You’ve heard that meditation would be good for you, that there are many benefits to regular meditation practice. But you’ve been reluctant to try, as you don’t know much about meditation - what it is, how should you start meditating, what to expect, how to meditate properly, what mistakes to avoid, can you mess it up?
Or, why should you really care about meditation?
Here is a short beginner’s guide to meditation to answer most common questions and provide tips for starting your own meditation practice:
Table of Contents
Why Should One Meditate?
Life is hectic. We feel constant stress, anxiety, depleted, even depressed, with no energy or will to try anything. Life has lost it’s joy, or we never felt it to begin with.
There are many good reasons why one should learn to meditate and start meditating on a regular basis. The benefits of meditation include feeling calmer and more relaxed, less stressed and anxious. Regularly meditating will help you feel better, regain clarity, energy and sanity.
The simplest and first reason to start meditating is that it will help you feel better - regain energy, clarity and joy.
Meditation can also serve as a stepping stone for personal change. Meditation is the key tool used for achieving radical personal transformation.
A deeper reason is that it will put you in touch with your Inner Self, it will help you transform yourself and change your life.
How I Began Meditating
I was first introduced to meditation in general and the idea of meditating on a regular basis, when I began studying Buddhism. We would meet up in a group after work, listen to a short lecture on Buddhism, and then go through a guided meditation.
The entire experience was easy-going, with no expectations, no hard rules or rituals (apart from not disturbing others). Hence the appeal to a newbie and disbeliever in any form of self-help/spiritual practices up to that point, such as myself.
But I really began taking meditation seriously, as a tool for personal change, after I met my first spiritual teacher (my boxing trainer).
What I Experienced through Meditation
At first - not much. It was a new and intriguing experience to learn meditation from practitioners of Buddhism. I felt relaxed afterwards, but not much else. There were no grand insights or paranormal experiences, no voices spoke to me and I saw no Force visions. :)
It all came later, after practicing Meditation regularly for a while.
My first meditations left me feeling calmer, with a deeper sense of peace and wellbeing - something I had not realised I lacked. My first month or so of meditation prepared me enough (read: I started to believe in my ability to sorta kinda meditate and not screw it up) to pick up guided meditations. Guided meditations are good tools, as they help you to gently focus and guide you through the meditation experience, without becoming too stimulating so that you start solving problems during meditation. Use them, if you feel inclined.
Next step came with the guidance of a spiritual teacher - I started having some psychic experiences, went deeper into meditation, learned to let go and trust, surrender and connect to my Inner Self.
I would occasionally see lights or colours, and some short visions during meditation. Nothing profoundly meaningful, more like practice to get accustomed to the idea. I went deeper into meditation - sensing and connecting/blending with Inner Self, losing sense of the physical world and my body, any sense of space and time.
As a rule, I came out of meditation refreshed, full of energy and joy. Nothing could knock me off of my high mood on those days when I had meditated in the morning with my spiritual teacher. But the next day would be a sharp contrast - I would easily get irritated, even angry and felt depleted after work.
I realised that I had not even began to learn to Guide my Emotions, to choose and hold a state of being. Hence, my daily life was a roller-coaster ride.
Now, I must mention that we also practiced breathing exercises and active meditation techniques, so don’t expect ground-shattering experiences on your fist couple of months.
My real practice began when I left my teacher - now I had to really learn to trust myself, follow my Intuition and Inner Guidance, instead of relying upon outside authority. To accept as real my experiences and insights, to accept full responsibility for my path of self-discovery.
First thing I realised the hard way - I cannot function without regular meditation - I feel depleted, irritated, stressed-out and have no will or energy to live. I still fall for this - thinking I can guide my attention and emotions enough through daily life, that I don’t really need to meditate this evening, or the next. Yeah, right.
To sum up, the main benefits of a regular meditation and mindfulness practice is a deeper sense of peace and relaxation, more energy and joy in daily life.
But the real reason to start meditating is to connect with one’s Inner Self and begin the journey of self-discovery and personal transformation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a calming of the mind, of releasing tension, stress and anxiety. It is a slowing down of thought, achieving calmness, deeper peace and relaxation. Sort of like taking a nice, soothing bath after a hard day.
We have all experienced meditative state unknowingly - taking a walk in nature, listening to music, swimming, reading and contemplating a book - when we lose sense of time and place, become lost in our thoughts and feelings, withdrawing from the busyness of everyday life.
Through this process of un-focusing our attention from the physical world around us, from our daily lives and problems, we release tension, stress and anxiety, we become calmer, feel a deeper sense of peace and relaxation. We allow our energy to recharge and bring us clarity and joy.
The best way to achieve it is by focusing upon something simple and boring - enough to hold our attention, but not to stimulate thoughts. Some examples would be wind or water noises, ambient noises such as air conditioner, traffic on the street, wind rustling in trees. Or our breathing - in and out - as it is always available to us.
Another option is to download apps with ambient noises or noise generators. I personally use MyNoise app.
Still another option is to listen to meditative music or mantras (just search google or YouTube) - but be sure you like it and that it is not overly stimulating.
Try it - simple and easy meditation exercise:
Here’s a simple and easy meditation exercise:
Sit in a chair, make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Focus on your breath coming in and out of your body. Chances are it will feel strange at first. Your mind will wander and chatter. Don’t fight it, don’t try to quiet your mind. Just bring your focus back to breathing - in and out, in and out. Continue breathing, full and deep breaths, at a pace that is comfortable for you.
Continue for 2 to 3 minutes. Now, notice how you feel.
