How To Meditate: Step-By-Step Beginners Guide To Meditation
Meditation offers remarkable benefits, especially for those already using The Law Of Attraction (and for beginners, you can start using The Law Of Attraction). From becoming more in tune with your own thoughts to improving your overall well-being, meditation has something to offer everyone.
If you are a complete meditation beginner, you may be wondering how to get started. Learning to meditate isn’t as complex as you might think. If you want to experience the positives that the practice can bring, then here is a beginner’s guide to meditation.
Meditation Guide: A Brief History Of Meditation
Although meditation is enormously popular, you may not have heard much about its origins. The word has its roots in the Latin term “meditatum”, which translates to “ponder.” But who first suggested the practice, and how did it evolve?
Ancient History Of Meditation
There is some compelling evidence suggesting the hunter-gatherer culture involved meditation, the earliest proper records that we have of meditative practices indicates that the history of meditation truly begins around 1500 BCE. In its earliest incarnations, it appears to have been part of early Hindu tradition in India. Over a thousand years later, it was also seen as part of Buddhist practices in India and Chinese Taoism. Meanwhile, interest in meditation was later cultivated in Western society first by Philo of Alexandria and later by Saint Augustine.
To fully grasp the history of meditation, it's important to note the split that appeared in the Eastern traditions of Hindu and Buddhist meditation respectively. While Hindus believed that meditation could be used to essentially commune with God, the Buddhist perspective held that we could use the practice to better understand the interconnectedness between all things. It is this non-religious reading of meditation that is most commonly adhered to today, with people of all spiritual backgrounds considering it a plausible way to improve mental health, combat stress and induce feelings of calmness.
Modern Day Meditation
The modern perspective on meditation can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s, when medics and psychologists began to abandon the stigma associated with religious meditation and started to investigate the possible benefits in a healthcare setting (partly in conjunction with the development of hypnotherapy practices). As research continued, scientists found proof the meditation could reduce the physical signs and symptoms of stress.
Now, there are dozens of different types of meditation, ranging from mindful breathing to body scanning, creative visualization, and loving-kindness meditations.
Benefits Of Meditation
As you probably know, the health benefits of meditation are incredibly wide-ranging. Once viewed as merely a way to gain calmness or perspective, it is now a suggested part of a whole host of different treatment programs.
A regular meditation practice can impact on both mental and physical health, and it can also take advantage of the most important links between the two.
We'll explore the major positive effects of meditation below, with reference to some of the most exciting new research that proves how meditation impacts on the body and mind.
Physical Benefits Of Meditation
Scientists are constantly studying the physical benefits of meditation, but some of the most well-established include the following:
- Improvements to heart health by way of reduced blood pressure and lowered cholesterol. This means a concurrently reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Enhanced immune system function, including both better resistance to disease (e.g. cold and flu viruses) and better outcomes in cases of serious illness.
- Reduced physical symptoms of anxiety, such as numbness and tingling, tense muscles and panic attacks.
- Better athletic performance, with participants reporting spikes in concentration, balance, and flexibility. This is a benefit noted by both laypeople and professionals.
- More restful sleep, including a reduction in the time taken to fall asleep.
- Quicker and longer-lasting recovery from physical dependency on drugs or alcohol.
- Greater resilience when dealing with chronic pain (e.g. as part of a condition like arthritis or fibromyalgia).
- A potential reduction in age-related memory loss.
Spiritual Benefits Of Meditation
Since it seems that meditation first originated as a religious practice, it is unsurprising that it offers spiritual benefits. Even if you are agnostic or consider yourself an atheist, you can still have a fulfilling spiritual life. Some of the benefits of meditation in this respect include:
- An enhanced ability to put things into perspective, dismissing unimportant things and focusing on what matters.
- A greater sense of peace regarding one's own, modest place in the universe (which in turn reduces the temptation to live an ego-driven life).
- A more well-defined sense of purpose, which informs relationships, career choice, and daily life.
- Heightened levels of compassion for others, and an associated ability to empathize with people owing to a new awareness of your basic similarities.
- A feeling of unity between the mind, body, and spirit, so that you are more “in tune” with your true self than you have ever been.
- A further feeling of unity between yourself, others, and the whole world around you. This is sometimes called “oneness.”
- Easier and more honest self-acceptance, especially when it comes to things that you cannot change about yourself.
- If you are religious, a sense of a deepening relationship with a higher power.
