven by science.

Just a few of the benefits that you can expect are lowered blood pressure, stress relief, increased healing, improved mood and brain function, just to name a few.

Then we have my favorites, which are expanded awareness and a sense of connection to the world.

There is no one single way of meditating. Like with anything else, by all means immerse yourself in books, CDs and educational material, but remember that it is up to you to experiment and find what works.

I’ve never thought meditation was easy. Your mind wanders. Your body itches. You want to do something else.

However, it is such a powerful method of improving almost every aspect of your life that it cannot be neglected.

Even 10-15 minutes a day can do wonders. Learning how to meditate is easy. It’s the trusting yourself part that is hard. You already know how to do this, so this article is just a reminder.

How to Meditate in 5 Simple Steps

1. Eliminate Distractions. The first thing you want to do is make sure that no one is going to bother you. I’m not going to go into specific strategies, because if you’re serious about improving your life, you will have no trouble finding ways to get a few minutes of silence. Remember, even 5 minutes of meditation is beneficial.

2. Determine Time. I like to determine how long I will meditate before I begin, otherwise it’s easy to give up when it gets tough. I recommend you start with something small. Anything between 5-15 minutes is okay.

3. Relax. Stretching before you start will help you relax and be more comfortable while you are meditating. Your body will object to meditation – at least mine does, because I do not like to sit still – so the more you relax, the smoother everything will go.

4. Get Comfortable. Once you’ve relaxed your body, it’s time to find a place for you to sit or lie down. You do not have to be in a full lotus position. You can sit in whatever way you want, just make sure your spine is straight and you are comfortable. It’s not rocket-science ;).

5. Focus. Your mind will want to make this more complicated than it is, so be prepared for that. Once you’ve settled in, pick one thing to focus on, such as your breath, your muscles or even a candle. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Focusing on one thing is easy and an excellent place to start. I personally like to focus on my breath.

Extra Tips for Beginners

Let it be okay. Your mind will wander. When I first started it was pure chaos in my mind and the rebellion was in full force when I tried to be silent. Let it be okay and when your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the present moment.

Let thoughts pass. In the beginning, your thoughts will be all over the place and you will notice yourself getting swept away by them. This is normal. Bring your awareness back to what you were doing. Keep doing this over and over again. This is meditation.

Posture. Having a straight spine and good posture is important, especially when you’re sitting. It allows the energy in your body to flow. Don’t overextend yourself, just have a comfortable posture that you think is good enough.

Smile. Half-smiling while you are meditating can change what thoughts enter your mind. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, try it and see what happens. Many subtle changes to your physical body can dramatically alter your mood and thought-patterns.

Incremental Improvement. This is not a race. In meditation, you learn to enjoy the process, not the end result. There is nowhere to go and nowhere to be. Focus on incremental improvement. Maybe you can add one second each day to your meditation time. That is just one of many ways to progress.

Music. Sometimes listening to relaxing music can help in meditation. It is up to you to decide what you feel comfortable with. If you like meditating with music then by all means go ahead. This is supposed to be fun (at least somewhat :D).

Meditation CDs. If you’re having trouble meditating or just want guidance, there are always meditation CDs available. I personally like Holosync and have been using it for several years with good results.

Videos on Learning to Meditate

Here are a few videos I’ve created that will answer some questions on learning how to meditate, and calm your mind.

Learn How to Meditate in Less Than 90 Seconds

Do You Have to Quiet Your Mind When You Meditate?

Can You Meditate After Waking Up?

FAQ

These answers are from my personal experience. I know many people will not agree with me, but this is what I have found to work for me. If you like it, use it.

Q: How often should I meditate?

A: As I said above, there are no rules. If you can only meditate once a day, that is fine. It is much more important to get into a routine. Start off with once a day and see how it feels. You can then expand to twice a day if it feels right.

Q: How long should I meditate?

A: You can meditate anywhere from 5 minutes to forever. Start with something that you feel comfortable with. There’s no use in forcing yourself to meditate hours on end if it is going to make you quit within a week.

