Life can be stressful. Work, family, and personal commitments sometimes pile up, giving you less and less time to keep yourself at peace. Productivity culture has put so much emphasis on meeting deadlines, filling up your schedule, and pushing yourself that we forget to take care of our own needs. It’s important to make sure that you take the time to maintain your own health, and meditation is a powerful way to do that. Meditation for beginners can be tough, but it’s a great way to put your mind at ease, reset your stress, and maintain a healthy headspace.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a broad, vague term that can be used in the same way as a word like “sports.” It is the training of the mind, much like sports are the training of the body. While there is a world of depth behind meditation, for beginners, it can be a simple way to clear your head. Meditation is a constant practice, and is not something that is “completed” or “perfected.” It is a tool that can make you more aware, mindful, present, and content. There is a lot of depth and thought behind it, and it’s easy to do in your free time.
Why Do People Meditate?
People have meditated for countless reasons. There are physical health benefits that include reduced blood pressure, or mental health benefits like reduced stress. You can become more mindful and more focused throughout the day, and you can train yourself to be more aware. Meditation is simply the training of the mind, so there are a number of reasons to meditate.
If you find yourself constantly stressed at work, or listless at home, meditation can help give the mental fortitude to handle your commitments. Meditation can also be a relaxing way to spend your time that’s better for you than watching TV or scrolling through social media. Meditation is broad and open ended enough to be useful in a variety of ways, and meditation for beginners can be a simple way to begin clearing your headspace.
The History of Meditation
Meditation can be traced back to ancient Hindu cultures as early as 1500 BC. Buddhist and Taoist cultures also developed advanced forms of meditation, and it has been strongly associated with spirituality. Since meditation is the training of the mind, it can also be seen as the training of the soul. Religions and cultures that are interested in spirituality and the soul have gravitated towards meditation. It has been seen as a way to achieve inner peace and spiritual growth.
Meditation was introduced to the west as early as the 1700s, and has since taken on its own school of thought. During the 1900s, secular meditation became popular. Rather than a way to achieve spiritual growth, it became a way to reduce stress, increase mental fortitude, and achieve clarity.
Types of Meditation
There are dozens of major cultures that practice meditation, and so many types of meditation have been developed. Some of the major ones include concentration and mindfulness meditation. Concentration meditation allows you to improve your ability to focus by concentrating on a single point for the duration of your meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the process of paying attention to your thoughts. During the day our minds tend to wander, and mindfulness meditation is the practice of being more present, attending to your thoughts throughout the day.
Effortless presence is the idea that we don’t have to always be mindful to be present. This type of meditation focuses on being without thinking or worrying, being open to all stimuli at once. Open monitoring is similar, where you observe all things at once, not judging them or prioritizing them. There are many types of meditation, and they all focus on strengthening your mind and spirit, and can be valuable for reducing overall stress.
Why the Stereotypes About Meditation are Wrong
There’s a few stereotypes around meditation that are completely wrong. People associate meditation with being laid back, or even with being lazy. People who meditate can be seen as against taking medicine, or as being hippies. These stereotypes categorize meditation as being lazy or superstitious, but they’re completely wrong. Meditation is a common tool for high productivity people, since it lets them re-center themselves to handle more stress. It can be part of an integrated approach to medicine, and it can be a great way to calm yourself during a hectic week.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has a host of benefits attached. It can reduce your blood pressure, your heart rate, and your respiration rate. People who meditate more feel more relaxed, more mindful, and more aware. It can be a short activity, and can fit with any schedule. Even if you’re new to meditation, for beginners, you can feel some of these benefits immediately. It’s a powerful way to reduce stress, and can relax you while you’re doing it. Like with any activity, you get out of it what you put in, so taking it seriously and practicing it diligently will help achieve these benefits most effectively.
11 Simple Steps to Start Meditating
Meditation for beginners can feel difficult at first. You can become distracted, bored, or skeptical of the benefits, or you might not even make the time to practice it. Especially in the age of the smartphone, it can be tough to completely unwind, seclude yourself, and meditate. Once You’ve made the decision to start meditating, try these simple steps to help make meditation as easy and comfortable as possible.
1. Schedule Time to Meditate
This can be the hardest part about meditation. Scheduling time in your day to meditate will almost guarantee that you will do it. Fitting it into your lunch break, or trying to do it on the drive home can make it a stressful experience, and you’ll likely forget to do it or stop altogether. Putting it into your schedule not only means you won’t have anything else conflicting with it, but you’ll be mentally prepared for it.
You don’t have to schedule hours at a time to meditate. Putting 15-30 minutes a few times a week into your planner for meditation will be perfect for getting started. This way you can incorporate meditation into your daily routine without making it a stressful part of your day.
2. Remove Any Outside Distractions
Turn off the TV, close the window, and turn your phone off. Meditation should be an introspective experience, so outside distractions can break the trance. This is one of the biggest obstacles of meditation for beginners, since it’s often hard to find a space that’s completely distraction free, especially if you meditate at work.
