You want to start meditating but you don’t know where to begin.
As the Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron says “Start where you are”.
You have everything you need to start meditating right now but some guidance can be helpful.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the act of training the mind through attention and awareness. Meditation is NOT about controlling your thoughts, it’s about watching them. Understanding this can be helpful as it makes your task easier. Over time meditation will decrease the volume and frequency of your thoughts. This not a forceful process but one that works in subtle and unconscious ways.
If you are reading this you probably already figured out why you want to start meditating. Whichever way you framed your why we can distill it to the realization that your mind is out of control. Congratulations as this is an important insight. While we each have a unique mind, most of our minds tend to be overreactive and without training will create needless suffering.
How to meditate
The simplest and most widely taught meditation is that of focusing on the breath. All you need is a quiet place and a comfortable seat. You don’t need a cushion, you can use a chair but make sure that the back on the chair is straight so you don’t lean backwards. You don’t need a timer but it can be useful to decide how long you will meditate for. If you are using a timer you can set it for any amount of time you feel comfortable with. My recommendation is to start with 10 minutes but you can also do less.
Take a seat and close your eyes.
You can rest your hands on your thighs in any comfortable way.
Begin to focus on the breath as it goes in and out of your body.
You can pay attention to any area where you feel the breath.
The abdomen is usually the easiest to follow but you can also focus on the sensations in your nostrils.
You can also begin to count on every out-breath in the following manner.
Keep counting until you get up to 10 and then count back down to 1.
Whether you decide to count or just to focus on the breath eventually your mind will wander off. You will forget that you are meditating and get lost in thought. But here is the miraculous part, at some point, after a minute or two or 5 or 10 you will WAKE UP.
You will suddenly gain awareness and realize that you were supposed to be meditating. This is excellent and it is at this point that you should throw a party. Not an actual party but a small internal celebration where you pat yourself on the back. And then you return back to watching the breath.
Celebrating the moment of waking up encourages it and helps you progress faster in your meditation. When you condemn yourself during that moment; you are discouraging it and hindering your progress. Forgetting is something that will happen during your meditation for a long time and that’s ok. We want to forget less and to wake up sooner and that is why we celebrate the moment of waking up instead of condemning it.
While the above instructions can be enough to get started many people will find they need more guidance. If you are looking for more structure or accountability I recommend using a meditation app such as headspace or calm. Many of these meditation apps offer free guided meditations that will help you stay on track. I started my meditation practice with 10 days of 10-minute meditations on the headspace app and have never looked back.
You have everything you need to start meditating right now.
Meditation is not about controlling your thoughts, it’s about watching them.
There are many reasons why people decide to meditate but most do it for a calmer mind.
The breath meditation is the simplest meditation we can start with.
Those looking for more support can use meditation apps that provide free guided meditations.