I never really knew where to start with meditation. I spent the first 30 minutes trying to twist my legs into a pretzel and only spending about a minute trying to ‘still my mind’ before giving up.
Just like everyone, I had heard that meditation was great for you – that it would change your life for the better, and help you be better with friends and people at work. I didn’t really know where to start. I wish there had been a guide to beginners meditation techniques.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment. The are lots of different ways to practice meditation and lots of different views on the outcomes.
This article looks at what you really need to do to get started on your meditation journey – and succeed.
Why Some People Don’t Start Meditating
Starting meditation can be intimidating, but sometimes we can be afraid to even start. There are lots of reasons why people do not continue to meditate, or never get started. Here are some of the common reasons, and why they’re just myths:
My religion doesn’t allow it
The principles of meditation are secular and purely psychological exercises. In the same way, that we exercise our muscles with weights, we exercise our minds with meditation that helps us cultivate awareness of physical sensations and mental processes.
I don’t have the time to meditate.
Meditation doesn’t have to be in long bouts, five minutes practiced consistently is enough to form a habit and see the benefits of meditation.
I can’t clear my mind
Good news – you don’t have to! Meditation isn’t about “emptying the mind” it’s about becoming more resistant to being hijacked by your thoughts that rise, letting them go, and returning to the present.
I’m not the kind of person who meditates
People from all walks of life meditate. Executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford, admitted in a Harvard Business Review article “The practice of mindfulness kept me going during the darkest days.”
So don’t let the above reasons (or any reason) hold you back from starting meditation. The following tips should give you the best chance of continuing meditation.
11 Best Meditation Techniques for Beginners
1: Start small – meditate for a short period in the beginning
Studies have shown that practicing as little as 5 minutes consistently, every day can have a noticeable improvement on your mental health. According to research published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, meditating for 15 minutes every day can have similar stress relief effects as a vacation.
It’s best when you first start to have a set time that you meditate every day and make others in your household aware of this time.
When I first began, I set the time for 10 pm, but I also invited my wife to join me. This was just like having a gym buddy, where you can motivate each other, and hold each other accountable.
2: Don’t expect anything when you start meditating
This isn’t just a beginners’ meditation tip – intermediate to experienced meditators can still find themselves frustrated that their current meditation wasn’t as good as the last.
That’s why it’s called a practice. The only commitment I had when I started was to do five minutes a day for four days a week. As you continue to practice, you’ll notice your mind wanders less and less.
If your first meditation is anything like mine was – it will be a short kafuffle of fidgeting, wondering if you are doing it right, noticing and being frustrated with little noises, and feeling more frustrated than when I first started. But I did it again the next day, and the next, and each day it got a little better. So just keep at it.
3: No Judgements about your meditation
Non-judgment is one of the principles of mindfulness meditation.
Judgments can start as more obvious things like, how still you’re sitting, or how steady you’re breathing.
But as you become more practiced with your meditation, you’ll start to notice thoughts that aren’t comfortable with or even disturb you.
The key here is that you should just allow these to rise without judging them. This time is for being aware of these thoughts and emotions – letting them go – and then returning to the present. The more you practice mindfulness meditation, the more self-aware you become.
4: Be kind to yourself when you meditate
The more we practice meditation, the more we find ourselves dealing with strong emotions such as guilt, anger, sadness, grief, or jealousy.
Remember not to judge yourself and accept your thoughts with kindness.
When we meditate, we are creating a safe space to explore our feelings and emotions. A common saying is: “you are not your thoughts; you are the one observing your thoughts.”
My brother and I bicker. But we love each other completely. One day something was said between us, and I didn’t really think of it until my next meditation.
Repeatedly, what was said rose while I was meditating, and it was only then that I realized how much it was affecting me.
After the meditation, I called my brother and told him how much it bothered me. I was expecting more bickering, but surprisingly he said he said he felt the same.
So, if you ever feel these difficult emotions rise, it can help to hold your hand over your heart and observe that emotion with non-judgemental kindness.
5: Make it a treat
Get the luxury incense out, put on your favorite comfortable clothes, put the phone on silent, and relax
Meditation should mostly be enjoyable. So occasionally, make it a little more pampered.
But remember not to have any expectations. You don’t want to spend an hour preparing your space, telling everyone you have plans, expecting a life-altering meditation session and it being not what you expected.
6: Use the meditation posture that’s right for you
Most people new to meditation think you must sit with your legs contorted on a special meditation cushion or bench (me included).
