We spend so many of our days simply thinking – about our next work project, what’s for dinner, or that argument with our spouse yesterday. The thoughts keep coming and eventually, it all builds up to make us feel like we are going to pop like a balloon. When we can learn to let go of our thoughts and know they do not control us, we can open ourselves to a whole new world of possibilities while gaining a sense of inner peace to guide us through our lives.
Meditation is an ancient practice that has been used throughout many cultures. In the yogic tradition, the practice of moving through the physical postures was thought to prepare the body to sit for long periods of time in meditation. However, today, meditation and yoga are accessible to anyone at any time.
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Every meditation practitioner must start somewhere, but in the beginning, it may seem overwhelming to start something seemingly so simple. With all of the different methods to choose from, sifting through them can be a lot of work. Here are some meditation techniques for beginners to help get you started on your meditation journey.
The beginner’s mind is free and curious- you, too, can use meditation to cultivate a beginner’s mind all the time.
Why Practice Meditation?
Meditation is one of the best natural ways to alleviate anxiety and stress while improving concentration. This means a regular meditation practice can improve your quality of life! Additionally, meditation affects the physical body in a positive manner as well.
When one meditates, it is not about simply drowning out the outside world or even tuning out your thoughts. To think that your thoughts are going to stop right away the moment you sit down to meditate is simply a fallacy. The truth is that meditation is a practice to get to know yourself and your mind better.
When your thoughts arise during meditation, you can begin to notice your tendencies to be distracted or things you may constantly tell yourself that are simply not true. It brings you into the present moment, which at times can be scary- but only through facing our fears can we rise like the phoenix out of the ashes.
Benefits of Meditation
- Reduce stress
- Relieve anxiety
- Boost mood
- Overcome depression
- Enhance self-esteem
- Help combat addictions
- Increase concentration and focus
- Better memory
- Enhances immunity
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreases inflammation
- Increases life span
- Lowers risk of heart problems
- Better sleep
- Increased lung capacity
How Does Meditation Work?
Meditation directly affects the parasympathetic nervous, which is the “rest and digest” part of the central nervous system. All too often, we are operating on the opposite system- the sympathetic nervous system. The SNS is known as the “fight or flight” system.
When the SNS is in control, certain body functions shut down so that only what is necessary to survive is on. The heart rate is elevated, which can cause feelings of anxiety and create poor decision-making.
When the PNS is activated, however, the heart rate slows down and allows the body to react in a calm manner to stress. It also helps the body heal from injuries, which is why getting a good night’s sleep is so important.
Preparing for Meditation
- The first thing you need to do is prepare your space for meditation. Find a quiet area in your home or park where you won’t be disturbed.
- Schedule your meditation at the same time each day. Morning is best.
- Turn your phone off or put it in airplane mode. Many meditations close the eyes, but some also keep the eyes open so that is up to you.
- Decide how long you want to meditate for.
In the beginning, you may want to set the amount of time you meditate for. If you would like to meditate for a specific amount of time, choose a soft bell sound on your timer to keep the mood light.
If you have a busy schedule, using meditation techniques for stress will be helpful and all you need is a short amount of time in the beginning. Start with 5 or 10 minutes and gradually build yourself up to longer periods of time. Once you become comfortable meditating, you may not even need or want to use the timer.
- Accept yourself as you are.
Develop an attitude of love for yourself, no matter what thoughts or challenges arise.
How to Sit for Meditation
There are various ways to sit when learning meditation techniques for beginners.
- It is recommended to sit on a cushion on the floor, as it will be more comfortable for an extended period of time. It also allows the hips to be elevated so the spine can lengthen.
- Cross the legs comfortably or stack one leg on top of the other.
- Another method is to try kneeling on the knees and sitting on the heels. This is not recommended if you have knee issues.
- If you are unable to sit on the floor, you can also try sitting on a chair or bench. Keep your feet on the floor and the spine straight and tall.
Types of Meditation Techniques
This is an easy meditation for beginners to start with. The goal of this type of meditation technique is not to stop the mind, but rather to notice what is happening in your mind or body in a mindful way. A common starting point is the breath. Notice it’s quality and length. Let this be the focus of your mind. Release any judgments about whether anything is good or bad. Just simply observe.
Guided Meditation for Beginners
Participating in a guided meditation is also a great meditation technique for beginners. You may find a guided meditation online, or take part in a class where someone else is leading you. In this method, you will be guided step-by-step through a meditation by a teacher.
When someone else is guiding you, you may find it easier to relinquish control over what you are doing and follow the flow of the meditation for efficiently. Many meditations are passed down from teacher to student and this is a great way to become truly active in your quest to learn meditation techniques. Classes are also great ways to meet fellow meditators, form a community, and feel supported in your meditation goals.
Chakra Meditation for Beginners
Learning about the chakras is a great way to use visualization during meditation. The chakras are a great meditation technique for stress, anxiety, and learning more about ourselves. Chakras are energy vortexes that run along the spine.
Each chakra corresponds to a different body part and thus has different color and meaning associations.
- Root chakra: red, located at the bottom of the pelvic floor, survival
- Sacral chakra: orange, located below the navel, creativity
- Solar plexus chakra: yellow, located at the bottom of the sternum, confidence
- Heart chakra: green, located in the center of the chest, love
- Throat chakra: blue, located in the throat, communication
- Third eye chakra: purple, located above the brows, wisdom
- Crown chakra: white, located at the crown of the head, enlightenment
When performing a chakra meditation, you can visualize each area as a glowing orb in the associated color. You can go through all 7 or choose to focus on just 1 if something needs extra attention in your life.
Mantra Meditation for Beginners
Mantra meditation is a great tool to focus the mind by using a sound or a chanted syllable. It doesn’t have to be audible but can be repeated inside the mind. Mantras are traditionally repeated 108 times, which is a sacred number in certain Eastern traditions. To count this number of repetitions, mala beads can be used. Mala beads are strings of 108 beads. You can hold them in your hand and move your finger along the beads to ensure you have completed your meditation.
Many mantras also have specific meanings, which may correlate to things you wish to work on or invoke in your life. Mantras are known to be tools of transformation, as their sound holds special vibrations. Popular mantras include:
- OM: the sound of the universe, divine, or God
- Om Namah Shivaya: I bow to Shiva (a representation of my Highest Self)
- Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu: May all beings, everywhere, be happy, free, and at peace
There is a myriad of other forms of meditation to try from Zazen to Transcendental Meditation. You can always experiment with several forms of meditation to see which one suits your lifestyle the best. You may even enjoy a variety of them and prefer different meditation techniques for beginners on different days, depending on your mood or what you hope to accomplish.