Start by turning off your phone and letting those around you know that you don’t want to be disturbed. This way, you can get rid of the most prominent distractions. Finding a quiet place without any outside noise will also be helpful. Making sure you can be truly alone and in your own mind will make for the most effective meditation.
3. Pick a Place
For effective meditation, particularly as a beginner, you need to find a quiet place where you’ll be completely undisturbed. Some people prefer to meditate outdoors, and others find a darkened room is easier. Just choose a location where you feel most at peace even before starting your meditation session.
4. Unplug For 1 Hour Beforehand
Our phones, laptops, and TVs can make our minds too active to easily meditate. Just like you shouldn’t be on your phone right up until bed, you should also unplug before your meditation if you can. Even if it’s not the full hour, staying away from highly stimulating devices for as long as possible before meditating will be helpful.
If you meditate at work, or work from home, this can be a tricky thing to do. Trying to schedule the time to meditate can be hard enough, but unplugging before then might cut into your work. If this is the case, try reducing the amount of stimulating information. Focus on one thing at a time for a while before meditating, reduce the number of tabs open on your internet browser, and avoid looking at social media or news feeds. This way, your mind is as clear as possible.
5. Pair it with Other Holistic Activities
Meditation and yoga go hand-in-hand. Finding natural activities to pair with your meditation can be an extremely useful way to maximize the benefits. These other activities don’t have to happen at the same time as your meditation, but should be able to compliment it.
Listening to relaxing music, or practicing breathing exercises right before meditation can make your meditation more calming. Having a natural, healthy diet, or exercising regularly can maximize the benefits of meditation. There are many things that can be paired with meditation, so for beginners it can help to include simple lifestyle choices to maximize the benefits.
6. Make Sure You’re Comfortable
When you begin meditating, get in a comfortable position. You can lie down, sit upright, or even stand, but make sure you’re body is relaxed and comfortable. Don’t try to rush straight to the meditation, since you’ll quickly notice any sore spots from your posture. Once you’re physically comfortable, make yourself mentally comfortable. You’ll need to clear your mind, and gently push away any thoughts. Try to sit still in a quiet space, making sure you’re mind is inactive. Once you’re physically and mentally comfortable, you can begin meditating.
7. Don’t Try Too Hard
One of the easiest mistakes with meditation for beginners is that you can try too hard. In a goal-oriented culture, we tend to come up with plans, put in effort, take action, and get the task done. Meditation, however, is an ongoing thing. It isn’t completed, and if doesn’t get better with more effort. It’s important to keep in mind that Meditation is supposed to be a focused, relaxing process that clears your mind.
If you find yourself thinking about how to meditate better while you’re meditating, push the thought away. Meditation is about clearing your head, and that includes thoughts about meditation. Finding inner clarity is about being, not trying.
8. Take it Slow
You’ll need to set an alarm to measure out your meditation session’s length – a smartphone is ideal. Start out with just a couple of minutes a day. You might not feel you’re getting anywhere at first, but you need to train your mind slowly.
After a week, raise this to five minutes a day, and continue for another week. From there, take it as far as you feel comfortable with. You’ll probably find you reach a natural level that suits you, whether you spend five minutes or half an hour over each meditation session.
9. Concentrate On Breathing
Once you begin your session, try and clear your mind of all thoughts apart from your breathing. This is the essence of meditation. Focus on each breath you take and how it feels as it enters and leaves your body. Take it naturally with no attempt at deep or slow breaths. Crucially, try not to think about or analyze your breathing; simply experience it for what it is, for as long as your session lasts.
10. Be Open Minded
It’s understandable to be skeptical
11. Don’t Be Discouraged
With a little practice, meditation will start to feel natural and peaceful. At the beginning, it can feel unusual and awkward. Your thoughts will probably wander and you’ll find it difficult to keep a pure focus on your breathing. Don’t worry about this; it’s completely normal, and you’ll find it easier as time goes on.
The worst thing you can do is get frustrated. Even after years of practice, your mind will still stray from time to time – just accept this and when it happens, gently bring yourself back into focus.
Common Obstacles for Beginners
The most common obstacles to meditation for beginners are often things we have control over. It can be people around us, our work schedule, commitments, or even ourselves. By recognizing these obstacles, you can take the steps to set your meditation up for success. When you plan out your meditation schedule, keep in mind all of the other commitments you have. Don’t force it into your schedule, or you’ll have a hard time relaxing. Try making sure people around you know you don’t want to be bothered, and make sure not to overbook yourself. Most importantly, be open to the healing qualities of meditation.
The Power of Meditation
Meditation is one of the oldest practices in holistic health. Just like exercise gives you a healthy body, meditation gives you a healthy mind. For thousands of years, people in cultures around the world have found inner peace, mental clarity, and spiritual growth through meditation. Now, in the age of constant stimulus, meditation can be a powerful tool for relaxing and maintaining a peaceful mind.