Mental Health Benefits Of Meditation
Meditation has recently received a lot of attention. It can be used as a tool for coping with mental health issues and improving your emotional well-being. This is with good reason–the mental health benefits of daily meditation include the following:
- Connection with the present moment, at the expense of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.
- Improvements in how you deal with stress, at work, and at home.
- Reduced feelings of anxiety (owing in part to reduced heart rate and respiration rate). Sufferers of PTSD report similar benefits.
- Enhanced ability to concentrate on what you want to focus on, dismissing racing or unproductive thoughts.
- Proven improvements in depression symptoms. In fact, meditation has been shown to be just as effective as medication when it comes to treating standard depression.
- Heightened emotional intelligence. This means that you can better identify what you're feeling, accept it, and regulate it as needed.
- Relationship benefits, such as being more thoughtful and patient when in conflict with your partner.
- The potential to overcome phobias, including life-limiting fears (e.g. fear of flying, or fear of open spaces).
- Increased self-knowledge. This is partly because you spend more time on self-reflection, and partly because meditation involves honestly tuning in to who you are and what you feel.
Types Of Meditation
The benefits of meditation are fairly consistent, regardless of which type you practice. However, some personalities are better suited to some types than others, and some forms of meditation do place a particular emphasis on certain benefits. Your main choices include these forms of meditation.
Types Of Mindful Movement Meditation
Movement meditation is any type of meditative practice that involves physical movement.
No matter the kind of movement involved, movement meditation is all about tuning into your body.
It challenges you to be fully physically present.
By turning your full attention to the body in this way, you calm and slow your thoughts.
Yoga Meditation is an excellent example of movement meditation.
You can benefit from using your breath to control the pace in any yoga meditation.
Inhale as you move your body into the new pose, and exhale as you fully settle into the stretch.
As you keep your breathing slow and steady, you'll find your thinking becomes slower and clearer as well.
Yoga is the primary form of movement meditation.
However, any bodily movement can be turned into a meditative exercise if you challenge yourself to fully inhabit that movement.
For example, to turn a daily walk into a form of movement meditation, simply slow your pace and turn your full attention to how your body feels as you walk – to the way your muscles relax and contract, and how the air feels on your skin.
Types Of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a broader category than movement meditation, but it shares many of the same goals.
Specifically, mindfulness is about committing your full attention to whatever you're doing in the present moment.
This can be a simple daily activity, like cooking, or it might take the form of a specific mindfulness exercise.
For example, body scan meditation – a kind of focus meditation – involves focusing your attention on each part of the body in turn.
Starting with your head and working your way to your toes, notice how each part feels.
Where are you holding tension? Which parts of your body feel loose and relaxed?
Try not to make any judgments, focusing simply on observing.
Mindfulness is sometimes called Zen Meditation, as the practice has its roots in Buddhist traditions and it aims to calm and simplify your thinking.
In time, practicing mindfulness actually changes how you think in your daily life.
In particular, it helps you live in the present and encourages you to be deeply aware of your own thoughts and feelings without being overwhelmed by them.
Research shows that mindfulness actually changes your brain, improving emotional regulation.
Types Of Spiritual Meditation
The goal of spiritual meditation is to connect you with something greater than yourself.
For some people, this will be intimately linked to religious beliefs.
For others, spiritual meditation is more about reminding yourself that you are connected to every other living thing in the universe, and about reflecting on your life's purpose.
There are many different strands of meditation that are particularly good for spiritual development.
For example, Transcendental Meditation is a silent, mantra-focused practice.
You practice for up to 20 minutes per day, focusing on a sound or a phrase that you repeat in your head.
All forms of mantra meditation aim to keep your head free of restless thoughts by keeping your awareness tied to a simple, repetitive word, sound, or sentence.
Other examples of spiritual meditation include Vipassana Meditation and Chakra Meditation.
Both aim to help you enhance your spiritual side and increase your awareness of the wider universe.
Chakra meditation is based on the belief that focusing on different energy centers can help to treat particular mental, physical and emotional blocks.
Meanwhile, Vipassana meditation is an ancient Indian spiritual practice that revolves around deepening the connection between mind and body.
Types Of Visualization Meditation
Visualization meditation uses your imagination to its full potential, requiring you to build vivid mental images that represent particular meditation goals.
In the simplest terms, you picture something before it has already happened.
This involves sitting with your eyes closed for 10-15 minutes, imagining how it will feel to have the thing you desire – whether it's love, your dream job, financial abundance, or something else.
Athletes often use a similar type of technique.
For example, a golfer might visualize themselves hitting a hole in one, or a soccer player might see herself scoring the winning goal.