In reality, you can meditate in any comfortable position where you can remain alert, and breathe easily.
Some meditations are practiced sitting, some are standing, and some are walking. Yoga, where you are constantly moving is also a form of meditation that emphasizes awareness of physical sensations and breath, similar to other forms of meditation such as Transcendental Meditation.
7: Make a place for meditation
If you wish, you can create a full shrine for your meditation, for me, it’s simply a meditation cushion in the corner of the bedroom and a potted plant.
The purpose of this area is to remind you to meditate, and when it’s ready, there’s less of an excuse to miss your meditations.
8: There is more than one ‘anchor’
Most meditation uses the breath to anchor us to the present. But this isn’t the only kind.
We can use any constant in the present to bring us back when our minds have been distracted or lost in thought.
As well as the breath, this can be sensations in the body, such as a body scan, or the sensation of walking. I’ve suggested standing and walking sensations to people who often fall asleep during a sitting or lying meditation.
Sound is also a common anchor. This can be music, the sound of chiming bells, or the sounds around you as you meditate.
There are others, but these are the most common.
9: Add some music or a guided meditation
When you are more comfortable with your meditations, it’s best to meditate without guided meditation or music.
But when we first start it is almost impossible to stop the mind from wandering. Adding music to your meditation or a beginner-guided meditation, practice at the start gives you something to focus your mind on.
Paying attention to music is a form of mindfulness meditation where we focus our attention on something to keep up in the present moment. The added benefit is that music helps to make you feel calm.
10: Find a supportive group
There are a lot of analogies to physical exercise in meditation. Finding a beginner’s meditation class might be the push you need.
Meditation for beginners classes is a great way to meditate as there is constant feedback and you have the added bonus of meeting like-minded people.
11: Try guided meditations
As with any new skill, it helps to get a little help.
Avoid any guided meditations that promise a transformation of your life in a single session, or miracles by listening to a track for one night.
Meditation should be treated the same as physical exercise. Trust people who have seen results and don’t promise miracles overnight.
Apps are easier to audit by looking at reviews – but there is a wealth of high-quality guided meditations available online and in classes.
My best advice is to try it; if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
You can find my guided meditations on YouTube here if you are looking for somewhere to start.
What Meditation Is Good for Beginners?
The benefit of meditation is that it can be done by anyone, and be done anywhere. But there are a couple of meditation practices that can help you have some structure when you first start.
The body scan meditation
A popular meditation for beginners is the body scan. If you imagine the old sci-fi movies where a lazy would scan the protagonist from the top of the head down to the toes, a body scan meditation is the same thing, but instead of a laser, we use our attention.
Begin by taking a few deep breaths. Start with your attention at the top of your head, and then move your focus down the body slowly. Take a moment on each part of the body. Just noticing the sensations in that area.
The mind will wander, and that’s okay. What’s important is that we let go of these thoughts and feelings and bring our focus back to the body and breathing.
Mindfulness walking meditation
One of the meditation techniques that beginners don’t normally think about doing is walking meditation. Walking meditation is simply going for a gentle walk and focusing our mind on the sensations of the body.
As you walk, notice how your feet feel with each step, and try to notice all the areas of the body. What’s great about this practice is that you can enjoy it in daily life. You could be walking from your desk at work to the kitchen and make it a mindfulness meditation walk, and no one will know.
Why Not try the ZenGuided Walking meditation for beginners?
Another good type of meditation for beginners is mantra meditation. Mantra meditation practice does have spiritual connotations, but if you feel uncomfortable about this, rest assured that the words can be non-spiritual. We can use positive affirmations to work in 2 ways:
- They help keep your focus on the present moment
- Regular practice of repeating affirmations has scientific evidence of improving self-image.
Try this: Affirmation mantra meditation
- Find a comfortable place to sit (can be on a chair)
- Set a timer for five minutes
- Take a few deep breaths
- As you breathe in say, “With every breath,”
- As you breathe out say, “I accept calm into my life.”
- Use the words to stay in the present moment, and if your mind wanders, just come back to the words.
There are a lot of assumptions about what meditation is, but as long as you are focusing on the present moment, letting go of thoughts and feelings when they surface, and coming back to the present – you’re officially meditating.
It can be frustrating when you start, but if you come back again the day after day, sit down, and just focus on your breathing, I promise it will get easier.
If you’re looking to learn more, why not read the ultimate guide to meditation?
I hope you found this guide helpful! I’d love to hear about your progress with meditation let me know in the comments.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.