How to meditate: A guide for beginners
It is never too late to learn how to meditate. Meditation is one of the most powerful tools at our fingertips to counteract stress and to find a moment of inner peace. If you’ve never meditated, you’ll be surprised to realize how soon you feel the benefits of reconnecting with yourself as you set aside your worries.
It is proven that the art of meditating or the effort to calm one’s thoughts is as beneficial to our mental health, and even our physical health, as sports or a healthy diet. Much has been written about meditation and its techniques, many with roots going back thousands of years and linked to ancient civilizations originating in Asia. Adapted to modern life through versions such as “mindfulness,” it helps us to minimize stress, reduce insomnia, and furthermore, to strengthen our emotional intelligence and ability to concentrate.
To learn how to meditate, it isn’t necessary to move to a far away mountain, or to have a master at your side. Though you shouldn’t rule out wanting to sign up for a meditation retreat later on—there is something addictive about it. So, just by following these simple steps you will see results.
1. Decide which will be your moment
Some people prefer to meditate as soon as they wake up, so that they start the day full of energy. Others prefer to take advantage of any small window in their day (for example, during a subway trip, in the shower, during a flight, or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Though for starters, it’s much more advisable that you find yourself a quiet and isolated place). And some prefer a few minutes of meditation late at night just before they go to sleep. Whatever the case may be, the important thing is that you try to incorporate the habit of meditating at a specific hour each day into your routine.
2. Close your eyes and breath
Once you are in a suitable place, such as your bedroom or living room, try to create a calming environment. Dim lighting, an agreeable temperature, and comfortable clothing will help you relax, and also make it easier to concentrate. It’s also a good idea to light some aromatic candles and a little bit of incense. Next, sit with your back straight and legs crossed. If it’s more comfortable, you can also lie down. The goal now is to focus on your breath (and nothing other than your breath) at its natural rhythm. Don’t try to slow it down. Simply close your eyes, inhale and exhale as you focus your attention on the sound of your breathing, and on the feeling of breathing in itself.
3. Let your thoughts go
As a beginner learning how to meditate, aiming at ten minutes a day is more than enough. During this time, all of your efforts should be concentrated on not thinking about anything. This is the most difficult part at the beginning, since our minds are used to having thousands and thousands of thoughts go through them each day, but, as with everything else, it is a matter of training. Don’t despair when you see dozens of ideas come to mind, one after another. Your goal is to let them go without holding on to them. Later on, it is advisable that you set aside 20-30 minutes each day for meditation.
4. Focus your mind on one word
Although it is usually recommended for more advanced levels, there are some who benefit greatly from focusing their mind on a word or prayer as they learn how to meditate. Mantras are words or phrases that are used precisely for this purpose. Etymologically, the origin comes from the Sanskrit language: "man" means mind and "tra" means protection. Some of the most traditional mantras come from the Buddhist religion, with "Om" being the most universal mantra that represents the sound of the universe. In any case, whatever helps you disconnect from everything but yourself for a few minutes is just as valid.
Don’t be discouraged if the process of learning how to meditate is harder than you had imagined. In our society, we are exposed to thousands of stimuli each day that activate our mind. It can be a little difficult to counteract this at first. Instead of becoming frustrated, encourage yourself to persevere. You will find that you are soon able to calm the rain of thoughts during your meditation sessions. Give guided meditation a try as well, find support by reading a specialized book, or a specific app such as Calm, which has millions of followers throughout the world.
If you begin with 10 minutes per day, it is ideal to maintain this commitment over the course of at least seven days. After a month you’ll be ready (and you’ll probably feel the need) to meditate for 30 minutes or more each day without your mind interrupting your time of inner peace.