How to Start Meditating: Beginner’s Tips for Better Productivity and More Peace
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “meditation?” Do you see Buddhist monks in oranges robes? Or, images of beatniks in clouds? If you’ve ever wondered about how to start meditating, the first thing you should know is that it doesn’t really have anything to do with religion- and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with spirituality, either.
Meditating is about training your mind and bringing more awareness to your feelings and thoughts. In other words, it is about realizing who you are and what your place is in the world you live in. The best thing about meditation is that it helps you to appreciate everything around you and every moment you experience.
If you’re a skeptic, these things might sound weird or even laughable. But try to reframe your perspective. People do many different kinds of physical training and exercise to get muscular arms or well-toned abs. Think of meditation as a workout for your mind to strengthen and tone your thoughts.
It probably makes a little more sense this way.
Before we jump into the details of how to start meditating, I wanted to address a few things that you should know. Long ago, ancient Buddhists from India and some parts of China realized the benefits of meditation and the positive effects it has on the mind, body and soul.
As citizens of the modern world, we have a tendency to ignore and even laugh at some of these age-old practices. But keep in mind the kind of lives our ancestors lived. They enjoyed excellent health, high quality of life and peace of mind. If you’re living at the pinnacle of health and your quality of life needs no improvement, then stop reading now.
But I’ll say this. I’m a high performance doctor to incredibly successful executives and entrepreneurs. I live what I teach and my high performers get life-changing results. And even I can acknowledge that I benefit from the practice of meditation.
In fact, I would say that age-old practices like meditation are even more important because of the constantly-connected and the extremely busy world we live in. In fact, if you like science researchers have been documenting the benefits of meditation for years.
Today, it is considered a very effective practice that is known to reduce stress, promote focus and productivity, improve memory, inspire creativity, support weight loss, reduce depression and anxiety, regulate your emotions and the benefits go on and on.
How to start Meditating
If you want to know how to start meditating it’s really a simple process that only seems intimidating or complex on the surface. I have seen and known many people who overcomplicate the process of practicing meditation. Truth be told, if you want to know how to start meditating, here’s a secret: There is hardly any preparation required. It’s nothing more than quality time to be with yourself.
Here is a simple overview of everything you need for how to start meditating:
- Sit Comfy
Meditation demands that you be kind to yourself first. Sally Kempton, a popular meditation instructor, believes that “meditation is a relationship.” It’s the relationship you have with yourself.
There are three options for sitting:
1. A Chair
A simple chair is the best thing I can recommend if you are a beginner or someone with back problems. Also, it is best to start out with a simple chair for the first few times, before you start practicing regularly or buy an expensive meditation cushion.
2. A Meditation Cushion
A meditation cushion (also called Zafu by the Japanese or Putuan by the Chinese) is the most common thing meditators buy and is the most comfortable thing to sit on in an upright position. A meditation cushion keeps you awake, unlike a chair where you may be tempted to doze.
Note: It might take some time for your body to adapt to sitting on a meditation cushion, unless you are healthy and very fit – essentially, a high performer. If not, that’s okay but you might feel soreness in the beginning.
3. A meditation bench
For taller meditators, a meditation bench is the one to go for. It keeps you upright and you may not get the urge to doze. Another benefit of a meditation bench is that it sucks up a lot of weight from your body which you would otherwise put on your legs, making the whole meditation process very comfortable.
- Leverage Your Devices
You may want a timer. But why would you buy one? Your iPhone or your Android device has everything you need. Do a little searching and you will find tons of apps for meditation.
A word of caution though: restrain yourself from the never-ending emails, business calls and text messages. In fact, you can put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” or “Airplane Mode” which will disable these types of notifications altogether so that you can stay focused.
Once you do this, you can enjoy a lot of benefits from your devices including a variety of ambient music (that help you meditate) and interval bells and timers.
- Sit Up Right
This was one thing that takes some getting used to as a beginner. I still remember that I was dumbfounded as to what exactly I need to do: how to sit, how to start meditating, what to think about etc. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to educate meditation beginners with this article.
- The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your back upright. Avoid resting your back on the chair, to increase alertness and focus.
- Keep your eyes open or closed. If you can focus better by keeping your eyes closed, do it. If you think you are tired and may sleep if you close your eyes, open them. Try gazing at a fixed point like a painting in your house or even an aquarium (whatever makes you happy and be at peace). Remember the mission is to work out your focus muscles.
- Place your hands wherever you feel comfortable. I would recommend placing your hands and palms on your thighs.
- Keep your legs crossed in whichever way you feel comfortable. For me, keeping my legs crossed just in front of me works fine. Or if you’re sitting in a chair, this won’t apply.
- For best posture, be sure to sit upright. This is key so that you don’t put too much stress on your back. Don’t make yourself so comfortable that you will fall asleep. And, don’t make yourself too uncomfortable that you cannot concentrate. So find a balance that best suits you.
My Meditation Practice
So, you’ve got some great tips to get started, now you probably want to know the specific steps on how to start meditating. Follow this flow to get you going:
1) Sit down upright and comfortably. Open your smartphone’s timer app and set the timer. Shorter times (like 5 minutes) are better when you’re beginning. Keep the lights in your room dim or switch them off if that helps you concentrate better.
2) If you prefer to keep your eyes open, find a spot or an image or a thing that you like to gaze at. It would be good if the object is at least four feet away.
3) Now breathe in and breathe out deeply with your nose a couple of times (close your mouth when you do this). This will help you settle down a bit.
4) Again, start taking deep breaths after an interval of 5 to 6 seconds. Continue the process and try to feel everything as you do it, including the temperature and the feel of the air and the noise of your breath. Do not force anything, just let it happen naturally.
5) It’s okay if your mind wanders. In fact, it will. Just turn your attention back to where you are focusing and become aware of your breathing. That’s always a great way to turn your attention back to where you need to go.
6) Keep breathing deeply and focusing for the full length of the timed activity. Once the timer goes off, bring your awareness back to the present moment. It’s helpful to meditate before bed to help the body and mind unwind and relax.
How to Start Meditating Like a Pro
Here’s a few extra tips for you if you really want to go that extra mile and learn how to start meditating like a pro.
1) Meditate every day for 10 minutes at least. Remember, it is far better to meditate ten minutes daily than 70 minutes or an hour once a week.
2) Be gentle on yourself as you start. For example, do not try to do 30 minutes of meditation when you are just starting. If you do that, you will likely be discouraged or frustrated. (I am not trying to deter your enthusiasm but I want to help you set realistic expectations since this is an activity that you develop over time).
Start by doing 5 minutes everyday and then go longer if you like what you are doing. Even if you discover at the start that your mind is wandering every moment, don’t worry. You will still get the benefits of meditating.
3) Choose a timer alarm that is gentle and not jarring and loud.
4) Choose a quiet spot. This is obvious. A quieter environment will help you focus better and make the meditation process more productive.
5) Start counting your breath if you find it hard to concentrate. This is a nice little trick. Breathe in and breathe out for five times and start all over again. Counting your breath can help keep you focused.
If you can start making meditation a regular practice your health, happiness and peace will all improve very soon. This is a best practice of high performers.
I love to hear from you! Are you someone that meditates currently? Or have you been deterred thinking that it’s a long and complicated process? If you’ve been meditating for a while, please share the benefits you’ve experienced in the comments below. Happy meditating!