How to Meditate for Beginners
Meditation is a stress relief tool that is relatively easy for beginners to learn. There is no cost to learning this art and meditating can improve your ability to concentrate and restore the energy that is depleted every day by the stress of modern day living.
How To Meditate
The practice of meditation is often considered this mystical ritual from another culture and therefore is not for everyone. This just isn't true. We are all human with minds that need rest. Our brains are the most overused organ in our body and although sleep is meant for rest and repair, it is often not enough for our busy brains.
The most crucial point to remember when you are learning to meditate is that you shouldn't try to stop your thinking. You can't just stop your thoughts. The more you try, the more stressed you will feel. However what you must learn is to separate from your thoughts. Find a focus for your mind as your thoughts float in and out. Often this focus is your breathing.
My Introduction to Meditation
I was introduced to meditation by a friend who just happens to be from India. One Sunday she was late to join us for brunch and this was unusual for her. When she arrived, she told me that she had been on a meditative nature walk. My interest was piqued. I don't know many people who get up that early on a Sunday morning to commune with nature.
She told me she met with a group that meets at different locations for an 8 km walk each Sunday morning. They usually walk in parks or conservation areas, and at the midway point of the walk, they meditate. I can walk with the best of them, but meditation was new to me. I promptly got myself invited to the next walk!
The Meditation Walk
The Day of the Walk
It was an unusually cold spring morning on the next Sunday walk. I arrived at the park in plenty of time and met my companions. The rules were simple: we walk for 8 km and the first four 4 km we walk in silence. After introductions, we gathered in a circle to chant the traditional sound "ohm" several times, then we were off. It was cold but by vigorously walking we quickly warmed up.
The park was beautiful. The leaves were just starting to make an appearance on the trees, it was overcast, but still a clear day. The entire walk was along a river, so you could hear the gentle water sounds. At the 4 km point, we gathered by the river under some trees still in silence, and positioned ourselves on some rocks, cross-legged, eyes shut or partially closed. We concentrated only on our breathing, keeping our minds clear.
It was so relaxing, I cannot even describe it. The sound of the water and the intermittent breeze was therapeutic. After 10 minutes, we rose and did some stretching exercises facing west. We could talk now and to finish off, we circled in for short prayer of thanks.
Then it was back 4 km to our cars. Along the way back, we talked and socialized. I no longer felt cold but warm and very relaxed. There is no medication that could ever give you this instant feeling of contentment.
Meditate Before Exercise—Enhance Your Workout!
The purpose of meditation is to focus your attention inwardly and so that all the thoughts of the day and all the worries and the stress melt away, bringing a peaceful balance to your mind. In this calmness, you will experience new insights and see things more clearly. With practice, you will find that the effects of meditation will stay with you for longer periods.
The most popular and basic posture for meditation is the seated position. Lying down may be relaxing but it is also a signal to the body to sleep.
The following are the basic steps to a sitting posture. Keep in mind, you can do this anywhere whether you are standing or sitting. Anytime you need to clear your mind of racing thoughts and needless worry, just use meditation to find a calm and peaceful focus within.
Music to Help You Meditate
How to Do Meditation
- With your back straight, but relaxed, sit with your legs crossed on the floor. Make sure you feel comfortable.
Your hands should be resting in your lap with your palms facing upwards.
Relax your eyes and partially close them.
Find a focal point. This could be concentrating on your breathing or chanting a word, or looking at a photograph of a serene setting (i.e. nature) or visualize a peaceful image of our choice.
You begin by being aware of your breathing and gradually allow your body to relax.
Allow your mind to relax naturally. Don't try to force your mind not to think. Just be aware of your thoughts as they come and go and each time gently return your attention to your focal point.
Incorporating Meditation Into Your Life
Meditation can be done almost anywhere. Many believe you have to be in a quiet, solitary place to meditate but you can meditate while at work, waiting in line, any room of your house, or sitting on the bus! You can meditate for a long or short time —you decide! Any length of time is better than none at all.
There are many types of meditation and many ways to meditate. You just have to find the method that best suits you.
Do not expect your mind to just automatically clear. Meditation takes time and practice. You may not feel any different after the first few times you try, but don't let that discourage you. To master anything you must practice. This will allow you to become better at meditating, and soon you will begin to reap the benefits.
Try to meditate on a regular basis and at a regular time so it becomes a habit. You may want to meditate every morning to clear your mind for the day or before you go to bed in order to encourage a restful sleep. When you are dealing with a stressful situation, you may want to meditate more frequently or at different times.
