Woman sitting on a mountain meditating with clouds passing behind her

How To Meditate: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Curious about how to meditate but find your mind wandering to your next grocery list? You’re not alone!

Meditation can seem mysterious, but this article demystifies it with a clear, step-by-step guide.

From finding comfort to honing focus, we’ll cover all you need to become a meditation pro. You’ll soon impress others with your inner calm and sharp concentration. Why continue reading? I’ll offer practical advice, highlight common mistakes, and provide tips to keep you on track. So, relax and join us on this journey to master meditation and discover the joys of inner peace.

What Is Meditation?

How to meditate - A person practicing mindfulness meditation on a yoga mat

Meditation is the umbrella term for setting a fixed amount of time to improve yourself.

There is a wide range of practices that fit under the term meditation, and some argue that meditation is a state of mind and not a practice. In this article, I’ll help you answer some common questions, and help you find the meditation that is right for you.

How to Meditate: A Step-By-Step Guide

Let’s jump right in. If you’d like to try a quick 10-minute mindfulness meditation practice follow these simple steps:

  • Set the timer for about twelve minutes – this gives you enough time to get settled and enjoy a ten-minute meditation practice
  • Either close your eyes or look ahead with a soft focus
  • Take a deep breath, breath in through the nose, and breathe out through the mouth
  • Take a few deep breaths and after your next deep breath continue to breathe naturally
  • Try to notice the physical sensations of your breathing; maybe your nose, your chest, or your abdomen
  • With your full awareness focus on your breathing
  • If you have any thoughts and emotions rise, or you start wondering if you’re doing it right, let those thoughts go and bring your attention back to your breath
  • Repeat noticing your thoughts and letting them go until the end of the timer
  • Spend a moment, in the end, to reflect on how you feel.

If that was your first basic mindfulness meditation, congratulations on starting your journey! If it wasn’t your first I hope that was a nice practice.

How to meditate - woman meditating in her living room

How Do You Define Meditation?

The challenge with talking about meditation is that it is a really broad term. When someone asks how to meditate, is like asking how to play instruments. There are hundreds of instruments, and you can play them all in different ways.

Take the guitar, you don’t see Willie Nelson playing the same way as Jimmy Hendrix, but both are considered masters of the instrument.

Oxford Dictionary definition of meditate

…to focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.

The purpose of meditation

The aim of meditation is to practice remaining in the present and exploring self-awareness. All the benefits associated with meditation such as using it to calm your mind, and the mental and physical health benefits are all a byproduct of meditation practices.

Some use meditation to improve their mental health, some to find a spiritual connection, and some just because it’s calming and helps with relaxation and focus.

Whatever your reason for meditating, think about why you clicked on this article and be glad you are involving meditation in your life.

How to meditate - A man dressed in white meditating next to a floor plant

The Challenges of Meditation

The mind left alone is set up to ruminate about the past and worry about the future. Meditation aims to practice the opposite of these two mental forces and focus our minds on the present moment.

Why do we worry?

In the right amounts and at the appropriate times, stress and worry can actually be beneficial. Our minds have evolved to prepare us for potential dangers by recalling past experiences and learning from them, as well as envisioning future problems and scenarios so we can be better prepared.

For instance, if you have young children, you might notice the sharp corners on a coffee table. You recall a time when you hit your head, which was painful, and imagine your child doing the same. This leads you to install corner guards, preventing a potential accident.

However, issues arise when we can’t turn off this mechanism. Continuously living in a state of stress can cause physical and mental health problems. Anxiety can stem from this constant state of stress, and we may even experience anxiety without a specific stressor.

Modern life

Our modern society is making it more difficult to make meditation a part of everyday life. Our attention is constantly been fought for with notifications and social media and work. It’s rare to have five minutes where we can just sit down and remain present.

You’ve Probably Meditated Before

Many people think meditation is an alien practice that they haven’t experienced before. Even children, who are full of energy and easily distracted have had a meditative state.

If you ever see a child drawing a picture, usually with tongue sticking out the side of their mouth, a deep look of focus and concentration – nothing else exists to them at that moment but that drawing. That is meditation.

This is the same for adults. If you have a favorite hobby, something where you forget the world and focus only on that one task. That’s meditation.

How to meditate - A person meditating on their couch

What Are the Benefits of Meditation?

There is a growing list of the benefits of meditation some of the most common are:

Are There Any Downsides to Meditation?

I have written a post that goes into detail here, but generally, there is more harm in doing nothing than the side effects of meditating.

The most common negative side effect relates to deep-seated traumatic issues that have been buried in the subconscious. Meditation turns our attention inwards and sometimes this can surface thoughts and emotions that can feel overwhelming.

Which Meditation Should You Start With?

There are far too many meditations to fit into a single post. I’ve run through nine categories of meditation in this post.

In this post, I’ll suggest four meditations that will give you a range of practices that you can try. These are Mindful breathing, Movement meditation, Mantra meditation, and Body scan.

1: Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness has become a buzzword in meditation circles. It’s gained a lot of attention because of its easy-to-follow principles, and science-backed research. Mindfulness meditation is about focusing on the present moment with openness and without judgment. If thoughts arise, you notice them and let them go, returning back to the present moment.

Practicing mindfulness meditation breathing

If you’ve been following along from the start, you’ve already tried mindfulness meditation breathing in the ‘step-by-step on how to meditate’ section.

Mindfulness is about being aware of what is happening in the present moment. When your mind inevitably wanders to the past or future with kindness and compassion, let go of the thoughts and bring your attention back to the present.