Q: My mind wanders more than anyone else’s

A: We all think we’re special when it comes to the craziness in our heads. Realize that everyone has the same problems. All of our minds wander. Gently re-focus it on what you were doing and keep re-focusing whenever it wanders. This may happen every 5 seconds in the beginning and that’s okay, just do your best.

Q: What if I fall asleep?

A: If you’re lying down and fall asleep all the time, you might want to consider sitting instead, or lying down when you aren’t sleepy. If you’re falling asleep then you aren’t really meditating. Find a solution.

Q: My body hurts

A: If you’re sitting, your body will start to object and try to get you to move. This is another distraction. Be okay with it and accept it. Let it be there. It is a good opportunity to just observe what is. This includes your feelings about your body. As you progress, it will become easier and easier to let it be okay.

Q: How should I sit?

A: Sit in whatever way you like. Like I mentioned before, the most important thing is to have good posture. You can sit in a chair, on your bed, on the floor, the possibilities are unlimited.

Q: What meditation method is best?

A: There are an overwhelming amount of different alternatives out there. They all claim to be the best. I suggest you start with something simple, such as focusing on your breathing. Do that for a few months before you go on to anything else. There is no one best method.

Q: How should it feel?

A: Everyone has different feelings while they meditate. After a while you will start feeling content, peaceful and happy. In the beginning while your mind is in chaos, it can be overwhelming and frustrating, so just accept whatever comes your way.

Q: Should I close my eyes?

A: You can meditate with your eyes open or close. I prefer to meditate with my eyes closed, because I usually focus on my breath. If you want to focus on something external, then by all means keep your eyes open. In order to make meditation fun, you have to do what you feel is right. There’s no need to be rigid.

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Comments

  1. Archan Mehta says:

    Wow, Henri, what an excellent post about meditation. This is probably going to be your most useful post so far–just a hunch–provided your readers implement it.

    Here’s my take on the issue. Meditation is not a panacea, so don’t treat it like magic.
    Nor is meditation a one-size-fits-all kind of deal: it works for some people more than others. How people from different walks of life have reacted to meditation has been well-documented, and there is a lot of literature out there if you want to pursue it.

    Since I could not find a guru, I thought I should train myself to meditate. In that event, I thought self-study was the best method. So, I started to devour the works of Deepak Chopra, Herbert Benson, Shakti Gawain, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and so many other luminaries. It worked!

    I have made remarkable strides in my life due to the daily practice of meditation, and Henri is right on the money with all the details he has provided in his write up.
    Just remember to be gentle with yourself. Don’t become impatient and shoot for instant gratification: Meditation is not like ordering a burger at McDonald’s. It can take some time, but stick with it. I also could not sit still, like Henri, at the start.
    But I persevered despite obstacles and today I cannot dream of a life without it.

    Also, if your mind wanders like a wild elephant in the jungle, that is, you have several thoughts, go with the flow. Don’t judge. Just let it go. And try a focus word like “OM” (or whatever mantra works for you). There is no magic formula in meditation. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another person. But I have found the “focus word” helps my mind to stop thinking about other things and it brings me back in line. Once you make meditation a daily habit, you will start to experience “bliss consciousness.” That means you have made progress. Bliss is an inner game and meditation should lead you to it. The feeling of bliss will eventually pervade your existence. Bliss is a feeling that does not require external validation like getting a job, money in the bank, or the buying of a home.
    That feeling of bliss will be your friend and follow you wherever you go, folks.

    • That’s an excellent addition, Archan! Meditation can make a big difference even if you just do it for a little bit each day. Remember, there is no magic formula, just like you said.

  2. Oscar - freestyle mind says:

    These are some great tips. I learned meditation 2 years ago but then I didn’t do it. This year I started again and right now I’m going with 10-15 minutes in the morning. By the end of the year I want to develop the habit of meditating for 30 minutes each day.

