How to meditate? More like why to meditate amirite?
Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but meditation seems to be a habit of many successful people.
For example, people like Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records. He even wrote a whole piece on why he meditates. A quote:
“You don’t have to believe in meditation for it to work. You just have to take the time to do it.”
Then there’s Oprah. Here’s what she thinks of transcendental meditation:
“Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life.”
So if people with schedules as busy as Oprah’s or Russell’s take a moment out of their day to meditate, how about joining team meditation and giving it a try yourself?
Here are 15 meditation techniques for beginners that will help you learn how to meditate properly:
1. Try guided meditation
Sorry for the plug. But guided meditation really is the best way to get started, and especially if you’re easily distracted, or have a tendency to not stick to your new habits for very long.
What’s guided meditation? Like the name suggests, it’s when someone guides you through the whole session. In a way, that someone tells you what to “do” and how to meditate. Think of it like your personal meditation trainer.
A good guided meditation environment/tool will empower you to get over the tough parts and focus your mind on the things that matter.
(By the way, you don’t have to go far for a good tool.)
2. It’s okay if it feels weird and/or difficult
Meditation seems like a fairly simple thing to do when someone tells you what it’s about.
“So I just have to sit around and focus on my breath? And that’s really it? Easy peasy!”
Granted, for some people, it is easy. They can just get into meditation right away, without knowing any fancy meditation techniques. For most of us, though, learning how to meditate turns out to be anything but easy.
It’s estimated that we have around 600,000 thoughts per day, and roughly around 3600 thoughts every waking hour. This makes it 600 thoughts every 10 minutes. So if you sit down to meditate for just 10 minutes, you’re going against 600 thoughts screaming for your attention.
Fighting those thoughts can feel weird. And uncomfortable. After all, we spend most of our days solving problems, getting work done, etc. … basically, thinking about things. That’s why sitting in one place and not thinking can be challenging.
But it’s okay. Acknowledge that it’s weird. More than that, instead of fighting the thoughts, accept them, and only focus on redirecting your concentration back to meditation.
3. Meditate every day
Let’s just get this out of the way. If you’re committed, or at least you want to give it a good shot, you need to meditate every day. This is the most important meditation technique of them all.
It’s only through deliberate everyday practice how you get results. I mean … come on … no one would think that going on a diet “every other Tuesday” is going to do anything for them, right? Same thing with meditation.
“To earn the trust of your meditation, you have to visit it every day. It’s like having a puppy.”
4. How to meditate? Plan for it!
Meditation won’t stick with you for the long haul if you don’t schedule it like every other task in your agenda.
“Whenever I have a moment” isn’t a good plan. Instead, schedule specific meditation time every day. For example, 8:00-8:10 AM every day sounds great. So does 9:00-9:10 PM. Whatever it is, meditate at the same time every day.
5. Don’t have time? Make time in a clever way
Zen proverb says:
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
Okay, that’s not helpful … but truthful.
Anyway, if you’re struggling to find the time to meditate, consider meditating first thing in the morning.
This works for a couple of reasons:
- The day hasn’t really started for you yet. You’re not yet worried about what’s coming, your mind isn’t cluttered, and you’re not yet entirely in the today’s mindset. You’re just … there. This means that doing something in the morning won’t require any sacrifices later throughout the day.
- Your willpower is highest in the morning. Every habit you start in the morning is more likely to stick.
- It solves the thing described above – scheduling specific time to meditate.
6. Do it in the same setup every time
So now that you’ve fixed your agenda and set some time aside to meditate every day, let’s do the same thing with your surroundings.
Try to meditate in the same place and under the same conditions every time. Pick the same chair every time, place it in the same room, and at the same angle. Sit in the same position.
After a while, this will help you get in the right mindset quicker. Your brain gets used to that setting and makes learning how to meditate easier … “Oh, the chair again? Guess it’s time to meditate.”