2: Movement meditation

Meditation doesn’t have to be done while sitting down, it can be done standing, lying down, and even in controlled movements such as walking, Tai Chi, and Yoga.
Walking meditation has become increasingly popular during and after the pandemic as people have looked for ways to reduce stress by combining going outdoors for a walk and meditation.

Walking meditation is simply paying attention to your body and environment as you are walking. This keeps your mind in the present moment and improves the mind and body connection.

Yoga is often thought of as just a physical practice, but there is also a meditation element to Yoga called Dhyana. This is one of the limbs of Yoga.

How to meditate - A yoga class

3: Mantra meditation

People often have reservations about using mantras because of their religious connotations, and although the origins of the word come from sacred utterances, the repetition of a word or sentences can be non-religious as well. They can also be called affirmations, which almost everyone is using today.

Similar to all meditation techniques, the important part is staying in the present. Any word or words can be used as long as it brings focus and emotions when you say the words.

An example of a non-religious mantra is:

“I am where I need to be. I am grateful for what I have.”

4: Body scan

The body scan is a simple practice that is great for relaxation and is commonly used for sleep meditations. The practice involves focusing on the sensations of the body and being mindful of how you are feeling. Body scans normally begin by focusing on the top of the head and scanning down, looking for any tension and letting it relax.

Guided body scans are great when you have difficulty falling asleep. It’s easier to have someone else guide you through the meditation than to try to do it yourself.

How Long Should I Meditate?

There are different suggestions about the right time to meditate for. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) typically recommends practicing meditation for 40-45 minutes per day. The Transcendental Meditation (TM) tradition often recommends 20 minutes, twice daily.

The duration of meditation isn’t as important as the frequency. There’s no point trying for 90-minute sessions and giving up after the first few tries.

Creating a habit should be your goal when meditating. Start with something as short as five minutes and do this for a week if you are just starting. Once you consistently meditate every day, move up the minutes.

How to meditate - A woman practicing mindfulness meditation on her couch

How to Make Meditation Easier

Being patient is crucial when learning meditation since it’s a new skill. Consider it like embarking on a physical exercise routine. To help make meditation more accessible and enjoyable, here are some detailed tips:

  1. Develop a written plan: Use a calendar to track your daily progress. Aim for 21 consecutive days, as it typically takes this long to form a habit. This will provide you with a sense of accomplishment as you mark off each day.
  2. Set a consistent schedule: To build consistency, meditate at the same time every day. Utilize an alarm or reminder to prompt you to sit down, breathe, and begin your practice.
  3. Designate a meditation space: Establish a simple, dedicated area for meditation where you won’t be disturbed. This space doesn’t need to be elaborate; a quiet corner with a cushion will suffice.
  4. Don’t stress about perfection: Meditation is a personal journey, and you’ll discover what works best for you through practice. Stay calm, take deep breaths, and focus on refining your practice over time.
  5. Find your ideal position: Experiment with various sitting positions to determine what’s most comfortable for you. Consider using meditation or yoga cushions to enhance your comfort and maintain proper posture.
  6. Mindfully respond, don’t react: Part of meditation involves creating distance between your thoughts and your reactions. Observe any sensations or discomfort before responding mindfully and with full awareness.
  7. Seek expert guidance: Like with any other skill, it’s helpful to learn from a knowledgeable teacher. You can find guidance at a local meditation center, through video calls, or by using guided meditation videos available online.
  8. Incorporate daily mindfulness: Differentiate between meditation, which is a planned practice, and mindfulness, a lifestyle approach. Practice being mindful during everyday activities, such as brushing your teeth or making coffee. This will help make your dedicated meditation time more effective.

Remember, patience and consistency are key as you develop and refine your meditation practice. Embrace the journey and enjoy the numerous benefits meditation has to offer.

How to meditate - A man practicing breath meditation

The Takeaway

Hopefully, you now know more about meditations than you did before. By using something as simple as the breath, we can teach our minds to remain calm and not be hijacked by our thoughts.

Do you have any more tips? Let me know in the comments.

FAQs

If you’re asking this question, your meditation journey has officially begun. Everyone asks this question when begin meditating. Some do find it more difficult than others, but this shouldn’t put you off practicing meditation.

Just start with short regular sessions, and over time, things will get easier.

Whatever bothers you during your meditation, first be mindful of the feeling and what you are thinking. Try not to automatically react to it. By using mindfulness in your meditations, you are teaching the brain not to react automatically. What you’ll sometimes notice is that as you observe the itch, it moves and sometimes disappears on its own.

If the itch persists then go ahead and scratch it.

Many people like meditating with their eyes closed, but you can meditate with your eyes open. Meditating with your eyes open can help if you find yourself falling asleep during meditation. To meditate with your eyes open, pick a spot in front of you and watch it with a soft focus.

You don’t have to breathe deeply during meditation, but breathing in a certain way can help create a sense of calm.

You’ll normally notice during guided meditations that you are asked to breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth. This creates a mind-body connection where the inhale is smaller than the exhale and has a calming effect on the brain.

Deep breathing at the start of the meditation also sends a signal to the brain that it’s time to relax and begin the practice.

You’ll be pleased to hear, that you don’t have to clear your mind during meditation. This may happen more often the more you practice, but the mind will always have thoughts.

Mindfulness meditation teaches you to notice the thoughts and gently bring your attention back to the present moment, normally using your breath.

Some focus meditation techniques try to explore the thoughts in more detail, by paying attention to what thoughts arise. What’s important is that you pay attention to the thoughts as if you are observing them from outside of your mind, and not be carried away by them.

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