    • Medition is definitely an easy thing to procrastinate on. I know the feeling ;) For me it’s easier when I start very small and work my way up. I’ve fallen off the wagon many times. It’s part of the game I guess :)

  3. Archan Mehta says:

    Another tip that proved useful to me. Frequently, I found my mind preoccupied by other thoughts while I was meditating. For example, I would think about losing weight, getting more exercise, going for a stroll in the park. I also felt anxious about such thoughts and, well, self-conscious. So, actually meditation did not work for me for a long time, and I would get up and walk away without completing my quota for the day. This became a repeated pattern of behavior: that’s how the mantra or focus word helped me to get back in the game. What you focus on tends to expand, so I kept on repeating that mantra “OM” silently in my mind as if my life depended on it. When you do that repeatedly, that becomes a habit. And the focus word or mantra helped me to calm down and prevented other thoughts from entering my head. Slowly, by your focus on that one word and repeating it umpteen times all distractions will begin to fade away, I thought, and it worked for me. Hope this tip helps your meditation session too. The daily practice of meditation has improved my life in so many different ways that it is difficult to document here. My health issues started to fade away; I became a calmer person; a more productive worker; and I stopped judging mundane tasks and started enjoying manual work.
    There were other benefits, such as a positive frame of mind and clearer thinking.
    People around you will also start to notice the changes and comment on your personality, and that can also provide you with a reason to continue this habit!

    • It can definitely help to focus on one word. I know many people who live by a mantra in their meditation, so that’s definitely something you may want to try.

  4. Thank you Henri

    I’ve been looking to start meditating and need something simple and straight forward to start me off. I started trying to meditate around 2 years ago but never managed to develop a rountine or get in to the habit.

    I really want to pick it up properly and start reaping the benefits.

    Thanks for the tips and the reminder that’s it’s supposed to be enjoyable

    • Sit down, close your eyes and breathe for 5 minutes and you’re done! It can seem pretty confusing with all the information out there, but in my opinion, it’s all pretty simple. No one says you have to do sitting meditation either, you can walk and meditate. I like walking meditation actually.

  5. Hey Henri,

    This is a very handy guide for a beginner non-meditator like me.

    I’ve tried meditating in the past and ran into every. Single. One. Of the problems you listed. I thought my mind was crazy for wandering so much and I got frustrated. It’s reassuring to know others experience it.

    One big thing I didn’t do before which I now will try is to focus on something. I know Dr. Andrew Weil recommends this for breathing exercises each day – seems like a form of meditation by another name.

    I do notice that when I focus on my breathing throughout the day, even if for 30 seconds or 1 minute, my mind doesn’t wander. And my mind doesn’t wander when I’m so immersed in something (like making music).

    So, it seems the key element here is to focus on something. And not beat myself up when my mind wanders but gently bring it back.

    Thanks for this simple but very handy guide. I shall start trying meditating again.

    Here’s to… zzzzzzz -er, bwah! What? Oh, I dozed off. Here’s to meditation,
    Oleg

    • Focusing on my breathing is something that works awesomely for me. With all this writing and talking about meditating, I’m going to do a quick 5 minutes right now.

      One thing that has helped me tremendously is to let whatever happens be okay, because it’s supposed to be there. I don’t remember where I picked that up, but it works for me.

  6. Hi Henri,
    This is a very comprehensive introduction, thank you :) I just wanted to add that whilst meditation has got this new-age image, it is something very old and sacred. King David talks about meditation in the Psalms for example.

    I personally like to meditate on some words from the Bible. My mind still wanders (a lot!) but your advice to just smile and acknowledge the wandering is spot on.

    Thank you,
    Eleanor

    • That’s true, Eleanor. Meditation has been around for a long, long time. The wandering mind is the price we pay for being human it seems ;)

  7. This is a very nicely detailed explanation of meditation and if I should decide to try it I’m coming here first. I think everyone could use a bit of this to ease their minds and lives once in a while – even if it is just once in a while.

    Great stuff, Henri! :)

  8. Tanner @LifeDestiny says:

    Very nice Henri. I have been going through information overload on all the different types of meditation and books and everything. I always have been interested in applying meditation to my life and feel that this could be a good start.