Do you feel calmer, more relaxed? Is it easier to focus now?
That’s all there really is to meditation in terms of action. No need to complicate. Every variation or approach just tries to help in softening the focus, slowing down mind and turning inward - to sense, feel and commune with one’s Inner Self.
Three Levels of Meditation
If you have spent any time reading up on mediation, you will have noticed different and contradicting descriptions of what meditation is, how it’s supposed to work, what you should do, what technique to learn and what benefits does it provide.
Confusing, and pointless.
Meditation is a meditation, regardless of the technique or label. Ultimately meditation is about connecting with one’s Inner Self, and the resulting journey of personal transformation. How you get there will be unique to you. You will try many different approaches and methods, listen to various teachers and gurus, try some of it, drop it, come back to meditation. Until you begin to notice the effect, until you start to believe in yourself and seek answers and guidance within. Then none of the labels and what anybody else says will matter.
To help you gain clarity, here is a simple framework as a reference point when considering meditation.
- Meditative state. The first step - or state - we achieve is a meditative state. It is a relaxing, calming experience, where we can release stress and anxiety. It can be achieved naturally and spontaneously - while taking a walk in nature, sunbathing, listening to music, painting. Afterwards we feel calmer, more focused, lighter and happier. In this meditative state we do not think of anything in particular, we gently focus upon something that can not carry our mind on wild tangents. We calm our mind.
- Meditation. From meditative state we can pass into a meditation. We go deeper into our consciousness, we can lose sense of time, space and our bodies. We can begin to receive insights, our senses broaden. In meditation, it is very productive to focus our attention upon feelings, a state of being we desire to achieve, to embody - who and what we want to be. This is the time to reshape our consciousness.
- Deep meditation. At this stage we are feeling detached from our physical body and world, we are connected and experiencing our inner world - we are communing and communicating with our Inner Self.
How to Meditate Properly?
Here’s the basics you need to meditate properly:
Set aside 15 minutes when you will not be distracted by anything or anybody. Sit in a chair, make yourself comfortable. Switch your phone to airplane mode. Close your eyes and start breathing deep and full breaths. Continue for 5 to 10 or 15 minutes.
Your mind will wander, you’ll catch yourself thinking. It’s OK. Bring back your focus to breathing - air flowing in and out of your body. Continue breathing and relaxing.
It can help to focus on a monotonous, boring sound - rain, wind, the noise of air conditioner etc. Try MyNoise app or search YouTube for videos with ambient noises or meditative music.
Notice sensations in body - tingling, muscles releasing tension, energy movement and heat or pressure in chakra energy centres. Observe, it is all normal and you don’t have to do anything about it.
Rule of thumb: it is much more beneficial to meditate for 10-15 minutes each day, than to meditate for an hour once a week. Consistency will create a powerful momentum.
With each meditation session you will gradually feel better - you will be calmer and more relaxed, you will release stress and anxiety, it will be easier to focus, you will experience more joy and energy.
The changes may be subtle or noticeable right away, it is not a measure of success or failure, rather a gradual process or journey. However small, you will experience these positive changes.
I strongly suggest to meditate in the morning - when you are still fresh, not yet in full problem-solving mode. During the morning meditation it is easier to set a tone for the entire day - how you want to feel, how you want the day to unfold.
An evening meditation has it’s own benefits - it helps to release the stress accumulated, to unwind, regain clarity, energy and inner balance.
Try out different times for meditation and being to form your own meditation practice.
Am I Meditating Right?
Common mistakes to avoid. Sensations: tingling, loss of sense of time, space, body. ideas, understanding. Can’t make mistakes. not given more than can handle. notice what works for you. what feels better, more natural for you?
Would you like to be possessed by evil spirits, become an easy target for energy vampires and dark magic practitioners, lower your psychic defence shield, mess up your karma?
No? Then don’t worry about it - none of it is a danger when meditating. :) You can’ t make a mistake while learning to meditate - it is all part of the learning process. Just as falling down is part of learning to walk.
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when starting to meditate:
- trying to meditate without first clearing your schedule and removing any possible distractions or interruptions.
- not making yourself comfortable. Sitting in a comfortable chair is optimal, so is lying down (risk of falling asleep, but it’s fine as well). You don’t need to sit in lotos position, or with perfectly straight back - unless that is what is comfortable for you.
- expecting too much too soon. As with anything, mastery comes with consistent and quality practice. A three-minute meditation every other day is better than nothing, but not enough for a noticeable change.
- reading about meditation, not practicing it. It is good to gather information, try out various forms and techniques - if you apply it on a consistent basis. Don’t spend more time reading or discussing about meditation than actually meditating.
- treating meditation as a task or a means to and end. You will unlock the true power and benefit of meditation when you form a regular practice - when you meditate no matter what, without a goal in mind, with no expectations, when meditation becomes its own reward.
Here’s a list of common sensations you may feel during meditation:
- loss of sense of time, space and body
- seeing lights, colours or visions
- hearing sounds
- receiving ideas or understanding
You can’t make mistakes, you are never given more than you are ready for. Simply notice what works for you. What feels better and natural for you - do that.
Form your own regular meditation practice. Strive to meditate daily. 15 minutes in the morning and in the evening is optimal.
Set yourself up for a win - start small, with 5 minute meditations, forma a habit, then increase the meditation duration and frequency. Create your meditation practice as a positive experience to look forward to, rather than another task in the endless to-do list.
Meditation is a time to be alone - to recharge and relax, reconnect with your Inner Self, regain inner balance.