Meditation for beginners
The sooner we realize the importance of giving a break to our beautiful minds, the better we begin to operate in our daily lives. And what better break for the mind to simply meditate. Being still, and at the moment, beats all activities that you could do to reach a state of calm.
When the general tendency of the mind is to keep processing a stream of thoughts and the body to operate at the instructions delivered consistently, it can be difficult to simply sit and do nothing. For beginners, meditation can feel a little alien, and funnily enough, the mind might even tend to resist the whole process. But let me tell you, you are not alone. People have been meditating for about 3000 years now, and most of them had the same resistant feeling in the beginning.
Whatever inspired you to incorporate meditation in your daily life, may it be stress or anxiety, may it be a complicated relationship, or even to manage your anger. Maybe it’s to simply connect with yourself at a deeper level. Meditation is training your mind in awareness. It teaches us to shift from the passenger seat to the driver seat and take control of our thoughts and actions.
To begin meditation, you don’t really need to get caught up in the how-tos. You really need to actually start doing it! To gain the full benefits of meditation you need to maintain a daily practice. The beginning can be a little harder since we are working with an untamed mind. But as we carry on the practice, it keeps getting easier, and eventually, we are able to reach the state of mindfulness effortlessly and begin to taste its flavor in our daily lives.
What to expect in your first meditation session?
I highly recommend trying out a guided meditation in the beginning and maybe move to soft symphonies as you advance. The basic idea will always be to calm your mind, watch your thoughts flow, and eventually reach a state of “no thoughts”.
As you close your eyes and begin to bring your focus to your body and breath, the mind, as it’s nature, will keep trying to drift you in the loop of thoughts.
This is normal and expected. Like an untamed animal, the mind has a will of its own and loves to wonder by the medium of thoughts.
You do not need to judge or classify these thoughts. You do not need to focus on them either. You need to become the observer.
As you become the observer of these thoughts, you make the mind conscious and gently take over the control, for which it fights back.
Let’s for a moment remember: Our mind strives for control and is the master and cause of ego. But we are not our minds. When the mind loses control, with it, dies the flow of thoughts and the ego itself.
Don’t get disheartened if you keep getting distracted consistently. Simply bring your attention back to the object of focus. Meditation is training in awareness, and training always takes time. As you practice, the time between the distraction and focus will increase and that’s what we are aiming for.
Here is a short illustration by “Headspace”, of the relationship between our thoughts and us (the observer) and how it unfolds during a meditation.
What Improvements and benefits can you expect from meditation?
Many cultures promote and preach meditation as a practice for relaxation of the body and mind alongside peace delivered to the soul.
Health benefits of Meditation for the Body:
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Improves Blood Circulation
- Improves Immune System
- Decreases Muscle Tension
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- Lowers Heart Rate
- Decreases respiratory Rate
- Improves Sleep
- Helps Lose weight
Health Benefits for the Mind:
- Decreases Anxiety
- Improves Emotional stability
- Increases Creativity
- Increases Happiness
- Development of Intuition
- Gain clarity and peace of mind
- Sharpens the focus and concentration
- Helps tackle tension, anger, and frustration
- Helps reduce age-related memory loss
- Builds a greater sense of confidence
Benefits of Meditation for the Soul:
- Meditation can bring about a true personal transformation. As you learn more about yourself, you’ll naturally start discovering more about yourself and love yourself.
- In a meditative state, you are still and connected with the universe. Your calm and relaxed vibrations flood into the universe and bring similar vibrations back into your environment and life.
- Meditation helps you raise your vibration by letting go of all the negative energies. This raise in vibration can affect your daily life, which you can sense by the level of ease you begin to live your days.
- You feel a sense of detachment from materialistic things and begin the process of softening. Here you begin to build qualities like kindness, gratitude, listening skills, and forgiving nature.
- Meditation builds the quality of bringing back the distracted mind to track, which allows you to live in the present moment, most of your time. And living in the present moment is really where life unfolds and your quality of life improves.
Beginner’s Questions and How-To’s
Where & how to start meditation?
Just like any other habit, meditation also requires discipline and perseverance. Choose a relatively quiet spot and a comfortable time, to begin with. Most people prefer to meditate in the morning before starting their day, but there is no hard and fast rule. A good trick to build a habit is to pair it with an already existing one. For example, you could pair meditation with brushing your teeth or maybe after your evening cup of coffee.
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What should you wear for meditation?
Meditation is a process of relaxing and easing up any tension. So any loose-fitting clothes would be great. You might also want to get rid of any tight shoes or heels. Also, loosen up any scarf, tie, or accessory that might be clenching your neck, wrist, or ankle. The idea is to get as comfortable as you can, but just not enough that you dose off!
How should you sit for meditation?
Many yogis and teachers would recommend you to sit in a posture with your legs crossed but you don’t need to follow the stereotype as there are no rules to how you can meditate. There is really no right or wrong place and position. You may choose to meditate outdoors in nature or inside your home, it is perfectly fine. You can sit on the floor, with or without your legs crossed, on the floor, cushion, couch, chair, whatever feels comfortable. Whatever posture you may choose, remember to keep your back straight, neck, arms, legs relaxed and palms resting on your knees or laps.
How long should you meditate?
It can feel challenging to sit ideal in silence and do nothing for several minutes. And when you merge it with simply observing your thoughts, you can really begin to feel the restlessness shooting up and down your spine.
A preferred duration, in the beginning, is 10 minutes. Give it a shot! If meditating for 10 min seems overwhelming, you should switch to 3-5 minutes guided meditations. On the contrary, if 10 minutes feel to pass with ease and you wish to practice more, you could switch to 15 minutes.
In the end, it’s all about comfort and capacity. As you advance, you could increase the duration as per preference.
What technique to follow as a beginner?
There are multiple techniques available alongside guided meditations. But I would personally recommend the following techniques for a beginner.
Mindfulness is the ability of a human being to be fully present, to not react, or be overwhelmed by our surroundings unconsciously. The ability to literally think before taking an action is mindfulness.
Mindful meditation is what we have discussed above as well. It is similar to a process where a mountain observes the clouds pass by. Here you are the mountain and your thoughts are the passing clouds. With no judgment and no classification, simply observe what your mind produces in the form of thoughts and let them slide. This exercise teaches us to be more conscious in our daily lives and live in the present moment.
Concentration meditation is a form where the mind is focused entirely on one thought, object, sound, or entity. You may use any sort of chant or perhaps an object such as your breath, a candle, or a mala of beads. The goal of this process is to still the mind and align all three mind body and soul, to access higher states of consciousness and maybe even achieve liberation. Its key benefits are that it builds patience and mental acuity.
Concentration meditation is also a significant aspect of Buddhist teachings, where it is recommended as a way to discipline and tranquil the mind. It is said that Buddha was using concentrative meditation when he achieved enlightenment.