What do you need to get started with meditation? The physical needs include an open, quiet space and a yoga mat to sit on. But there’s so much more than that, when it comes to understanding and practicing meditation.
The practice of meditation dates back to prehistoric times when people used chants and simple rhythmic music to help themselves and others focus. Over the course of thousands of years, the art of meditation has grown and expanded along with the men and women who practice it. People from all walks of life, not just those who are religious or spiritual, use meditation as a means to an end or as the end itself.
People who’ve never meditated before but want to or were told by a healthcare provider that it would be beneficial may feel intimidated by the concept of sitting still with a blank slate for a mind. Similar to any other new practice, meditation gets easier over time.
At the risk of sounding trite, it can even be said that learning to meditate is a lot like riding a bike. The beginner might be wobbly at first, and lose their balance and concentration a lot. But, eventually, meditation will become second nature to the individual who practices regularly. Eventually, you can meditate anytime, anywhere.
I often meditate while walking down a crowded street. No one else knows I’m meditating, yet I still experience the peace and clarity that comes with meditation, even in the midst of chaos.
Before You Start Meditating
- Where and When? A quiet, comfortable place is most conducive to meditation. Choose a space where there will be no interruptions. Likewise, the individual should be able to sit or lay comfortably.
- Supplies Needed. Some people use certain tools to help themselves relax and focus. Meditative music, wind chimes, a scented candle, or incense can all serve to signal to the mind that it’s time to relax and focus inward. When I meditate, I like to use the sound of running or flowing water to help me relax and focus.
- Preparing One’s Self. Let others know that interruptions must wait until after meditation unless there’s an emergency. Finish any niggling tasks or chores so they won’t be there to clutter the mind.
How to Meditate
- Focal Point. Choose a focal point in the area that your eyes can be fixed on throughout meditation. This can be a plant, flower, wind chimes, or anything else that won’t move a lot or serve as a distraction.
- Breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing helps clear and focus the mind. Breathe in through the nose as the stomach expands and pushes out. Exhale through the mouth as the stomach draws in toward the back.
- Calming and Clearing the Mind. At first, thoughts will flood the mind, often making beginners feel that they can’t meditate. Acknowledge the thought by seeing it in the mind, and then let it float away. Each time a thought pops up, do the same. Sometimes, repeating a word or phrase, such as “peace,” helps keep distracting thoughts at bay. Whenever thoughts try to interrupt my focus, I visualize them moving through my mind and out the window.
Ending a Meditation Session
- Finish with Gratitude. An effective way to finish each meditation session is with a few minutes of gratitude. Individuals can spend these few minutes envisioning the things and people that they’re thankful for. The act of smiling for the last few minutes of meditation is also very effective, particularly when a person meditates for the purpose of shifting their mood or attitude. I combine both methods at the end of my meditation. I smile and silently express my thanks for all the wonderful things and people in my life.
- Notice Accomplishments. Small steps in the right direction signal that a person is progressing with their meditation. It’s vital to long-term commitment to acknowledge these accomplishments, no matter how small they might be. Being able to sit still for five minutes or clear one’s mind for two minutes are examples of the positive steps beginners make. Acknowledging progress encourages the beginner to continue with the practice of meditation.
Patience and Persistence Lead to Long-Term Practice
One of the greatest differences between those who quickly give up meditation and those who make it a life-long practice is patience. Persistence is another characteristic of people who continue to meditate throughout their lives. In the beginning, meditation can be very frustrating, and many people feel that perhaps they aren’t cut out for it. The truth is that we’re all cut out to meditate but must all practice quieting and focusing our minds.
At one point, I too felt that meditation wasn’t for me. But I was too stubborn to stop trying, and eventually my persistence paid off. Anyone wanting to reap the benefits of meditation must allow him or herself to invest as little as 10 to 15 minutes each day in the practice of going inward, quieting their mind, and leaving the world behind.
Each individual’s journey with meditation will be different, just as people meditate for different reasons. The techniques and tools that work effectively for one person can be a flop for someone else. To enjoy the benefits of meditation and overcome any beginner challenges being experienced, people must use the tools and techniques that feel comfortable and work best for them.
Mary Ylisela is a veteran author who writes about health, fitness, and wellness. She’s used the practice of mediation in her life for nearly 30 years and encourages others to enjoy the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of meditation.