Meditation: A Beginner's Guide
Those that know me know that I'm a huge advocate for meditation, and I often get lots of questions about it. So, I thought I'd put together a simple beginners guide! Although it is a simple practice that can be done daily, many people find it quite intimidating, so my aim is to explain a little more about meditation and show you that anyone can do it!
Benefits of meditation
Meditation is full of tremendous benefits for your mind, body, and spirit. Not only is it a great way to practice mindfulness, but it also strengthens your core, increases productivity and so much more! These are just some of the benefits of meditation:
1. It reduces stress. If you meditate for even just 5 minutes a day, your stress levels can decrease significantly. This is by learning to empty your mind of worries and to focus on steady breathing. Not only that, but there is also evidence to suggest that meditation can improve the symptoms of conditions that can be exacerbated by stress, such as IBS, migraines, and more!
2. It teaches you to focus, which means that you will find you are able to concentrate on other tasks such as revision or work for longer periods of time. This means you're going to see improvements in all areas of your life!
3. It can help with some mental health problems. By decreasing your stress levels, you can also decrease your anxiety. Not to mention, practicing mindfulness can give you more self awareness, and a stronger ability to understand your thoughts and emotions from a different perspective. This means that you are more able to understand and control your mood, whilst also learning to tackle difficult situations better.
What actually is meditation?
I've noticed that lots of people tend to over-complicate meditation. Before I started I did too! The stereotypical idea is that you sit in a silent room, breathe, and your mind empties completely, but that isn't the reality. Of course it would be difficult if that was the case! Instead, the main idea behind meditation is learning to accept your thoughts and let them go.
For example, the most common form of practice is breathing meditation, where you focus solely on your breath. Similar to yoga, you use your breath to control your mind and body. There are plenty of ways to do this, but I suggest simply breathing in and out for five counts each through your nose. This gives you something to focus on, which you can draw back to every time your mind wanders. Your goal is to focus on the present moment and forget about the past and the future. So, every time a thought pops into your head, you can acknowledge it, let it go, and draw your focus back to your breathing. Over time, this will get easier as you strengthen your attention, focus, and concentration.
What you'll need
There are plenty of sources out there that tell you you'll need a meditation cushion or bench, whale sounds, an incense burner, and god knows what else before you start meditating, but really all you need is yourself and somewhere quiet to sit. Once you get good at it, you won't even need that! I've found that despite the noise, a long ride on public transport is a fantastic place to take some time out for yourself and meditate!
One thing I would suggest getting is a guided meditation or two to help you when you first start. There are plenty of free and paid-for sources out there, especially on Spotify or Youtube. I will link a few that I enjoy at the end of this post for you to try out! Using a guided meditation is great for beginners, because it gives you something to focus on other than your breath. This means that it is easier to stop any outside thoughts from creeping in! Plus there are hundreds of guided meditations out there that focus on specific things, for example cleansing your chakras, reducing stress, waking up positive, or helping with sleep. These are perfect for if you want to start meditating for a specific reason!
How to meditate?
Firstly, you'll need to make yourself comfortable! Find a quiet area where you are content, you don't feel vulnerable, and you know you won't be interrupted for the length of time you want to meditate. Now, if you Google meditation you'll see hundreds of pictures of people sat in the Lotus position with their feet on their knees and their hands in a prayer position, however this isn't necessary. Of course, if that's what you feel comfortable doing then go for it! But for most people, just find a position that you aren't going to mind staying in for a while. This can be sat on a chair or sofa with your feet planted firmly on the floor. (This is a good one for grounding guided meditations as it helps you to imagine your feet grounding into the earth!). Or you can be sat cross legged on a cushion or your bed, or even laying down!
Just remember to try and keep your back straight if possible, (this is where the core strengthening comes in!) but it shouldn't hurt! You want to be in a position where you are awake and conscious of your body, but comfortable and in no pain. There is no right or wrong here, so ultimately do what feels best for you.
