Despite all its popularity, today very few of us truly know what meditation is. Some regard meditation is the mental concentration on something, others consider that we meditate when we imagine something that gives us peace or satisfaction. All these methods are being with one goal to slow down and, eventually, completely stop the incessant activity of our minds. These exercises are not really meditation – they are substitutes for meditation because it is normally very difficult to stop our minds all-together. In reality, meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness. It is not an act of doing – it is a state of awareness. We either in this state or we are not, regardless of what we are doing in life. Truly, a man can be in meditation while doing his day’s labors as another man can be very far from meditation while sitting in a lotus posture on the top of a mountain.
Meditation however, has been developed in Eastern cultures, especially Indian subcontinent and has a documented history of more than several thousand years. Eastern meditative techniques have been developed, trialed and refined over hundreds of generations with the specific intention of developing a method by which the layperson can regularly attain a state of mental peace and tranquillity, ie. relief from stress. It is a strategy that can easily be adapted to the needs of clinicians and their patients in the West.
Although a good number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, only a small percentage actually persist with it. This is unfortunate, as the benefits are enormous. One possible reason is that many beginners do not start with an appropriate mindset to make the practice sustainable.
The purpose of this article is to provide 20 practical recommendations to help beginners get past the initial hurdles and integrate meditation as an ongoing practice in their lives.
Beginners guide to meditation
Devote time and exercise
1: Make it a formal practice. Set aside a time in the day that is your meditation practice time.
2: Only meditate for as long as you are enjoying it. It is especially important in the beginning that meditation is not a chore.
3: Do yoga or stretch first. Firstly physical activity will draw your own awareness into the body and away from your mind. A practice like yoga loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit more comfortably. Additionally, yoga opens the body not only at the physical level but also at subtle level, which facilitates movement of energy in the body.
4: Pick a specific location in your home to meditate. Ideally the place you choose will be somewhere that does not have much activity at other times. Two reasons for doing this are, the subconscious is conditioned by repetition, so by going to the same place at the same time each day to meditate you can get in yourself to expect to meditate when you are there. The second reason is that when you meditate you begin to create a particular vibration in that spot. With time and meditation and place will become increasingly attuned to this energy of meditation, again making it easier for you to meditate when you are there.
5: Make sure your will meditation time is respected. if you live with others make sure that they understand that you are not to be disturbed while you are meditating. Equally for yourself make the same commitment, for example if your phone should ring, be aware of it and continue your meditation.
Peaceful and expectations
6: Create some representation of sacred space in your meditations spot. This should obviously be what is meaningful for you, maybe an actual altar with pictures and objects, or maybe just a special rug and your meditation cushion.
7: Use ritual if it helps you. This doesn’t have to be elaborate it could be as simple as lighting a candle, or a lighting incense. The repetition of a ritual before you meditate, is again conditioning preparation for your body and mind.
8: Commit for the long haul. When you begin with the clear idea in your mind that the greatest benefits from meditation will accumulate with time, and see it as an ongoing process, you are less likely to give up in frustration.
9: Meditate with understanding. Get clear in your mind exactly what you think meditation is and what it will be like before you start. Invariably everybody does have ideas and expectations like this, it is very helpful to make them conscious before you start.
10: Be clear of your motivation to begin meditation. When you understand your reasons and objectives in beginning meditation you are more likely to find a practice or technique that will work for you at that time.
Learn and practice
11: Begin with a particular practice that you have actively chosen and commit to doing it for a given time period. Many beginners are constantly jumping from one to type or technique of meditation to another. Your meditation practice is a relationship with yourself, it will not deepen if it consists of one night stands. This is not to say that the practice or technique you begin with is the one you stay with for the rest of your life, but a relationship is best left when you know exactly why it is that you are leaving, and not done simply on an impulse.
12: Educate yourself. Confusion and misunderstanding is primarily caused by ignorance. Find a good teacher, or online community where you can get answers. Read some books on meditation and spiritual practice.
13: Notice if frustration starts to creep into your practice. If you notice this happening take some time to explore what is going on for you, what expectation is not being fulfilled. Then examine the expectation itself, what is it based on.
14: Be honest with yourself. As I said meditation is a relationship with yourself, you are the most important person you need to be straightforward with, and meditation is a key place to practice this.
15: Be prepared for some discomfort. It is normal in the beginning to experience some physical discomfort when sitting to meditate. Most people are not accustomed to sitting still, other than maybe slouched on a couch. Your body needs time to develop strength and openness in the right places to allow you to sit comfortably and alert. Sooner or later discomfort will also be experienced at the emotional and mental levels. If you are not consciously prepared for this it is likely to deter you from continuing.
Relax and move to next steps
16: Until you are well versed in your meditation practice it can be very beneficial to use a recording to guide you. This will help your mind to let go of concern about what you are doing, and the recording can act as a guide until you no longer need it.
17: Start to look for moments of awareness during the day. Finding space to be consciously present during everyday activities is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation practice. Take advantage, of the time spent waiting in traffic, waiting in line, waiting for anything, to become present to yourself and what you are experiencing within yourself. Look for such opportunities in your day, however brief, simple as they are taken radically change or experience of life.
18: Do it together. Meditating with a partner or group can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. When meditating with others many people say that it improves the quality of their meditation. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin.
19: Don’t stress about it. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. Many people in beginning meditation become anxious about whether they are doing it right or not, or whether something they experience should be happening or not. The article, meditation is practice, goes into more detail regarding the steps.
20: Invest in a good, comfortable meditation cushion. If you need other things to allow your body to sit comfortably in without strain, get them. If you set yourself up with the things that you need, you are removing a future potential pitfall to your practice.
Meditation is one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself, like any lasting and meaningful relationship it takes energy and commitment, it takes understanding and tolerance. If you put these things in to your practice meditation will become your best friend, and powerful resource.