Meditation: Finding the Time
There is no question that it can be difficult in our busy lives to find time for ourselves, especially quiet time! I also find it easier to meditate outside. I seem to go deeper when I am surrounded by the sounds of nature. The weather doesn't always cooperate, so indoor meditation with a relaxation tape is also a good choice.
I have begun the meditation walk habit with my group every Sunday morning. During the last walk, we passed a group of deer, peering at us through the trees. They were so close. Since we walk in silence I suppose they did not feel the need to flee. That is the closest I have ever been to deer in their natural habitat. A little later on I was delighted to see a little chipmunk on a log watching us pass. We also saw many birds, bright red cardinals, beautiful blue jays all were stunningly colorful.
After a walk like this, it is easier to release your thoughts and clear your mind. We also sit by the river to meditate and the sounds of the water are so soothing.
Finding the time can be a challenge but it is well worth the effort. Find a group to do a meditation walk with or create your own group; start with just one friend to develop the habit.
Peace of MInd
Meditation is peace of mind - literally! It clears the clutter of your thoughts.
We think too much and we need to give our minds a rest from the constantly stimulus of our environment. Even in our sleep we are actively dreaming. The thinking habit is out of control and often provokes anxiety as we invent worries and negative scenarios in our mind that don't exist and never come to pass. This reminds me of that famous quote by Mark Twain above, "I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened."
Take the time to take a short vacation from thinking and give your brain a rest from your external environment.
Meditation Has a Long History
Researchers believe meditation started in primitive times when the hunter/gatherer civilization sat staring into their fires at night. Their fires were their natural focus and perhaps they began to feel the relaxing benefits. The practice evolved over time and is evident in Indian scripture dated as far back as 5000 years ago.
It was around 500 B.C. that the Buddha took the practice mainstream. Buddha's teaching spread rapidly throughout Asia. However, meditation did not reach Western civilization until the 1960s when university professors started studying its benefits and discovered the positive correlations to stress and anxiety reduction.
The Science of Meditation
The act of meditating is about relaxing the brain and removing yourself from the outside environment and going deep within. Closing your eyes is one way we can reduce stimulus as we process about 80 percent of our environment through our vision. Slowing our breathing is also important that is why it is advisable to focus on the breath. We go through the routines of our daily lives breathing shallowly. That is why you often hear the advise of taking a deep breath when you are experiencing stress.
The brain is electrochemical and processes in terms of "waves". There are several wave "states".
This is our normal routine day-to-day processing state that connects the experiences in our environment with our internal environment.
This state is easy to access just by closing our eyes and giving our brains much less to process in our external environment.
This is kind of a half way point between being conscious and unconscious. We may be half awake. Think of hypnotism as this is a state where you can easily be influenced by suggestion because there is less or no interference by the conscious thinking mind. The hypnotist is accessing your subconscious.
This is deep sleep for most of us. We are oblivious to our environment for the most part and our bodies are in a state of relaxation and repair.
The Danger in Beta Wave States
When we are conscious and going through our normal rountines in a beta state - trouble can ensue. The beta state of consciousness can move between three levels.
Regular routine processing of enviromental stimulus
Somewhat more focus and concentration i.e. learning a new task
Stressful conditions push us into high beta. The brain becomes super focused on enviromental factors. This can be of benefit when dealing with a short stressful event like running away from a dangerous situation.
However, in today's modern society we often get stuck in this high beta wave state. Everything becomes urgent or an emergency. We concentrate on too much and this leads to worry, anxiety, depression and a cocktail of other disorders may follow.
The Role of Meditation
The purpose of meditation is to give our brains a much needed rest from this overstimulation. It is easy to reach an alpha state just by closing your eyes and sitting in a quiet enviroment focused on your breath. Ultimately with time and practice it is even more beneficial to bring yourself into the theta and delta states.
In these states the brain waves are slowed down considerably and the benefits to the brain are enormous. The brain in constant high beta becomes less adept at regulating our systems.
Through meditation we allow the brain to refresh and reorganize. It allows the brain to become better at the job it was designed to do before our modern society created a "high beta" environment to constantly tax it.
Learn More About Meditation
- MEDITATION AND EXERCISE: A pre-workout meditation to integrate mind and body | The Mindful Word
Do this meditation before exercise to improve performance and integrate mind and body.
- Mindfulness Meditation
I love this website "Positively Positive" and I subscribe to their feed. They always post good info for living a happy and rewarding life. Here is a link to a recent post on meditation.
- The Five Types of Meditation
Gives you a simple overview of the different types of meditation styles.
Dispenza, J., & Amen, D. G. (2015). Breaking the habit of being yourself: how to lose your mind and create a new one. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
Have You Ever Tried to Meditate?
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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.
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© 2012 Sharon Bellissimo