For something as seemingly simple as sitting quietly and focusing on your breath, meditating can feel really daunting — especially when you’re first starting out. If you’re new to meditation, follow this advice to help you get started.
First, Choose a Meditation Style
There are multiple different types of meditation styles, and finding the one that’s right for you can take some trial and error. As you start a meditation practice, try one or more of the following to see what resonates most with you:
Focused attention meditation: In this type of meditation, you’ll hold your attention one one thing in particular. For example, you might focus your mind’s eye on a beautiful image or a strong emotion. When your mind wanders, simply direct your attention back to what you were focusing on.
Mindfulness meditation: In this Buddhist style of meditation, the goal is to bring your focus on your breath and continue to return your focus to the breath when your mind wanders. When strong emotions surface or your thoughts are directed elsewhere, recognize this is happening but try not to react to whatever it is that’s coming up. The benefit of practicing this is that you’ll become more aware of your internal patterns, which in turn can help you become more mindful.
Transcendental meditation: In this style of meditation that’s growing in popularity around the world, you’re asked to silently repeat a mantra — a word or phrase, often given to you by a Transcendental meditation teacher during what’s called an initiation, and used as a “tool for the mind.” The thinking is that by focusing your attention on the mantra, you may be more likely to reach another state of consciousness during your meditation.
Loving-kindness meditation: This is another Buddhist style of meditation where you’ll generate kind intentions toward yourself and others and focus on those while you meditate. For example, you might first imagine yourself experiencing experiencing total health, happiness, and overall wellness, and then imagine other people in your life — even those you may not like or don’t even know — enveloped with those same feelings of inner peace, happiness, health, and love
How to Meditate: 5 Steps to Help You Get Started Now
The most important thing to remember when you’re ready to begin is that you can start immediately — there’s no need to take a lesson first, buy a certain type of outfit, or even download a guided meditation. If you can carve out just a few minutes in your day to simply get quiet and focus on your breath, you can meditate. Here are the steps that’ll help you meditate successfully, starting now:
Step №1: Find a comfortable seat. While the ideal meditation position is a seated posture, which helps optimize your breath and can help you find stillness in your mind, it’s important to find a meditation position that’s comfortable enough that you won’t have the urge to fidget every few minutes. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable, try sitting on a meditation pillow so that your knees rest below your hips. (Adding a second pillow underneath your seat can help cushion your knees and shins and make you feel even more supported and comfy.) You can also try sitting in a chair or even on your couch or bed; just make sure your spine is upright, and you’re not in such a relaxed position that you’ll be tempted to drift off to sleep.
Step №2: Focus on your breath. Breathing is something that happens unconsciously. Throughout the day, you take countless inhalations and exhalations — and you can do that without bringing any intention to the process. When you meditate, the goal is to bring your attention to those inhalations and exhalations — and only your breath.
Step №3: Remind yourself that your wandering mind is normal. While focusing on your breath (and only your breath) may sound easy, it can actually feel quite difficult — especially at first. That’s because the mind naturally likes to wander. When thoughts pop into your mind as you’re trying to focus on your breath, don’t beat yourself up about it. This happens to everyone!
Step №4: Continue to bring your attention back to your breath. Whether your mind is jumping from one thought to another or you lose track of your focus on your breathing, simply notice what’s taken your attention away from your breath and return your focus to your inhalations and exhalations. Even the most advanced practitioners have to gently remind themselves again (and again) to return their attention to the breath. When you understand this, you’ll be less likely to judge yourself when your mind wanders and your focus wanes.
Step №5: Start small. When you’re first starting out, it can be tempting to set a big goal. Perhaps you’ve heard meditating for 20 minutes, twice a day, will provide the biggest benefits, or maybe you’ve set your sights on starting each morning with a 10-minute meditation. However, it’s important to remember that even a few minutes of meditation can feel like an eternity when you’re first starting out — and it can be easy to get down on yourself if you feel like you’re failing. So, start by setting a goal of meditating for just one minute, and build from there. And remember, you can always extend your meditation time if your timer dings and you don’t want to stop.
You might wonder about the ideal meditation position, and what to do if you’re uncomfortable when you sit cross-legged on the floor. Maybe you have a goal of sitting for 10 minutes — but find yourself fidgeting after 30 seconds. Or perhaps you want to get started right away but worry you don’t have the right at-home setup to make the most of your practice.
Here’s the good news: While these are normal concerns that both new andexperienced meditation practitioners face, they’re easier to overcome than you might think. In fact, you can start meditating right now, no matter what questions or concerns you have about the practice.
We’ll be posting more helpful educational content to help you with your practice.