7. Breathe consciously
Did you know that good breath control (through deep breaths) is a great way to lower your heart rate, which in turn lowers your stress?
Conclusion? Make breathing your main task when meditating. Breathing unconsciously is easy (duh!), but doing it in full consciousness requires some effort.
This is a crucial part when learning how to meditate, and it will also help you deal with those 600 thoughts I mentioned earlier.
8. Keep your spine straight
Here’s a quick excerpt from “The Physiology of Meditation“:
There is another reason why during meditation the spine is required to be held erect. During the period of meditation, the mind must be entirely relieved of the burden of the body. That means that the body must be given a posture which would be at once easy, comfortable and balanced.
There is much much sense to this. I don’t know about you, but for me, sitting crouched over something doesn’t feel like the most productive or even positive position you can be in. More like, “please-let-this-day-be-over” kind of position.
But when my spine is straight, I’m in action mode! I’m focused. I can take on the world.
9. Stretch before meditating
Spine? Checked! Now let’s stretch a little before meditating. Nothing brutal, though. Just a minute is enough.
Do some arm swings, some cat stretches, some spine stretches … you know the drill.
Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons. It allows your body to relax a little and get rid of those very minor, yet frustrating micro-aches and those general impressions that, say, something about your back feels uncomfortable. If you don’t fix that prior to meditating, it’s going to be hard to focus.
10. Don’t sit in complete silence
This might sound counterintuitive at first. After all, you don’t want to be interrupted by some unexpected noises, or a general high level of background noise. But as it turns out, complete silence isn’t soothing to our minds at all.
For example, there’s this thing called the “quietest place on earth.” Basically, it’s a soundproof room that causes hallucinations. The longest a person has ever spent there is 45 minutes.
I mean, I like some silence as much as the next guy, but it’s not always a perfect setup.
What to do instead? Open a window, let some background noise in. Washing machine working in the bathroom? Good!
11. Take advantage of natural light
You don’t have to sit in the dark when learning how to meditate. This is a bit too Hollywood-y. In fact, I advise the opposite. Sit somewhere where there’s natural light.
The magic of natural light is nothing new. We need us some of that vitamin D, don’t we?! But also, natural light seems to improve our workplace performance. There are tons of benefits of getting as much exposure as possible.
Remember when I suggested meditating in the morning? Natural light exposure is another reason to do so (unless you wake up at 4 AM).
12. Get a Tie Fighter figure
Okay, this isn’t as much about the Tie Fighter. It’s more about having a visual point of reference that you can focus on (especially if learning how to meditate with your eyes closed is too tough on you).
Just pick “a something,” put it on the table in front of you, or on the floor, and fix your eyes on that something. It can be anything … a glass, your wrist watch lying on the floor, or … the Tie Fighter. I advise the Tie Fighter. My own:
13. Start small
You don’t have to turn yourself into a Tibetan monk on day one. Start small. Even 5 minutes of dedicated meditation every day will do wonders for you over the long term.
Short meditation sessions are also better on your busy daily schedule.
14. Shut down distractions
A couple of paragraphs above I might have said that sitting in complete silence isn’t a good idea … that it can make you feel uncomfortable, even anxious. And that’s all true. But on the other hand, you also can’t go too far in the other direction and allow yourself to be distracted by some common focus-breakers.
So, be prepared. Just doing these two things will save you from 95% of possible distractions:
- Turn off the speaker on your computer.
- Put your phone in airplane mode.
15. Be grateful
Once your meditation session is done, spend one or two more minutes being grateful for the whole experience.
Be grateful that you’re even here, sitting comfortably in your chair, that you have the opportunity to meditate, that you’ve started your day by meditating…
This sounds simple, but this sort of exercise in being grateful has multiple benefits on us. Over time, gratitude will make your life better both in terms of physical health and psychological health (says not me, but science).
Over to you
What’s your experience with meditation and various meditation techniques? Have you started your adventure yet, and found your own ways to learn how to meditate? Feel free to share in the comments.