I’ve been meditating since around 2004.
More haphazardly the first decade, and then more diligently.
The benefits of meditation have been proven by science.
And from my sample of one experience, meditation might be one of the most important practices of my life.
There are many ways of meditating.
You can get lost in trying to find the right technique, but when you’re starting out, the most important thing is sitting down and doing it.
There is often a lot of resistance. You want to do anything but meditate, because it’s uncomfortable. If you can get over that early hump, it will be well worth it.
Even 5-10 minutes per day can do wonders over time.
How to Meditate in 5 Simple Steps
I won’t go into any details of what meditation is, how it came to be, and so on. Instead, let’s dive right in and get you started.
The meditation object we will use is the breath. Focus on your abdomen rising and falling. I like to notice the sensations in my abdomen as it rises and falls.
Add in counting of each in breath if it helps you stay focused. When you reach 10, start counting again from 1.
That’s it. That’s the technique.
With that said, here are five steps to get you started:
1. Eliminate Distractions. When starting out, eliminate as many distractions as you can. Find a location where you can meditate undisturbed. There will be enough internal distractions to deal with, so you don’t want to pile on external ones.
2. Determine Time. Determine how long you will meditate. If this is your first time, then start with 5 minutes. Make it something that is easily achievable. Cultivate the habit before you begin increasing sitting time. Let it be easy.
3. Relax. Stretching before you start will help you relax and be more comfortable while you meditate. No fancy stretches needed. Stretch whatever comes to mind. And if you don’t know any stretches, forget about this step.
4. Sit. You can meditate lying down if you cannot sit, but remember, we’re starting with 5 minutes, so you can sit on an office chair if there’s nothing else. As you sit, try to be as still as possible. You may feel the urge to move, scratch an itch, or open your eyes, but do your best to giving in to these urges. Each time you stay focused, you build your meditation muscle.
5. Focus. Your mind will try to distract and avoid at every turn. Set your timer for 5 minutes. Stay focused on the breath. When you notice that you’ve been caught up in thinking, gently bring your focus back to the breath. Some meditation sessions you may only be able to stick with the breath for 5-10% of the session. That is to be expected. Each time you bring your focus back to your breath, you become a bit stronger, so celebrate those times.
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. Each time you re-focus on the breath is like one rep at the gym. It builds mental concentration.
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. Sit for 5 minutes per day for the first month, and then increase your sitting time by 1-2 minutes. Keep it easy.
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.
Guided Meditation. If you’re having trouble meditating or just want guidance, there are always guided meditations you can find, although make sure you search for breath meditation if you want to focus on the breath.
Videos on Learning to Meditate
Below are a few older videos of mine that are still relevant today 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?
Here are a few common questions and my answers to them.
Q: How often should I meditate?
A: Ideally, you would want to meditate twice per day to get into a rhythm. So if you’re doing 5 minutes each sit, start with one in the morning and one in the evening, or whatever fits with your schedule. Now, if you have a hard time, then start with just one 5 minute meditation session per day for a month and add the second one later.
Q: How long should I meditate?
A: Start with 5 minutes. Remember to keep it easy, otherwise you’ll give up. It’s more important that you meditate consistently instead of starting and stopping.
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 the breath and keep doing that. Celebrate each re-focusing. In time, you will be able to stay focused on the breath for longer and longer periods without losing concentration.
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 meditating.
Q: My body hurts
A: If you followed my advice to start with 5 minute sessions, you should not have much pain. If you do, try to adjust your position so you can sit for 5 minutes. If there are small pains, those are usually okay, but ultimately you have to decide what is appropriate for your body.
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. If you can meditate lying down without falling asleep, you don’t have to worry about this too much.
Q: What meditation method is best?
A: There is no best method. Start with breath meditation as described in this article and stick with it for at least a few months. Otherwise you risk getting caught up in searching for the best meditation technique, which is really a distraction from just meditating.
Q: How should it feel?
A: At first it may feel uncomfortable, confusing, and disheartening. A big part of meditation is to learn to develop the equanimity to sit in unpleasant states, which then helps you deal with life with more calm and ease. In that sense, whatever comes up is perfect.
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.
All the best,
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