When you’re new to meditation, the practice tends to sound daunting and scary. Many will ask ‘am I really meditating?’, ‘how do I know if I am meditating?’, ‘my mind starts buzzing with thoughts every time I sit to meditate, what do I do?’ All these questions are completely understandable, relatable and common.
Let’s start with why should you meditate? Meditation is a practice that calms the mind, reduces stress, improves awareness and keeps your health and well-being in check. Stress is something we all deal with everyday and in every area of life. And, unfortunately, stress is the root cause of all troubles. So why not nip it in the bud, when you can, with meditation?
Meditation empowers you to break the cycle of endless thoughts. When you sit to meditate you are simply observing your thoughts. You don’t have to stop thoughts from coming to your mind. You only have to observe like a spectator. When you learn to start doing this, even during a normal task you won’t allow yourself to get sucked into your thoughts - you will learn to let the thoughts come and go, without reacting or getting upset. This helps you stay balanced, calm and stress-free.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation calms the mind, improves focus and concentration, balances emotions and thoughts, and improves clarity. It enhances creativity, performance and productivity. It is rejuvenating and relaxing, yet energizing. It balances your nervous system, optimizing your health and well-being. The practice makes you more self-aware and keeps you in the present. It aids in building your resilience to stress, and helps you let go of negativity.
It helps deal with anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. It also reduces the chance of headaches and keeps your blood pressure at bay. It even helps with pain management. One can really go on about the wonderful benefits of meditation. But, you won’t know it until you try it and make it a consistent part of your day.
How to Get Started with Meditation
Meditation can happen even when you’re taking a walk, sitting at a stream or in a park, or watching the sun go down. It’s really all about being present and mindful. Once you have got that right, draw your attention to your breath. Observe how it gets deep and slow. You’ll automatically start observing your thoughts and emotions too. However, as beginners, it is best to start in a small, simple way and once you are comfortable, you can start trying this at any time, anywhere.
Things to Keep in Mind When Beginning Your Meditation Practice
- Choose a clean, airy, quiet space in your house.
- Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position with your back straight. You can sit on a rug, throw or a meditation cushion. Ensure you are comfortable so you don’t need to move during the practice. If you have any knee pain, you can keep your legs stretched out.
- Keep your hands relaxed on your lap or thighs. Your palms should be facing the ceiling or if you know certain mudras (hand gestures) like chin mudra, you can do those too.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing so you don’t feel constricted or uneasy halfway through the practice.
- Keep a sweater, scarf or throw close by if your room is a bit chilly. Or if it’s warm, keep the fan on a low speed.
- Avoid meditating soon after a meal as it may affect your digestive abilities. Try to practice at least 2 hours after a meal.
- You can do a little stretching or a few yoga asanas before you meditate as it will help you relax more.
- Try to practice at the same time everyday.
Meditation Practices for Beginners
It is best to begin with a short 10 minutes meditation. Once you get used to sitting still, you can increase the time. Here are a few practices you can begin with:
This is probably the simplest type of meditation to begin with. All you have to do is sit still and bring your attention slowly towards your breathing by focusing on your inhales and exhales. Observe the sound of your breaths, observe the flow of air entering and leaving your system, notice its temperature. Then, slowly observe the thoughts and emotions without judging or trying to stop them.
Body scan meditation
This technique brings your awareness to the body by performing a mental scan. You start from the top of the head to the end of your toes. You are slowly asked to move your attention over your body, bringing awareness to any discomfort, sensations, tensions, or aches that exist.
As beginners, it is advised you start practicing with an experienced teacher. A teacher will guide you through the entire practice and all you have to do is listen intently.
Common Mistakes When Starting Your Meditation Practice
- Don’t force yourself or try to meditate. When you’re trying to meditate, you will subconsciously block out natural thoughts and emotions. Instead, just sit still and do nothing but focus on your breath.
- Meditating for 20-30 minutes once or twice a week will not give you its true benefits. Start with 10 minutes everyday and gradually increase your time. Consistency is key to experiencing real benefits.
- Don’t try to find signs of progress or count how many times you were able to sit still. It might take months before you notice any changes and that’s okay.
- If you have been meditating regularly but stop for a week, just start again. Don’t wonder if it will make a difference or if you have put a dent in your progress.
- Don’t judge yourself or be hard on yourself. You will end up stressing yourself out. It takes time and practice.
As a beginner, all you have to do is show up and commit to the practice - it can truly change your life. You only learn to meditate by actually meditating. The calmness, silence and peace of mind you will begin to experience will pave the way for you to go deeper into your practice.