“Don’t let behaviour of others destroy your inner peace” - Dalai Lama
Meditation is often seen as a religious or spiritual act performed by those in closed yoga circles.
However, anyone can meditate and it’s useful for personal development as well as helping people manage their stress and become happier.
So how can you learn how to do it when you don’t know the first thing about meditation?
Here’s our advice for anyone wanting to get started with meditation. While there are many types of meditation, we're going to be mainly focusing on mindfulness meditation.
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What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Meditation is “a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.”
In fact, meditation isn’t quite what people think it is, it isn’t just for Buddhist monks in a monastery in the wilderness, either. Meditation isn’t exclusively Buddhist and nor does it belong to any single religion or spirituality. While it did come from Buddhism and Buddha, it can be used by anyone without them needing to convert.
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While there are plenty of meditation techniques, the benefits of meditation mainly include reconnecting your conscious and unconscious mind, improving your awareness, controlling how you breathe, peaceful relaxation, and freeing your mind of distraction while focusing your consciousness on the present moment.
Meditation is a way to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations so that you can better understand them.
Meditation requires a lot of practice.
You can’t learn to meditate just with books. Like sports, knowing the theory is all well and good, but you have to practise yoga and meditation if you want to get better at it.
This is the type of meditation where your brain focuses everything that is happening in the here and now. For those new to meditating, it can be difficult to keep your mind and body in the presence, but once you do, you'll see what a calming effect it can have.
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Why Should You Meditate?
Meditation has a lot of spiritual and physical benefits. The advantage is that anyone can meditate, you don’t need to be an athlete to learn how to meditate.
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Learning how to meditate can reduce your oxygen intake and improve your sporting performance.
Meditation is recommended for those with anxiety and can teach them how to relax and reduce their stress. It’s also useful for those who feel down or burnt out.
It can also help stressed people sleep better.
You can also improve your concentration with meditation. Breathing exercises are a large part of meditation for beginners and can help improve your focus.
The more you meditate, the more you can reduce physical pains by naturally stimulating your immune system which can reduce headaches, cardiovascular problems, etc.
Meditation can also help you lose weight by managing your stress. You’ll think more positively and your self-esteem will improve as you grow more confident.
Learn more about yoga and meditation from these frequently asked questions...
How Can You Start Mindfulness Meditation?
Now that you’re sold on meditation, let’s start looking at how to practise meditation
So how do you do it?"
Your first session will probably be quite difficult. You’re not going to learn it by tomorrow. You have to commit yourself to it, even though this can be quite difficult in everyday life.
Patience is a virtue. The same goes for meditation. Don’t worry if thoughts are still creeping into your head during your first few sessions, you'll learn to be mindful of them without focusing on them.
There are plenty of ways to meditate deeply and with practice, you can learn how to meditate anywhere, any time, without having your eyes closed or sitting cross-legged!
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Have you heard of walking meditation?
However, when you first start, you should probably consider following these few simple rules:
- Meditate at the right time: try meditating at different times throughout the day and work out when the time’s right for you. It might be a morning session to start your day right or during your lunch break to recharge your batteries without having a nap, for example.
- Find a calm place: With practice, you’ll manage to ignore outside noises but at the beginning, it’s easier if you find somewhere quiet with few distractions so you can sit down comfortably on a yoga mat. Silence is key. A familiar environment, like your own home, can be really useful when it comes to relaxing. You can also light a candle, incense, or get some comfortable cushions. Background instrumental music can also help people to relax.
- Decide how long you’re going to meditate for and stick to it! Start with around 10 minutes of daily meditation. If you can manage that and you’re happy with it, then you can keep doing 10-minute sessions. Consistency is key.
- Get comfortable: Whether in the Shavasana or Lotus position, it’s important to ensure that your back’s straight. Close your eyes or focus on something directly ahead of yourself, and remain still and relax.
- Focus on your breathing: Breathing deeply and being aware of your breathing is one of the first meditation techniques you’ll learn. It’s also one of the easiest techniques. Breathing can release a lot of tension.
- Cleanse your mind: At the start, you’ll struggle not to think of your anxieties, your wants, your to-do lists, etc. This is fine, it takes time for your spirit to let go and let your mind ignore your thoughts and feelings.
- Don’t control your thoughts: let go! You’ll soon start making progress and won’t feel the need to look for control.
Taking a step back at the end of each session can help you focus on how to improve and think about yourself. Of course, you need to think positively about yourself. Once again, this can be quite difficult at the start.
Focus on the some of the immediate effects first: Are you more relaxed? Would you like to feel more relaxed? Did you manage to focus solely on your meditation?
Daily practice can help you understand yourself better and adopt a more positive attitude towards yourself.
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How Can You Practise Mindfulness Meditation?
Before you start mindfulness meditation, you need to remember that it’s not an act.
The goal is to learn how to relax while also paying attention to what’s happening right now so that we can learn to better understand ourselves (just like with yoga).
You need to care about yourself. There’s no such thing as good or bad meditation. It’s about being better and being aware of our emotions.
In the beginning, you can make meditating easier by focusing on your breathing. However, this isn’t the goal of meditation. If you notice that you’re focusing on your breathing, you might be avoiding other things that may come to you during your meditation.
If your mind wanders, it means that it’s very busy. If one thing keeps popping into your head, this might mean it’s something worth focusing on through mindfulness meditation.
Even after years of practice, you can still end up with your mind wandering from one subject to another. This is due to the experiences we have during our lives. It’s important to cultivate your meditative state through regular practice.
Bit by bit, you’ll be able to focus on certain aspects of your introspection.
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Scanning Each Part of Your Body
Meditation can also help you to scan your body to ensure that everything’s fine and focus on the physical sensations present in each part of your body.
It’s a good idea to scan from the top to the bottom of your body: face, throat, chest, arms, stomach, legs, feet.
Observe your body. Don’t try to change or analyse these sensations; just be aware of them as they arise. You’ll get a better understanding of your general mood after this.
Being Aware of Your Environment
We often say that you only focus on yourself during meditation. However, during mindfulness meditation, aren’t you also aware of your environment? Focus on your surroundings and let your senses feel every moment of your meditation as it happens in the present.
What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you feel across the different parts of your body?
All you have to do is observe. Don’t force yourself to hear something if you’re in complete silence. Let the sounds, smells, and feelings come to you and notice them.
Calling a Friend
To help you practise meditation, you can also practise with another person. Even though you tend to practise on your own, starting to meditate with another person can motivate you to do it, help you learn new techniques, and make you more willing to do it.
If you can't get another person to join you, then you should look for guided meditation practice on YouTube. There are plenty of videos to get you started and they're really useful if you're in the habit of getting easily distracted when trying to silently meditate.
You can also find simple meditation tips like counting as you breathe in and out to help you concentrate on your breathing, music to help you gently fall asleep, and, in some cases, some really profound wisdom that will help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and meditation.
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