Then the rest is pretty simple. Put on a meditation playlist of sounds, or a guided meditation, or you can sit in silence if you prefer! Close your eyes, and start to focus on your breathing. If you're following a guided meditation then just listen to the voice and follow their instructions, but if you're not it's good to start by acknowledging yourself in the present moment. Once your breathing has settled into a comfortable rhythm, start to focus on your senses. Take a moment to acknowledge everything you can hear, smell, taste, and feel, accepting them and letting them go before moving onto the next thing. If your mind wanders, don't beat yourself up! Simply allow the thought to pass through your mind and leave, before bringing your concentration back to your breathing.
Try to focus on the present moment, the feeling of your body sinking into whatever you're sat or lay on. Ignore all thoughts of things you need to do, or worries or stresses. This is your time for you. Whilst you're in this moment everything else can wait. Let's be honest, the washing up will still be there when you're done, so there's no point worrying about it right now! Allow yourself to indulge on this chance to rest and be quiet. It may help to imagine a white light starting from your heart or belly and expanding out around you. This is your bubble of protection, and it can be used as a force-field of sorts to stop all thoughts from entering your mind and sticking around as you focus on your breath and how you feel in the moment. This is the best form of mindfulness you can do, and you will probably find you are much more equipped to tackle your worries after you've finished meditating!
You can stay here for any period of time, from 2 minutes to two hours. Ultimately, it's whatever feels best for you! When you feel you are nearing the end of your meditation, I find it helps to acknowledge your senses again, paying close attention to how you feel at this present moment. And then, at the end, give yourself a hug. This sounds silly I know, but trust me! My Reiki master taught me this one, and it has changed my life! Take a moment to wrap your arms around yourself, or even hold a pillow or teddy close to your chest and hug that if it's more comfortable. Hug tight for a minute or so, and imagine a loving energy enveloping you, protecting you from the outside world. You'll feel so much better for it if you do! Finally, take your time, and slowly open your eyes when you feel happy to do so. Now is a great time to thank the Universe, God, Gods and Goddesses, the Moon, or whatever energy you want! But, also make sure to thank yourself for allowing yourself the time to rest and to meditate!
1. Don't be hard on yourself if your mind wanders a lot! We're all so used to being busy, our minds and bodies are constantly rushing around, so it will take a while to learn how to quieten your mind and let things go! But, as long as you are being kind to yourself and simply allowing the thoughts to go in and out of your mind, you're on the right track, and it will get easier over time.
2. Two minutes of meditation every day is better than one hour once a month. Little and often is good. Try to allow yourself time every day to meditate if you can. As soon as you wake up and just before you go to sleep are both great times to do it, as you're already in a comfortable position. Maybe try leaving your phone for 5 minutes as soon as you wake up and just focus on your breathing instead! This can set you up nicely for the day ahead. Or alternatively, putting your phone down and doing a guided sleep meditation before bed can increase your chances of a good night's sleep!
3. If you struggle to concentrate try counting your breaths! Sometimes if your mind is particularly busy it will be harder to stay focused, but counting in and out whilst breathing will give you something to think about and stop any distracting thoughts from entering your mind.
Below is a list of free music and guided meditations to help get you started! You can find them quite easily on other platforms however by simply searching for 'meditation music' or 'guided meditation'. These are just ones I use regularly!
SPOTIFY Good Morning Sunshine - 10 Minute Guided Meditation This isn't a regular meditation, it's a cool meditation! Guaranteed to wake you up smiling and full of energy for the day ahead!
Guided Chakra Balancing - Guided Meditation Album
This is a fabulous album filled with guided meditations created to balance each of your chakras. My most listened to album!
Deep Serene Sleep - 1 Hour Guided Sleep Meditation
If, like me, you take a while to drift off to sleep, this 1 hour meditation is perfect for putting on, and you will most likely be asleep before it finishes every time!
Music for Body and Spirit - Channel
Meditation Relax Music - Channel
So, there you have it! A simple beginner's guide to meditation! I hope this gives some of you the confidence to get started, or even to carry on with your practice if you find you keep putting it off. In today's day and age it is all too easy to get bogged down with busy work days and full weekends, but taking even five minutes out of your day to meditate will bring you so many benefits!
If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch either on here, via my email firstname.lastname@example.org or why not slide into my dm's on Instagram?
And, as always, much love xoxo