What’s the Idea?
Meditation is an ages-old practice which can lead you to conscious awareness and has many mental, physical & spiritual benefits. Carry on reading and you’ll find all the information about meditation for beginners
What’s the story
Meditation is an ancient technique originally from India and is over 5000 years old. It was later adopted by Buddha in 6 BC who created his own techniques.
These were adopted and went on to be the most popular types of meditation as Buddhism grew in popularity across Asia.
It was also adopted in different forms/names by the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions as a way of getting closer to their God.
Nowadays meditation is practised by all types of people and is no longer considered only a religious practice. In the 1960s and 70s many scientific studies began to show that meditation has many health benefits.
I like to meditate as it helps me relax, de-stress and more able to focus. It’s a great activity to do while indoors. Although you can meditate in a group setting, the act of meditation itself is always done on your own.
It can be done at any time of the day or night as a daily practice.
People should do this because…?
Meditation benefits both healthy people and those with underlying medical issues.
Other reported benefits include:
- More enjoyment and appreciation of life
- Improved relationships
- A state of deep relaxation and calmness
- A sense of balance
- More empathy and acceptance of self and others
- Improved concentration and memory
It can be used alongside medical treatments. Additionally, it has been shown to be an effective complementary therapy for the following:
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Substance dependence and abuse
- Ulcers and colitis
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Prevention of cardiac arrest (heart attack)
- Prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
- Arthritis (including fibromyalgia)
- Allergies and asthma
- Fatigue with multiple sclerosis
How does it work?
No one knows exactly how meditation works. However, it’s suggested that by helping us move from higher frequency brain waves (Alpha or Beta) to lower frequency (Theta) this can activate different centres in the brain.
There are five major categories of brain waves, each corresponding to different activities.
Slower wavelengths give more time between thoughts = more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you invest in and what actions you take.
How do you do it?
Meditation is an exercise using your brain which involves concentration, awareness, breathing and focusing your mind whilst relaxing. It’s usually done sitting or lying down while keeping completely still with your eyes closed. There are also methods that involve keeping your eyes open or moving.
Step 1: Create the right atmosphere
Find somewhere that you won’t be disturbed, switch your phone to plane mode and light a scented candle or incense stick if appropriate.
Step 2: Get into a comfortable position
Choose where and how you’ll sit – maybe in a comfortable chair or sitting cross-legged on the ground. You want to be able to completely relax while still staying awake.
Ensure that your posture is correct making sure your back is straight. Don’t allow your shoulders to slump as this can cause issues.
If you choose to sit in a chair, sit toward the front of the seat and place your feet firmly on the floor. This will improve your posture and help you concentrate on your practice.
Step 3: Close our eyes gently
Once comfortable, look into the distance with a soft gaze, then slowly lower your lids. Keep your jaw slack and slightly open. Relax all of your facial muscles. Do not squeeze your eyes tight shut. If you feel your face tighten, slowly open your eyes, refocus on that soft gaze and lower them again.
At this stage, your goal is to relax every part of your body. If you feel any tension in parts of your body, take a deep breath and allow it to relax you.
Step 4: Put thoughts aside
You can control how much power you have over your thoughts. Don’t ignore or suppress them, but stay calm, note them and then use your breathing to bring you back to the moment. Learning to do this during your meditation practice can help you to let things go in the rest of your life as well.
If you do get carried away into your thoughts then take a moment, observe where your mind went to then return to your breathing.
Step 5: Keep going
Keep putting aside any thoughts that may pop into your mind. The quiet spaces between thoughts will become longer and more frequent the longer you practice.
Other types of meditation
Walking meditations are great if you have too much energy for sitting down. Prior to starting, close your eyes briefly and breathe deeply. Let go of outside worries and distractions. Walk at a comfortable pace. Notice how your body feels as it moves and how your feet feel on each step on the ground. Roll your neck gently from side to side, letting go of tension in your shoulders, your face. Take in your surroundings. What’s in the distance? What is directly in front of you? How does the sky look? What sounds can you hear? At the end of your walk, wiggle your fingers. Roll your head back and take a look at the sky. Has it changed since your walk began? Thank yourself for the time and movement.
