August 26, 2020

Minute read

How to Meditate for Beginners

If you’re here, you may be one of the hundreds, thousands or even millions of people who want to adopt a meditation practice. 

Like many who’ve tried it, perhaps you downloaded some app, maybe felt unsuccessful in your practice, and now have this weird, guilty feeling about meditation. 

FEAR NOT! – I’ve got a solution! 

While you may have tried some form of meditation in the past, because of these challenges, you may have had trouble forming a sustainable practice.

This may be because you haven’t found the appropriate meditation technique for you, but for many, it’s because they have uncertainty about the HOW of meditation. How does this thing actually work? 

Some of the questions people have asked me include: should I sit, or lay down, does it matter? Should I close my eyes? How long do I have to do it? Why haven’t I felt the benefits of meditation if I’ve practiced for a while? Meditation is really hard for me, I just can’t do it because of how my brain is wired, is there a way around that?

I realized that before you can build a meditation practice, you need to get your arms around the basics of meditation, so I decided it was time to answer some of these questions. Note that I’m answering them from the perspective of what is called Focused Attention Meditation, where we focus our mind on one single object or sensation (e.g., the breath). I find this practice to be most practical for beginning practitioners.

So let’s dive in!

Q: Do I sit or lie down? 
A: Either sitting or lying down is fine for the practice, though I recommend sitting, particularly if you are practicing in the morning so that you don’t risk falling back asleep! If you are a beginning practitioner, do not try to sit in full padmasana (like a buddhist monk). Most people find this position uncomfortable, and you’re better off building the habit of meditation seated upright in a chair, than struggling with the discomfort of the position. Not to mention, you risk damaging your inner knee/meniscus if you have tight hips! 

Q: Does it matter if my eyes are open or closed?
A: It does not. The practice of closing your eyes is uncomfortable for some people for any number of reasons. If that’s the case for you, I recommend that you gaze to the tip of your nose, directly in front of you, or to a single object like a candle, a blade of grass, or a glass of water.  Ifyou do choose to close your eyes, and simply draw your attention to the natural flow of your breath, you will be allowing the natural frequency of your brain (it IS an electrical thing) to shift from a beta, active, thinking state, to a slower alpha state. This releases nitric oxide to the smooth muscles and allows our parasympathetic nervous system to activate! AKA: You find relaxation quite quickly! 

Q: Where should I meditate? I have kids? I have a dog? I have a spouse….
A: You can meditate anywhere. My advice is to pick a consistent location where you can find absolute quiet (or as close as possible!). Let your partner, children, or anyone else that might disturb you, know that this is a routine that you are adopting, and ask them to give you quiet when you’re in your “spot” and at your selected time.

Q: Do I NEED to wake up early and meditate?
A: Absolutely not. For myself, I’ve experimented with when I like to practice. I find my most effective time is midday as it helps me to reset my brain patterns. That said, I do try to minimize stimulation in the morning (no phone, no music, etc.) and just sip my coffee and allow it to be a bit of a mindfulness practice. I use this time to assess how it feels to be in my body that day — and what I may have the opportunity to work with on a mind, body, or emotion level. The idea behind meditating first thing in the morning is that it allows us to decide how our day is going to go. If sitting first thing doesn’t work for you, a journal, mindfulness, or intentional movement practice might be a good compromise!

Q: How long should I meditate?  
A: To begin with, 5-10 minutes is great. Especially when you are getting started, quality is more important than quantity. Aconsistent daily practice is much more powerful than one bi-weekly 30 minute sit. A helpful hint is to set a soothing alarm for your alotted time, so that you do not need to worry about when your meditation practice will be complete!

Q: When I meditate I feel distracted, itchy, or stressed. Am I doing it wrong?
A: You’re doing just fine! You’re just experiencing all of the stimulation in your life at once. Over time, the emotional and physical stimuli should decrease. More importantly, you’ll be less inclined to react emotionally do those stimuli. Be patient. Even advanced practitioners struggle with these stimuli. When you find yourself getting distracted, draw your focus back to that one point: your breath or the soft gaze to a candle. 

Q: Okay, I’ve meditated like 10 times and I’ve not seen progress, why?
A: It takes time. There are a lot of variables. The effects of meditation depend on frequency (how often you sit), the duration of your sits, and your general makeup/upbringing/inclination as a human! For me, it took a good month of daily consistent practice to see a difference on a mind level. Stay patient. 

With that I’d like to offer you a free recorded piano track (yep, that’s me playing) you can listen to while you meditate. 

Piano Track for Meditation

You’re doing great work, and you’re so full of potential. Keep it up! 

Want to get that meditation habit to stick?

About the Author: Laura Araujo

Laura Araujo is the co-founder of The MAPS Institute, a classically trained vocalist, and a practitioner of Ashtanga, classic Indian yoga. She is the creator of the MAPS (Mindfulness, Activation, Purpose, and Surrender) philosophy and is in continual pursuit of helping her students find balance amid the chaos around and within them.


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