Loving Kindness Meditation is another type of visualization meditation.
You might picture yourself emitting bright, warm energy that makes its way to someone you love.
You may find it helpful to expand this exercise, imagining yourself sending the same energy to someone you have mixed feelings toward, and even to someone you find challenging.
Here, the aim is to develop compassion for all beings and to make love your default stance.
Types Of Guided Meditation
Guided meditation is any form of meditation where someone guides you through what you are meant to visualize and focus on.
This can be someone in person, or (more commonly) a recording.
Hypnosis meditation is one of the most popular types of guided meditation.
A hypnotherapy practitioner leads you into a deeply relaxed state and then helps you to rewrite limiting beliefs.
They might guide you toward new reactions to a phobia or assist you in working on your anxiety.
Sound Bath Meditation involves listening to ambient sounds.
Sometimes this is gentle music, and other times it is sound from nature – the ocean, wind, rain, or whale song.
At some point during the recording, a voice will guide your thoughts and focus.
Meanwhile, certain loving-kindness meditations can also be guided meditations.
In fact, all of the above forms of meditation can be turned into guided meditations if someone narrates your meditative journey.
A major benefit of guided mediation is that someone else assists with your focus.
They keep you on track, gently return your attention to the present moment, and can help you concentrate (when you may otherwise accidentally become distracted).
Meditation For Beginners: How To Meditate In 5 Steps
Meditation Step 1: Search For A Tranquil Environment
For successful meditation, you will require a quiet environment in which to practice.
Background noise, such as the television and radio, will cause distraction and disrupt your train of thought. Instead consider peaceful, tranquil, and meditation-friendly audio and music.
It’s also best to choose a fairly cool or warm area to meditate. Being too cold or too hot won’t allow you to concentrate.
Make sure you’re in a suitable area where you won’t be disturbed.
Meditation Step 2: Sit Comfortably
To meditate, you’ll need to find a comfortable position in which to sit for ten to fifteen minutes. You don’t need to adopt a specific position if you are going to find it hard to adapt.
Generally, the regular position for meditation is with crossed legs and hands on your lap. However, if you struggle with this at first, find a position you are comfortable with. Just ensure that you are not slouching.
Meditation Step 3: Breath
Focusing on your breathing is an important process in meditation. However, you want it to be natural.
Start by closing your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Let it begin with shallow breaths, and just continue to breathe for a few minutes.
Your intake of breath will become deeper as you progress. Take your time to breathe slowly as there is no need to force it.
TIP: You can learn more here about breathing techniques.
Meditation Step 4: Focus On Your Thoughts
Through deep breathing, you should feel more at ease. Once that happens, turn your focus to the actual process of breathing.
Be conscious of each breath that you inhale and each that you exhale. It may take a while for your mind to fully focus on your breathing.
Don’t worry if you struggle with your train of thought. It’s perfectly ok for your mind to wander onto other subjects. Simply let it drift and gently try to bring your attention back to your breathing.
It may be difficult to concentrate, whether you’re a beginner at meditation or not, however, as you start to continually practice, your attention should gradually improve.
If you find it easier, then use numbers to ‘count’ your breathing. So, for instance, count one to inhale and two to exhale, and continue to repeat these numbers as you breathe in and out. This can be an effective way to get into the mindset of learning to meditate.
Meditation Step 5: Open Your Eyes
When you are ready to end your meditation, open your eyes. You should be in a calm and serene state.
Meditation Tips For Beginners
When you’re first learning how to meditate, it's important to view it as a skill that you cultivate and strengthen over time. When you’re just getting started, use these meditation tips to enhance your practice…
- Keep an eye on your posture, ensuring your back is straight. This will help you focus, and infuse the practice with positivity.
- Try meditating first thing in the morning. This sets a wonderful tone for the rest of your waking hours and also takes advantage of the receptive state of your mind before the rush of the day begins.
- If you can't relax into your meditation, try counting your breaths for a while. This will calm your thoughts, guiding the brain into a more focused state.
- Let thoughts drift by, rather than trying to stop them. It is natural to get distracted; the important thing is to gently refocus your mind as soon as you noticed that it has wandered.
- Meditate in silence if at all possible, in a quiet room. If there are background noises, try listening to some quiet instrumental music.
- Commit to meditating for at least a month. This will allow you to acquire the basic skills, and begin to see the real benefits it can bring.
You may want to explore other meditation techniques in the future, such as meditating while listening to soft music or other audio.