This is easy as you are on your own and unlikely to be disturbed. Use an essential oil soap. Notice the feel of water on your skin and hair. Listen to the sounds of the water. Apply soap to areas that feel tense and rub them. Send your breath to those areas. Breathe in deep the scents around you. When you are finished showering, take a step back from the water before turning it off. Close your eyes and breathe deeply into your feet, widening the space between your toes to firmly plant your feet into the ground. Consider repeating a mantra or affirmation that you use daily.
10 Count Meditation
Count each breath in and out until you reach 10 and then start over again. You may lose count but just start over and start to train your brain to not wander off.
Give it time, it takes practice. Don’t expect to be perfect immediately. There is no perfect meditation session.
Start small and work up to longer sessions
Begin with a short session of 5 minutes. After you are comfortable, move to 10 or 15 minutes until you are comfortable meditating for 30-minute sessions.
With practice, this type of meditation becomes easier and more effective. You will come out of a meditation session feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready to face the rest of your day.
Track your time and set goals – it can be easy to lose track of time while meditating. Maybe use a timer or an app on your phone and set it for the amount of time you want to meditate during that session. Be sure to use a gentle tone or set it to vibrate so it doesn’t startle you when time is up, then turn off the screen and relax. Make sure you set your phone to flight mode so you aren’t disturbed.
With practice, you may eventually find yourself saying, ‘Wow, that was 10 minutes? I could go longer!’ When you are comfortable, skip the timer and allow your meditations to last as long as needed.
Making it a habit
Many people struggle to continue meditating every day. To be successful long term and experience the benefits try using the 3 pillars of meditation below:
Habit – Integrate meditation into your everyday life. Try to put aside time every day, write it in your diary or do it first thing in the morning – be consistent.
Technique – Find the best technique that works for YOU. Remember that anything new to you is going to feel a little bit awkward and out of your comfort zone at first. That’s completely normal, just give it a bit of time.
Application – Find the best way to apply the techniques you learn into your daily life – (family, work, relationships).
Meditation for kids
Meditation may help children manage challenging conditions such as stress, depression, ADHD and hyperactivity. Furthermore, it will provide better sleep and relaxation. Some studies suggest that children and young adults who practise mindfulness tend to develop positive traits such as increased self-control, better attentiveness in class, greater confidence and more empathy and respect for others.
You should never force your children to meditate as this can put them off doing it. Doing it together can be a fun activity. Children can start meditating from the age of 3 years.
What meditation is right for you?
There are over 23 different types of meditation available. Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mind-sets. How do you know which practice is right for you?
The most popular 6 are:
Where you pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind without judging or becoming involved with them. You simply observe and take note of any patterns. This practice combines concentration with awareness. You may find it helpful to focus on an object or your breath while you observe any bodily sensations, thoughts or feelings.
This type of meditation is good for people who don’t have a teacher to guide them, as it can be easily practised alone.
Used in Eastern religions. Similar to prayer in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe.
Essential oils are commonly used to heighten the spiritual experience.
Can be practised at home or in a place of worship. Beneficial for those who enjoy silence and seek spiritual growth.
It involves concentration using any of the five senses. For example, you can focus on something internal, like your breath, or you can bring in external influences to help focus your attention. Try listening to a gong or staring at a candle flame.
This practice may be simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first. If your mind does wander, it’s important to come back to the practice and refocus.
As the name suggests, this practice is ideal for anyone who requires additional focus in their life.
This practice may include walking through the woods, gardening, qigong, yoga and other gentle forms of motion. It’s an active form of meditation where the movement guides you.
Movement meditation is good for people who find peace in action and prefer to let their minds wander.
It’s prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase or sound, such as the popular ‘Om.’
It doesn’t matter if your mantra is spoken loudly or quietly. After chanting the mantra for some time, you will be more alert and in tune with your environment. This allows you to experience deeper levels of awareness.
Some people enjoy mantra meditation because they find it easier to focus on a word than on their breath. This is also a good practice for people who don’t like silence and enjoy repetition.
It’s the most popular type of meditation around the world, and the most scientifically studied. This practice is more customizable than mantra meditation, using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner.
This practice is for those who like structure and are serious about maintaining a meditation practice.
Stuff you may need
- A yoga mat or chair/couch/bed (somewhere you can sit comfortably)
- Loose-fitting, comfortable clothes