Meditation 101: A Beginners How-To, Tips, and Techniques
If you’re looking to bring more clarity, peace, and serenity into your life, you’re likely to try and incorporate a mindfulness practice into your routine on a regular basis. Whilst any activity can be a mindfulness practice if you set a conscious intention to make it one, one of the most effective mindfulness practices out there is meditation.
Studies show that early forms of meditation have been referenced right back as far as the 3rd century BC in China and it is most commonly associated with Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Although meditation is and can certainly be practised by anyone, regardless of whether they follow a faith or not, it’s often important to recognise the roots of meditation to understand the intention of meditation.
Whilst it’s definitely insightful to read teachings on meditation from traditional texts and great masters, the essence of meditation is this: it is supposed to both still the mind and provide a mental concentration that allows thought to become more intentional.
In this article, we’re going to be giving you a meditation 101 - taking a look at the benefits associated with this practice, bust the biggest myth surrounding it, tell you about the different types of meditation (no, it’s not just sitting in the lotus position in silence!), and we’ll also provide a few powerful tips to help you get started on your meditation journey.
The Benefits of Meditation
Whilst the goal for many people, especially when practised religiously, may be to eventually reach enlightenment, there’s a whole list of more general benefits that occur when meditation is done on a regular basis, even without this end goal in sight. We’re going to take a look at just a few of them:
Reduces Stress Levels
In the high-intensity world that we all live in, one of the biggest reasons to turn to meditation is to reduce their stress levels and luckily, it’s a very effective way to do this! Meditation is an intentional practice that helps to calm the mind and focus thoughts, slowing down busy thoughts in the mind and therefore reducing overall stress levels.
Supports Mental Health
Meditation is one of the best ways to support mental health holistically since it not only reduces stress levels, but it actively reduces levels of anxiety and can even reduce symptoms associated with mental illnesses such as depression.
Practising meditation on a regular basis allows you to truly connect with yourself and check in with your emotions, promoting a deeper sense of self-awareness that you may otherwise not have discovered. This deeper sense of self-awareness won’t only help you understand yourself better but it’ll also improve the relationships you have with others!
Boosts Cognitive Health
Research has shown that meditating on a regular basis can improve cognitive health including memory, concentration, and attention span. More specifically, meditation can significantly help to boost the cognitive health of older people.
Busting The Biggest Myth Surrounding Meditation
Before we go ahead and take a look at the different types of meditation and give you a few useful tips to practice meditation impactfully, it’s important to bust the biggest myth that surrounds this mindful practice!
The myth: Meditation should clear your mind fully and you shouldn’t have any thoughts when meditating.
The truth: Meditation should help you calm the mind but it’s completely natural and normal for thoughts to occur. The purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind and maintain a sense of self-awareness when thoughts come - it’s not about pushing these thoughts away and thinking about nothing.
The Different Types of Meditation
Whether you go to a meditation class or find a meditation with a teacher through an App or even just on Youtube, guided meditation is a great way to lean into a meditation practice since it’s the most beginner-friendly type of meditation. Guided meditation is exactly what it sounds like - you are guided through a meditation practice by someone speaking to you.
Although guided meditations can vary from the guide speaking the entire time to them simply saying a few sentences throughout the practice, guided meditations are useful for those who suffer from a busy mind because you’re not alone in silence attempting to quiet your mind.
Right at the other end of the spectrum to guided meditation is silent meditation. Silent meditation, again, as the name suggests, is simply meditation that is practised silently. You can sit silently and meditate for as long as you see fit.
Although this type of meditation may be difficult for you to try if you’re just getting started on your meditation journey, silent meditation can be incredibly powerful - just make sure that you are conscious of your thoughts and when your mind seems to stir and get a little too busy, think about your intention during your meditation and bring your mind to a place of peace once more.
Walking meditation is a lovely form of meditation that allows you to get outside in nature whilst also practising meditation. Whether you want to listen to a guided meditation, put on some calming meditation music, or practise a silent meditation, you can turn this into a walking meditation by simply getting outside an walking.
If you have the ability to, practice walking meditation amongst nature and take note of the beauty around you - this will likely further deepen your meditation and it also supports your mental health more impactfully!
Concentrative meditation, much like guided meditation, can be incredibly useful for people that find their minds are extremely busy with thoughts and may be too nervous to try silent meditation. During concentrative meditation, you should try to sit in front of an object (a natural object such as a flower if possible) and concentrate all of your energy onto the object.
For example, if you do have a flower in front of you, during a concentrative meditation you should focus on each petal, the colours, and the structure of the stem. Concentrating intently on an object allows you to quiet your thoughts and practice conscious thought - you meditate without potentially realising.
5 Useful Tips For Beginners Getting Started With Meditation
When you first begin to add meditation into your daily life, you might be nervous that you’re not going to “do it right”, or you might be wondering how you can practice meditation in a way that ensures you get the most effective results.
Take a look at these 5 useful tips for beginners starting to meditate for help…
Let Go Of Any Expectations You Have
The most important thing to know before you start meditating is that there is no “right” way to meditate and you definitely shouldn’t be going into meditation with a preconceived idea of what it will be like or what you should get out of it. Every time you prepare to meditate, take a moment to let go of any expectations you have and be open to whatever kind of meditation you experience - never judge yourself or try to force yourself to act in a certain way during meditation.
Trial Different Types of Meditation
Just because you want to believe that you will be sitting and meditating in silence for an hour three times a week doesn’t mean that will be the case. In fact, trialling different types of meditation and seeing what works best for you is a wonderful thing to do. Try out all of the methods of meditation mentioned above and see what feels good and is most effective for you - then, practice whichever type of meditation suits you or switch it up and invite different types of meditation into your life on a regular basis depending on how you feel!
Create A Peaceful Space In Your Home
Although not essential, creating a peaceful space within your home in which you can sit and meditate can be incredibly effective at calming the mind and having an effective practice. Whether it’s a specific room or a small corner, create a space in which you feel tranquil - add candles, incense, flowers, and photos - whatever makes you feel calm! Then, meditate in this space on a regular basis.
Set Time Limits
Practising meditation without a time limit can feel daunting. So, the answer is simple: create a time limit and stick to it! Whether you choose a 15 minute guided meditation or set a calming alarm for 30 minutes, knowing that you have a specific amount of time to meditate can help promote concentration during the meditation and make it easier for you to implement meditation in your daily life since you know the amount of time it will take up.
Create A Meditation Plan and Stick To It
One of the most powerful ways to ensure your meditation practice is effective is to make sure you’re practising on a regular basis! One month of practising meditation three times a week for ten minutes is much more effective than a singular hour-long meditation session every six weeks. So, create a meditation plan that you can commit to easily and then stick to it.
Meditation? We’re Ready For It!
Bringing meditation into your life is an incredibly exciting thing to do and after reading this meditation 101 you’re all set to have impactful meditation practices on a regular basis.
Just remember, your mind doesn’t have to be quiet, you just have to be intentional with your thoughts - you got this!