    Instead of reading up on all the books on meditation, this article fits into just focusing on what matters. Getting the bases down and just taking action and doing it.

  9. Sibyl - alternaview says:

    Henri:
    Great and very helpful post. Meditation really is so important and so this post is great because it provides you with the fundamentals that you can use to get you going. Someone once told me to not obsess about the experience because it will continually improve and as long as you are sitting down and taking some time to yourself to meditate, it is a very good beginning. That kind of did it for me because I was no longer focusing during meditation on doing it right or continually worried about thinking too much. I lowered my expectations about the experience and have just allowed it to unfold and as you suggested, allowed it to be something that incrementally improved.

    • That has been my experience exactly. Don’t worry about what you’re experienceing so much. Sit down and do your best. It’s much more fun when you don’t put pressure on yourself too :)

  10. Ian Nuttall says:

    Really informative post, Henri.

    I’ve done this quite a lot in recent months and I have found the best time to do it is early in the morning, around 5.00 to 5.30am. Your mind isn’t as active since you just woke up and it’s not filled with the problems of the day that you can’t stop thinking about.

    Plus, the house is quiet, there is a kind of ambient darkness that makes it much easier for me to relax. My way of meditating is to let go of everything thought or feeling I have. To feel every moment as it happens without regard for the past or the future. In that moment, everything becomes much calmer and clearer and it feels really good.

    I guess a lot of people think you have to be a spiritual person to begin meditating, but actually it’s a useful tool for anyone looking to de-stress and recharge their physical and emotional batteries.

    Thanks for this, it’s really great stuff!

    • The morning hours are excellent if you can get yourself to do it at that time. I have quite a bit of fun exercising when my mind is at its worst, it’s tough but when I let it be it calms down and my whole day gets re-energized.

      • Ian Nuttall says:

        Early mornings are great for active meditation too. I love walking down the little paths along the fields in my town at 6 or 7am. Nobody is around, no traffic, the air is cool and fresh and it really gives me a chance to shed any stress or anxiety before I start my day.

        I highly recommend early mornings to anyone looking into meditation, active or otherwise.

  11. I’m going to be honest with you. I have always had a difficult time relaxing enough to meditate.

    I find it easier to do active meditation like running….although I know it isn’t the same thing.

    • There’s nothing wrong with active meditation. I did walking meditation for a long time instead of sitting. It just felt right to me at the time, so if active meditation speaks to you then go ahead and do it. When and if sitting meditation beckons you then try it out!

    • Ian Nuttall says:

      It’s a different experience to have active meditation when running etc but no less fulfilling.

      If you switch your mind off while running (it’s quite easy since it’s SO BORING) then you can still find a similar release to sitting. :)

  12. It’s a fallacy that thoughts are a problem in meditation or that meditation itself needs to be difficult. If it isn’t easy, it isn’t natural, and if it isn’t natural, it’s not worth doing. Read about the Principle of Effortlesness on my website http://www.tmderby.org.
    All the very best,
    John

  13. very clear and detailed , thanks for the guide:)

  14. I have always been against meditation, and was first quite reluctant to read the article. However I read it and, believe me, I practised meditating by reading the article and the comments themselves! This is really amazing! Thanks!

    • That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing. I know I didn’t feel quite comfortable with meditation long ago, but luckily my views have changed and so have yours. Keep doing it and reaping the benefits ;).

  15. If i meditate, should my thoughts be absolutely clear? I find that no matter how hard i try to be still, i somehow end up taking to myself (in my mind ofcourse)
    Please help???

    • Hey Celeste,

      No your thoughts do not have to be clear. I find my thoughts running wild sometimes when I meditate, and sometimes not. Whenever you catch yourself catching yourself, just bring your mind back to focus on your breathing or whatever you were focusing on.

      Keep doing that over and over again and you will get better at it.

  16. Thanks very much! Good to know that I am not alone. I have not really started yet but will very soon!
    Also, how do we know which dreams to pay attention to? I’ve purchased numerous “Dream Dictionaries” but my dreams are so bizarre that i rarely find an answer to any?

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