In today’s post, I’m going to share a step-by-step guide on how to start meditating if you’re a beginner. I’ll cover the six simple steps in detail with a few tips and tricks along the way to help you begin a meditation practice with less frustration and more clarity.
Now I’ve been meditating for a few years and recently trained to become a meditation teacher, so I know how frustrating it can be as a beginner but I’ve also learned that if you break the process down into a few simple steps, it can become a LOT less daunting. So I’m going to walk you through each step here but there’s no need to take notes or bookmark this page.
I’ve summarized everything I’m sharing with you today in a PDF guide that you can download for free. Bonus! It includes a meditation habit tracker and journal sheet to help you create a daily practice.
STEP 1: Find a Quiet Space
The first thing you want to do is find a quiet space. Advanced meditators (or those who have been meditating for a while) can meditate anywhere, including noisy places. But as you’re still starting out, it’s best to limit external distractions like noise. If you can’t manage to find a quiet space then I recommend using some headphones. My favorite thing to listen to while meditating is the sound of tropical rain. It’s a great sound because even if you don’t have noise-canceling headphones (which I highly recommend by the way), the sound of rain is pretty good at covering up any noise that might sneak in. Once you do find a quiet space, be sure to turn off your phone or put it in airplane mode and ask your family to give you a little bit alone time while you meditate.
STEP 2: Find a Comfortable Position
Next, find a comfortable position to meditate in. Don’t worry, it’s not necessary to sit in a full lotus position. The most important thing is to find a position that you can be still in for the duration of your meditation. You can sit on the floor with your legs folded or you can sit in a chair with your feet on the ground. Both positions allow for your spine to be straight which allows the breath and your energy to flow easily. You can also meditate lying down but it’s not usually recommended (unless you’re doing yoga nidra) because it can be too easy to slip from meditating into a little nap. You can also stand during your meditation and that might be something you’d like to try if you spend a good portion of the day sitting. And there is also an option to walk and meditate, but we’ll save that for another time. So for our purposes, let’s start in a comfortable seated position and place our hands in a position that feels comfortable like on your knees or folded gently in your lap.
STEP 3: Set an Intention
The third step is to set an intention. And this is really important so don’t skip this step. Before you begin to meditate, decide on the purpose of your meditation. Do you simply want to use the time to relax your mind and body? Or do you feel the need to let go of some stress or anger? If so, mindfulness meditation is great for that and helps us become less reactive. Or maybe you’d like to use this meditation as a spiritual practice, using the time to connect with your intuition or to receive guidance from a higher power. Or maybe you want to combine all three! That’s what I like to do. I start with some mind and body relaxation, then do a short mindfulness practice, and then I allow my intuition to guide me through the rest of the practice. But if you’re a beginner, I recommend setting an intention for mind/body relaxation and then begin exploring mindfulness meditation.
When I was going through my meditation teacher training classes, I found it fascinating how each of my fellow students had very different intentions for their meditations. So tell me, what is your intention as you begin meditating? I’d love to know so let me know in the comments below.
STEP 4: Begin Slow Breathing & Release Tension From Your Body
Okay, now that you’ve found a quiet spot, gotten into a comfortable position, and set an intention, we can begin our meditation practice. Step Four is to begin with some slow, deep breaths while releasing tension from your body. Now, this is a step that most beginning meditators skip which can often result in an unsatisfactory practice. We don’t always notice that we’re holding tension in our bodies so we sit there, trying to focus on our breath, but can’t seem to get to a relaxed state. But taking this opportunity to pay attention to our bodies and mindfully let go of stress or worry we might unconsciously be holding, we are setting ourselves up for a more restorative practice. So take a deep breath, relax your shoulders by raising them up to your ears and then fully letting go. Maybe roll your neck, shake out your wrists, and breath into any tight muscles.
Now that we’ve released the tension from our body, we can return to our slow and deep breathing. When we start focusing on our breathing, we do two things. One, taking slow breaths signals to our bodies that we are not in a state of fight or flight (when our sympathetic nervous system is activated) but instead in a “rest and digest” mode (when our parasympathetic nervous system is activated). And two, focusing on the breath gives our mind a job today. Now, our minds always need something to do so instead of letting it run wild with thoughts of to-do lists or worries about plans for tomorrow, ask your brain to shift its focus from those things to your breath. Some helpful techniques including counting your breaths or associating a mantra or affirmation with each inhale and exhale.
Let me give you a couple of examples. For the first technique, I like the practice of box breathing where you inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. Or you can inhale while silently saying a word like “peace” and exhale while silently saying “relaxation.” Each time your mind wanders (and it will which is totally normal), simply return to your breath and keep going.
STEP 5: Follow Through with Your Intention
As you continue breathing, the next step is to follow through with your intention. Remember the intention we talked about setting earlier? This is where it comes in. Did you simply want to relax your mind and body? If so, just stay with your breathing practice. Did you want to reduce stress or anger? Then you might want to begin your mindfulness practice here. For those who aren’t familiar with mindfulness meditation, it is the practice of becoming aware of what is without passing any judgment. For example, if I was stressed out, I would become aware of the stress, notice where I might be feeling it in my body, and pay attention to the emotions that are associated with that stress like frustration or disappointment. But I would not try to change it. I would simply witness it and allow the feelings to be there until they passed on their own.
I want to call out here that the reason it’s important to set an intention before you meditate is that once you’ve settled into the posture and started breathing, it can become really easy to allow your mind to go in all sorts of different directions. For example, if my intention was to do a mindfulness practice, but I forgot to actually practice mindfulness, then I might end my meditation feeling like I failed. By the way, there is no failure in meditation, but it might feel that way because I didn’t do what I intended to do.
STEP 6: Practice Consistently
This brings me to the final step which is to practice consistently. Now, it’s called a meditation practice for a reason. No one is good at staying still right away. When you’re new to meditation, it’s perfect to start with just a few minutes a day but the key is to do those few minutes a day every day. That is how you begin to develop your practice. The more you practice meditation, the longer you can sit. And the longer you sit, the more beneficial your practice will be. In fact, you’ll likely find that it’s when you sit for 30 or 40 minutes that the real magic happens. But we don’t start with an expectation of sitting for 40 minutes; we work our way up to that. In fact, you can start with one minute a day and add another minute each day so that by the end of a couple of weeks, you’ll be at 10-15 minutes a day.
To have this information handy while you practice, to grab this free PDF guide that summarizes everything from this post in a more concise manner. Plus it comes with a mini-meditation journal to help you create a daily practice.
If you found this post helpful, I’d love for you to let me know in the comments below.
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