The Beginner’s Meditation: How to Clear Your Mind and Focus on Your Breathing
Those who practice meditation regularly often feel less stressed, more focused, and an overall enhancement of emotional health. In fact, the health benefits of meditating range far beyond emotional well-being, but can also include lowering blood pressure, decreasing memory loss, and can help control pain.
Meditation has been practiced by cultures around the world for a very long time. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when humans started meditating, the earliest records of practice date back to 1500 years BCE in India. With more than 3,000 years of evidence, it is no wonder that meditation is a common prescription for those who need healing and those who want to thrive at their best in mind and body.
However, if you are new to meditation, the task of quieting your thoughts and being still can seem quite impossible. How do you stop thinking? The simple answer is, you don’t. It is impossible to not think. In fact, if you told your brain to stop having thoughts, it would have even more thoughts reacting to the effort of not having thoughts.
So, how do you meditate, then?
Step 1: Find a quiet place.
The first step of meditation is to find somewhere where you will not be interrupted for the duration of your meditation. Find a quiet and secluded place where you feel comfortable. This may be somewhere in your home such as your bedroom or living room. Or, it might be somewhere where you feel closer to nature, such as your backyard or a secluded area in a nearby park.
Step 2: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
It doesn’t matter if you sit or lie down, as long as you are feeling comfortable. It may be helpful to sit on a pillow to cushion your seating if you are on the floor or a hard surface. You may also sit in a chair or rest your back against a wall or tree if you need the support on your back. Some people are more comfortable sitting cross-legged or in a half-lotus — a position with one leg crossed over the other in order to open the hips and stretch the knees and ankles. Or, you may feel most comfortable lying down on your bed or on a couch. As long as you are comfortable, any position is okay.
Step 3: Determine how long you will meditate.
Have a timer with you and set it to the amount of time you wish to meditate. For a beginner, starting at 5 or ten minutes is ideal, then, as you get more practiced, you can begin to add a couple of minutes at a time to your sessions. Note: if your phone is your timer, turn off other notifications so you are not distracted by unrelated pings.
Step 4: Close your eyes.
While it is possible to meditate with your eyes open, when you are new to meditation, closing your eyes makes it easier to not get distracted by your surroundings. Eyesight is the most engaging sense, containing two-thirds of one’s sensory cells. Those who are new to meditation can be easily distracted and keeping the eyes closed helps one to focus on the experience of the mediation.
Step 5: Focus on your breathing.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Don’t worry about trying to control your breathing, instead, focus on how it feels to breathe. Take a deep breath in and notice as the air fills up your lungs how your belly and chest expand. Feel the breath coming in through your nose and count how many seconds it takes to breathe in fully. Then let it go. Breathe out through your mouth and notice your body deflate as the breath leaves your body. Notice how many seconds it take to breathe out fully.
Step 6: Say a mantra.
It may be helpful to have a word or phrase to focus on to stop your mind from wandering. A mantra will help to clear your mind of the noise your thoughts create. Pick a mantra that resonates with you and has a meaning that aligns with your meditation purpose.
Some common mantras include:
Om. Perhaps one of the most-commonly heard mantras, the om (pronounce ohm) means ‘It is, will be or will become.’
Lumen de Lumine. It means light of light and is meant to clear the darkness from your thoughts and fill you with the feeling of light and peace.
Love, Peace, Joy, Harmony. If any of these words speak to you, repeat one or more as your mantra and embrace their meaning with each breath.
I feel. I exist. As you breathe in and say the first part of this mantra, notice how your body feels. Notice the feel of your skin, how your hair brushes the back of your neck or the way your fingers rest on your lap. As you breathe out, imagine the universe. Imagine the sky, the trees, the grass, the ants in the dirt and the planets beyond our own. Acknowledge the feeling of existence.
Step 7: Slowly open your eyes.
When your timer goes off, silence it and slowly open your eyes. Linger in the moment for a little longer. As you go back to your day, notice the difference in how you feel after meditating. Are you more energized? Do you feel less stressed? Are you breathing easier? Do you feel better?
Step 8: Repeat steps 1-7 tomorrow.
As with any other habit, repetition is key. Try to meditate at the same time every day. The more you practice, the easier meditating will become and the longer you will be able to, and will want to, do it.
Light a candle or incense before beginning.
Designate a space to be your meditation spot. Keep your mediation materials here such as a candle and lighter, a timer, and a pillow.
Create a meditation playlist of relaxing music to put you in the mood.
Wear comfortable clothes that don’t pinch or pull.
- Ask a partner to join you to help you commit to daily meditation.
- Ask a question before you meditate to focus your mind.
If you are still having trouble clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing, try a guided meditation. A guided meditation will mentor you step by step through the meditation process and will help you to use your imagination to calm your consciousness. Guided meditations are a great first step for beginners, and are nice to go back to from time to time even once you are a practiced and dependant meditator.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sckylar Gibby-Brown