Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate, Benefits of Meditation, and Mindfulness
Updated: Aug 16, 2020
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A big part of what makes your mindset super is the fact that you're in control. Just like you feel more confident and capable if your body is in fit shape, a fit mind is just as (if not so much more) empowering. Luckily, you don't have to even know how to choose to respond positively to circumstances right now. Every small positive choice you make is another step along the journey, and the journey will get prettier almost every day. Wherever you're starting from, it's the small steps you can take toward becoming super that matter the most.
One of those small steps is through meditation. In meditation, we form a stronger relationship with our own minds. We develop our focus and concentration, and we eliminate distractions and learn to clear our heads. We gain compassion, love, and acceptance, and we let go of hate, judgment, criticism, and anger. We slow down enough to examine our thoughts, our motivations, our actions, and the way we see the world. This is incredible because it provides us insight into who we really are and can help answer a lot of questions.
Meditation rocks. It pops up all over the place, making your life so much better in ways you hadn’t even anticipated. Meditation makes a huge difference mentally - it helps you focus and concentrate, it increases self-awareness and confidence, it helps decrease stress, and it can increase love and kindness. It’s like a superhero of its own against anxiety and stress, helping you slow your thoughts down, focus on the positive over the negative, and remain calm. It also has great physical benefits - it can increase pain tolerance, fight addition, lower blood pressure, and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Meditation has been around all over the world for thousands of years and is practiced by nearly every religion, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Others practice meditation independently of religion or spirituality. Meditation heightens our state of awareness and focused attention, and it can benefit everyone.
Also, meditation seems complicated, but it’s really super easy and definitely worth doing every single day. When you first begin, people will likely warn you that it’s challenging to sit in silence and calm your mind. And, yeah, it is, but that’s the point. It’s like when you learned math - you had to challenge yourself, be frustrated, and persevere through to get those smarts. Mediation is a practice. Like any exercise or education, it takes time, and every single time you sit down and commit to practice and learning, you grow and become stronger and more confident and powerful.
How to Meditate
BEGIN: Find a good place in your house to meditate in the morning and evenings. Try not to be interrupted. Get super comfortable. It is important that your spine is up straight (I like to think of beautiful golden energy shooting into my head and down through my spine), but you can sit on the floor with legs crossed or out straight, or you can sit in a chair. You should be comfortable but still alert. Once you’re ready, find a 10-minute (or longer) song or video. I prefer to just listen to singing bowls or nature sounds to really be connected to my mind and nothing else, but many people find it much easier to start with guided meditations before trying music alone.
DURING: Once you're ready to go, just close your eyes and breathe. Bring your awareness to the present. Find a place to settle your mind. I typically focus on my breathing as it goes in and out or the feeling on the tip of my nose as it does so. Some other tactics I've used with success are focusing on that golden energy shooting through the crown of my head, filling my body with goodness and light and healing aches and pains, or a focus word - love, kindness, patience, compassion, etc. It’s not surprising if anxiety, judgment, or negative thoughts arise. It’s all good - it’s just what happens. And it can strengthen your ability to acknowledge those thoughts, adjust them, and then use them for good! Note your thoughts, say hello, let them pass on by, and return to your breath. Just keep returning your thoughts to your focal point, be patient and gentle, and accept what happens.
END: I like listening to music with a set time or setting an alarm (5, 10, 15, 30 minutes) so that I know when my time’s up. I don’t want to be looking at the clock or wondering how long it’s been; I want to try to stay in meditation for the entire time. When the time is up, open your eyes. You may want to stretch a bit, reflect on the experience, write in a journal, or express gratitude immediately after.
THE MEDITATION RULE: Whether you commit to meditating for 5 minutes or an hour, that time is committed to meditation. You're not allowed to play on your phone, read, or do anything else. At first, you'll have many sessions where halfway through you don't think you're making any progress, you're distracted, and you just want to give up. You're not allowed to - if you want to just sit and not try to meditate, that's cool, but you cannot do anything else. Sometimes I am so distracted and I don't feel in the zone at all (or maybe I get there in the last minute), but that's cool. I'm making progress, and it's still a 1% win. Keep going.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation can provide benefits that are psychological, emotional, and health-related. They include:
Support for mood disorders
Prevent stress and anxiety
Improved emotional and mental state
Improved sleep quantity and quality
Improvement in memory and intelligence
The ability for heightened focus and attention
The power to slow down your own thought stream and ability to change how you respond to the world around you
Types of Meditation
Concentrative vs Mindfulness: Concentrative meditation is all about completely focusing your attention on one thing and truly experiencing it (breathing, spoken affirmations, mantras, etc.). Mindfulness meditation urges us to remain aware and present in the moment we are in. It can help to reduce stress and increase cognitive function. It involves the state of being aware of and involved in the present moment and making yourself open, aware, and accepting.
Guided vs. Unguided: For some, beginning a meditation practice with guided meditation can help them tiptoe into the field. Guided meditations are available on Youtube and in many phenomenal apps; in them, a teacher guides you through the basic steps of the practice, and you can see some great benefits fairly quickly. Guided meditations are also available for specific topics: meditation for confidence, de-stressing, joy, etc. In unguided meditation, you meditate alone. I often meditate this way and just put on a short soundtrack of nature sounds or singing bowls. Others choose to just sit quietly and pay attention to their body and thoughts.
Mindfulness itself is not the same thing as meditation although it is similar. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. Whether you are driving, listening to music, or eating a piece of chocolate, you are focused on and living in that singular moment. This allows you to be free from distractions and aware of your thoughts without getting caught up in them. I highly recommend David Michie's Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate; it's one of my all-time favorite books.
Mindfulness is often what you are practicing in the midst of meditation, but your life should ideally be filled with it. Living in the moment and appreciating where you are can be tough at first, but it has incredible benefits, and mindfulness and meditation help you get there. Mindfulness has a lot of the same benefits of meditation. It can help decrease stress and sadness, increase happiness and focus, and allow you to truly experience the moment that you’re in and appreciate all that you have.
Both meditation and mindfulness are super phenomenal. The more you meditate, the better you will get at mindfulness. The more you practice mindfulness in your everyday life, the more you’ll live in the present, enjoy your life, and experience true lasting joy.
Mindfulness teaches us to be happier, more patient and accepting, and more compassionate. It helps guard us from negative thoughts, distractions, and judgements, and allows us to be in control of our thinking instead of spiraling and allowing our thoughts to take control.
Every time you practice meditation and mindfulness, you get better at training your mind to be more aware, to hear your thoughts without judgement, to correct negative thoughts with true positive ones, and to remain positive even in difficult circumstances.
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Do you meditate consistently? What benefits have you seen? If you don't meditate yet, how can you begin to include meditation in your daily life?